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Chemistry teacher plans lessons with a difference to help youngsters

Mary McPhail
Mary McPhail

After more than 20 years in education, a chemistry teacher has begun offering lessons with a difference.

Dr Mary McPhail is usually found in the science labs at Aberdeen Grammar School but has started a business to show youngsters the life skills they will need to get by independently in life.

Starting with a handful of personal and social education (PSE) classes in the autumn, Dr McPhail will teach useful subjects like budgeting and household maintenance to give pupils a head start after leaving school.

She said: “So many kids these days don’t learn the things we took for granted back when I was at school.

“A lot of parents tend to do things for their children – and I’m to blame for that as well.

“It’s quicker for us to do it ourselves, so they aren’t really learning how to do it.

“Then they want to be independent when they’re a bit older and don’t want to ask for help.”

Dr McPhail, who lives in the city’s west end, has heard horror stories of life in university halls, including one tale where someone tried to boil an egg under the grill.

She also hears regular complaints from her pupils that some of the things they learn in school are not useful for life outside of the classroom.

So taking matters into her own hands, the doctor in drug metabolism decided to do something about it.

But unlike the unyielding university students from her nightmares, she was unafraid to ask for help when it came to setting up her company, Preparing4Life, last July.

“I had been thinking about it a lot so I decided to try starting my own business,” she said.

“I went to some Business Gateway courses and they were so helpful.

“So far I’ve been really enjoying it and it has been developing me in lots of different ways.”

She added: “Now I’m looking at different workshops and trying to encourage people to take part.

“I’ve got a very supportive head teacher at the Grammar, so I’m going to be doing a few of these between October and December in school.”

If the trial sessions work well, Dr McPhail is hoping to expand her business.

She said: “Everyone I mention it to says it’s a great idea and it’s something that is really needed.

“Schools do a great job but they have more and more things they have to do all the time.

“It’s very academic and they do provide results – but there are basic skills we used to learn that have fallen away.

“It’s vital for people to talk and learn about them for their own self-confidence and independence.

“I think we are doing our young people a disservice if we don’t try and teach them these things.”

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