Over the years, on television, I have watched the endless denigration and mockery of secondary school teaching both through drama and documentary. Whereas medical professionals and emergency services have generally been sanctified by the media, teachers have been habitually slapped and kicked as if there were no tomorrow. Consequently, whenever I hear about a new programme that will look at secondary education, my cynicism is roused like a growling beast.
How refreshing then to have witnessed the Channel 4 series - "Educating Yorkshire". Filmed in a tough working class comprehensive school in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, the programme cleverly brought out the passion, dedication, good humour and professional expertise of several members of staff. It also demonstrated that schoolchildren can be fun to work with - each one different from the next.
"Educating Yorkshire" showed the hurly burly of school life, warts and all. This wasn't Eton or Westminster -with poncey wannabe Camerons and Cleggs - this was the land of mobile phones, Facebook, broken families, racial integration, poverty, chewing gum, dyed hair and make-up - yet through it all there was a warm core of humanity. Caring for kids, being patient with them, trying to bring out the best in them. Thornhill Academy was a happy, purposeful school.
The last episode focussed largely on a lovely sixteen year old boy called Musharaf who had suffered from severe stammering most of his life. In his final school assembly, with all of his age group gathered, he stood at the front and with headphones playing music in his ears, he delivered an amazingly fluent "thank you" speech to his peers - giving special mention to his English teacher, Mr Burton, who had helped him so much with his oracy. I blubbered as much as Musharaf's classmates.
"Educating Yorkshire" brought back many memories of my own time in teaching. It was a good advert both for teachers and for Yorkshire itself and I applaud Channel 4 for the sensitive way in which they edited this engaging series. I also applaud headteacher Mr Mitchell for his common sense leadership and no-nonsense vision. There was so little jargon, so little reference to the insidious tentacles of government. It was all about the kids and the staff, knocking along together, trying to make the most of things.
|Mr Mitchell with two members of his staff|