Watch It And Weep…

So, Channel 4 is to launch yet another ‘fly on the wall’ series, this one focussing on an Essex school:

Channel 4’s Educating Essex is the most ambitious observational television documentary yet made in a school. The “bog-standard comprehensive” (in the words of its headteacher, echoing Tony Blair’s infamous description) involved is in Harlow, Essex, and its governors agreed for it to be rigged with 65 cameras, so that every lesson, every staff meeting, every infraction of the school rules and every pupil pulling a face behind the teacher’s back, is caught on camera.

At this point, you might be thinking ‘What sort of idiot…?’ and the ‘Indy’ is right there to tell you:

But what on earth possessed Vic Goddard, the headteacher at Passmores School and Technology College (this month, it becomes a co-operative academy), to risk letting his school come under such relentless scrutiny? Passmores recently earned its first “outstanding” Ofsted report – why jeopardise such hard-earned recognition with the notoriously mucky embrace of reality television?

Well, would you believe, he has an agenda to push? I know, who’d’a thunk it, right?

“We serve a pretty tough community, certainly with regard to Essex… mainly white, working class,” says Goddard, a large, warm and jovial man unafraid to lark about on camera.

Now, replace the word ‘white’ with ‘black’ or ‘Asian’. Can you imagine that sentence cropping up in the ‘Indy’? No?

Me neither…

Passmores was eventually selected from a shortlist of 20 potential comprehensives willing to be filmed. “We went for schools that either had outstanding or good Ofsteds, because we wanted to go to schools that felt confident about what they were doing,” series director David Clews says.”We weren’t looking to make an exposé about bad schools… there was no hidden agenda.”

In other words, you wanted to show only the positives. Not the negatives. But no, there’s no ‘hidden agenda’…

Of course, this being fly-on-the-wall tv, you can’t guarantee the outcomes:

One potentially vulnerable student could be Carmelita, who, during this week’s opening episode, makes a career-threatening malicious accusation of assault against the deputy teacher, who has asked her to remove a hoodie – such an allegation somewhat reckless in a building bristling with television cameras (plus the school’s own CCTV cameras).

You’d think so, until you realise that so many of the cases that end up in Essex courts are committed in full view of CCTV.

It’s not stupidity so much as lack of fear of consequences.

And this issue is a case in point:

“All the main students who are featured get to see the film before it goes out, with their parents,” Clews says. “As for Carmelita – she could see that it wasn’t her best behaviour and she says she learnt from it; they were fine about it.”

What has she learnt? That you can get away with it?

There is an ethos of second and third chances at Passmores (“If they do something wrong, we try and pick them up and change their minds through care rather than the stick,” Goddard says) that may strike some viewers as over-forgiving

You don’t say…

The headteacher, however, is proud of the school’s unwillingness to resort to permanent exclusion, a drastic “solution” Goddard calls “morally wrong”.

That, parents of Essex, is why your schools are jungles. People like this moron.

“I know there will be certain individuals in the media, probably the Daily Mail, who will be thinking we’re too liberal and that we should just be kicking these kids out – but you kick them out and where do they go? I’m very proud that we serve a tough community, but we serve them every day and give them more and more chances.


No, wait.


“Ultimately the national public is less important to me than what my local community thinks. As long as my local community thinks we’re still trying to do the right thing by everybody then that is all that really matters.”

I can now see another reason why this vain, ultra self-righteous fool wanted to be on tv…

Of course, the ‘Indy’ journo laps all this up:

I’d say that the local community in Harlow is very lucky indeed in having Mr Goddard and his staff to teach their children. And whatever you think of some of the educational abilities on display “What is ‘pie’ [ie, pi]?” asks one pupil, having a Jade Goody moment – or arguably showing a healthy inquisitiveness – during a maths lesson. “Where did it come from?”), if my daughter were at Passmores, I’d at least think she was in good hands and had every chance of passing a happy and productive time at school.

Really? I thank god that I have no kids that might have to attend this place….

19 comments for “Watch It And Weep…

  1. Miss Chips
    September 21, 2011 at 7:57 am

    I’m at a loss for words!

    Aeons ago, when I was a fledgling teacher, Grange Hill was essential viewing for all of us on teaching practice. We had a sweepstake running for how many times the misbehaviour featured in the storyline would be reproduced in our schools the following day.

    It is impossible that this programme will be seen as anything other than a real-life soap opera; all over the country, would-be Carmelitas will be inspired to provoke similar confrontations with staff in the hope of emulating her fifteen minutes of fame.

    Tell them that this threatens a teacher’s career, and the prospect of settling old scores suddenly becomes a reality. After all, with second and third chances permanently on offer, what has the pupil got to lose?

    • September 22, 2011 at 5:42 am

      Spot on!

  2. September 21, 2011 at 9:54 am
  3. Henry Crun
    September 21, 2011 at 9:58 am

    I’ve seen the trailer for that programme, but assumed that that it was a spoof documentary series.

    • September 21, 2011 at 10:03 am

      same here, thought it was a mockumentary

      • September 22, 2011 at 5:43 am

        I’d hate to be a writer for the ‘Daily Mash’; it’s getting harder and harder to tell reality from satire! 😆

      • Linda
        September 22, 2011 at 9:26 pm

        Surely it is not real. If not, do young people really understand ‘informed consent’?

  4. September 21, 2011 at 10:30 am

    … but we serve them every day and give them more and more chances.“

    Which sounds like they’ve forgotten to give them something very important: boundaries.

    • September 22, 2011 at 5:44 am

      And you just know they won’t be getting those at home either. 😥

  5. David A. Evans
    September 21, 2011 at 11:20 am

    It’s not stupidity so much as lack of fear of consequences.

    Exactly the point I was rather ineptly trying to communicate on the Hyperbole thread.

  6. September 21, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    If I have kids one day, I hope I can afford to send them private.

    • Miss Chips
      September 21, 2011 at 3:54 pm

      The state would expect to pay around 4K a year to educate each of your hypothetical sprogs. If given to you to spend as you see fit, that money – in the form of education vouchers – would go a long way towards the fees.

      Since such an enlightened policy is still a long way off, it’s a good idea to ensure that your future young are reared with plenty of scholarship potential – academic, musical or sporting.

      This is, of course, middle-class elitism and manifestly unfair; now I’ve said it, I expect the tumbril will be rolling by any minute.

      • September 21, 2011 at 4:37 pm

        Or there’s the option of educating them yourself. Or encouraging them to educate themselves, outside of school hours – which is what a friend and I did, both of us at a comprehensive.

  7. Paul Harrison
    September 22, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    Actually if you watch the point they make about permanent exclusion, he has a valid point. This is the classic example of damned if they do damned if they don’t, exclude children to easily and they are “giving up on them”, don’t exclude them and all of a sudden they are a bunch of pinko liberals 🙄 On the one hand you argue that the program was only willing to include quality schools, as you say the makers “wanted to show only the positives” – yet spend the rest of the article insinuating that its a terrible school run by “People like this moron”. So which is it – did the program makers only select a superb school due to their agenda or did they choose a school run by a moron. Now where’s that facepalm smiley ❓ 🙄

    • September 23, 2011 at 5:27 am

      Well, having now watched it, I can safely say that my suspicions were confirmed. The teachers might have been ‘passionate’, but they came across as just what they were; well-meaning fools.

      Discipline and respect was totally missing, and I cannot see any of the kids featured being ‘rescued’ from the life of dole or drudgery that awaits them…

      • Miss Chips
        September 23, 2011 at 8:24 am

        I make it a point never to watch these things – life’s stressful enough at the chalkface without them – but you’re absolutely right; one could predict that most teachers who allow TV cameras repeated access to their classrooms, with all the disruption to lessons that entails, are bound to be ‘well-meaning fools’, and a sprinkling of them will be more interested in their own TV appearance than in their pupils.

        I once had the cameras in at teh Head’s request – for a Japanese documentary on British methods of teaching – but I insisted on ten minutes at most and made sure the footage would never be seen in the UK; the last thing any impressionable teenager – or teacher, for that matter – needs in our facebook era is media attention, whatever the reason.

        • September 24, 2011 at 5:59 am

          Oh, indeed. I can see the Facebook groups forming already!

      • Paul Harrison
        November 7, 2011 at 1:27 pm

        “Well, having now watched it, I can safely say that my suspicions were confirmed.” Nice to know that you watched it with an open mind then.

        “Discipline and respect was totally missing” The program focuses (naturally) on the badly behaved children, which still only equates to a tiny percentage of the school, so in what way can you justify the comment that respect was “totally missing”.

        But no doubt you’ll ignore any question put to you, as that would require you to admit you wrote a reactionalist article that Littlejohn would be proud of.

        “Discipline and respect was totally missing, and I cannot see any of the kids featured being ‘rescued’ from the life of dole or drudgery that awaits them…” So are you saying that another school could save them? That a private school would turn these students around? If not exactly what point are you trying to make, unless of course you’d prefer the “well-meaning fools” to have just given up on them, obviously a better approach 🙄

        • February 25, 2012 at 6:09 am

          Well, Paul, I’ve got a post coming up on my own blog in a few days time that might just show the way forward… 😛

Comments are closed.