The other week in Big School, Little Humour All Change Please! commented most unfavourably on the BBC’s latest so-called comedy Big School, and in particular its misleading portrayal of what schools were actually like.
Last week’s media offering was Educating Yorkshire on C4 (Thursdays at 9pm or via 4oD). A typical fly-on-the-wall documentary of life in what might be termed a ‘bog standard comprehensive’ – or as they are now better known, ‘bog-standard Academy’ – Thornhill Academy near Dewsbury. It’s difficult to know exactly how many schools there are that fall into this category, but they are certainly more than the exception.
What emerged was in many ways predictable – a stream of naughty boys and naughty girls having fun and breaking rules being dealt with by a long-suffering staff, with most of the everyday teaching and learning edited out. But at the same time the infectious humour, passion and personalities of these 21st century children clearly demonstrated that they are not the passive, compliant empty vessels ready to sit quietly and soak up the academic knowledge and instruction of their teachers – the learning experience that Mr Gove, sitting his ivory tower in Westminster, seems to think school should be all about.
While a few of these children might be bound for great things (apparently its alumni – or ‘past pupils’ as most of us would say – include William Hague) in a few years’ time the vast majority are more likely to be looking for local employment opportunities, where the ability to analyse the works of Shakespeare, model quadratic equations and write essays discussing the English Civil War is not going to get them very far.
Elsewhere last week Michael Jove was in an upbeat mood, giving a somewhat mixed message of a speech in which he claimed that teachers never had it so good – “Teaching – as a profession – has never been more attractive, more popular or more rewarding” (a fact surely disputed by any teacher who remembers what it was like before the National Curriculum and Ofsted arrived), despite the fact they had just called a series of strikes to complain about the erosion of their pay and conditions. Smiling gleefully he made the usual cheap out-of-context jibes at so-called trendy teaching methods which might just actually help many of the children at the Thornhill Academy engage with the sort of course content he insists they must follow. At the same time he helpfully claimed that children need their own bedroom at home in which to study, which rather seemed to contradict the recent bedroom tax policy in which children of the same sex are expected to share a bedroom. And mysteriously he didn’t mention the delay in the start of his new tougher GCSE exams, the fact that a recent report revealed reform was only needed in Maths and MfL anyway, and that there had been a shortfall in recruitment for Maths and Science teachers. There’s a revealing alternative version of his speech here.
Meanwhile, apparently: Summer holidays with Michael Gove are ‘complete nightmare’ says wife Sarah Vine
Keep taking those Happy Pills Mr By Jove. Without them you wouldn’t be able to cope with life in the real world.
Image credit: Mill View http://www.flickr.com/photos/millview/5374713753