Occasional blogger and DHS drama teacher Lesley Graney shares her thoughts on Episode 1 of the new Channel 4 series. Read on…….
If you read my last blog, you will know I don’t watch much television, but there are a few programmes that I do enjoy – The Apprentice being one and this week saw the start of another one. The last time it was on our screens, it was called ‘Educating Essex’. They seem to be educated now, so they have moved up North which is a great relief to me being a Yorkshire lass, but over 25 years too late in my case.
Yes, this week saw the start of the programme ‘Educating Yorkshire’. Now in the first series I was just curious; of course I would be as a teacher. I also wanted to prove to my husband that ‘Waterloo Road’ wasn’t an accurate depiction of our school or any other, and that things had changed since Grange Hill and ‘Just Say No’. I thought the first series was genuine, and more than that, I fell in love with Mr Drew, and since subsequently meeting him at ‘Teach Meet Durrington 2013’, my love has only deepened; so this new series had a lot to live up to.
So up the road and a bit further from Passmores, we are now at Thornhill Community Academy in Dewsbury. The northern Mr Drew is Mr Mitchell. A man not a million miles away in attitude and stature from Phil or Grant Mitchell in Eastenders; Mr Mitchell, the straight-talking “it’s not rocket science” head teacher. I was unsure at first about him, and particularly with what seemed to be ‘for the camera moment’ with the soundtrack of “there may be trouble ahead” as he was flitting down the corridor to a dance routine. Mr Drew was ahead in the race at this point.
The opening sequence was an amazing array of soundbites from kids. It reminded me yet again that I should have written down those classic comments and moments from my years as it would have made an amazing book. One of my favourites being:
Student “Sir I don’t have all those numbers at the bottom
Teacher “Those numbers there are letters, not numbers”
Student “Same thing”
It was during this opening sequence that as predicted, my husband turned to me and said ‘I couldn’t do it ; work with teenagers, I don’t know how you do it.’
So onto the students, who bring the real truth to the programme. The students we all know in one variation or another; they may not have been called those names or have those accents, but we have all met or taught them. For example, Bailey an over-made up girl, a funny lovable rogue, who is trying to do it right .
Her mate, Kayley, who doesn’t know when to shut up or stop. Then there is Kamrrem, a reflection of boys across the country who have lost their way and need a chance or two or three.
However, it was Ryan who stole my heart. Ryan, 12 going on 40. The Latte drinking boy who may be Prime Minister someday. Cheeky one minute when asking a 29 year old teacher if they were going through the menopause, then charming when at the end of the lesson he says “Miss, it’s an honour being taught by you”. We see Ryan on his journey to be part of the school’s first JLT (Junior Leadership Team). He informs us that he accidently left his speech at home so he would have to speak from the heart:
‘All I want is a fair shot of it.’
Students in the room including Bailey are nearly in tears over what he says and I turn to my husband and say that’s why I teach; they constantly surprise you and occasionally you get a moment like that.
Near the end, after a chaotic programme, the hard work and dedication of all the staff is highlighted when it is revealed that Thornhill is the 25th ‘most improved school’ over the last 4 years.
Mr Mitchell says it’s an honour and a privilege to do his job, which he considers to be the best job in the world. Right there, what had seemed like a one horse race with Mr Drew streaks ahead, became more like a draw in the Drew versus Mitchell stakes.
Like the first series this opening episode had been honest, sometimes shocking, funny, sweet, challenging, heart breaking – just like any day in any school and although the stature and the accent is different, Mitchell and Drew are very similar. They are passionate about what they do, fair towards their students, and are devoted to giving them the best possible start in life. Aren’t we all?