Jamie’s Dream School

You have to hand it to old Jamie Oliver: he’s not shy about a challenge. I couldn’t bring myself to watch the first episode of Dream School but gave in and tuned in for the second helping. So what does Saint Jamie of School Dinner know about running a school? Well, nothing but he’s well known for having an incredibly successful career following an incredibly unsuccessful school career so he can empathise with the students who have also failed at, or been failed by, school. When it came to his cooking lesson he made a good fist of it (B+). Others were not so lucky.

 David Starkey, privileged, highly intelligent and passionate about his topic wasn’t a huge success. In fact his behaviour was such that, were he a newly qualified teacher in an ordinary school, he’s have been in serious trouble. Calling a kid ‘fat’ and then whining that he didn’t start it is not very professional or indeed mature. Jamie, bless his little turkey twizzlers, handled Starkey incredibly well and although the historian insisted that the students were ‘feral’, Oliver didn’t give up and got him back in the classroom. Mark: F. See me.

 Alastair Campbell equally came a cropper. After humbly showing the class a TV clip of himself in pitbull mode and talking about how fabulous and brilliant he was, he got the students debating. Except it wasn’t proper debating with the proper debating rules that most schools use. The rules are there for a reason: they stop the discussion from becoming a bun fight where anyone can join in. More importantlly, it also stops the debate becoming personal. Campbell’s debate ended up being very personal and a student walked out in tears. Mark: D- (at least he didn’t call any of them fat.)

 Jazzie B of Soul ll Soul fame ran a brilliant music class. He didn’t assume that the students would love him because he was famous. He didn’t assume that his topic would be inalienably interesting to all of them. He praised their efforts and challenged them to do more. He established good behaviour and maintained it consistently. This is a man who obviously knows teens and knows how to capture their interest. Mark: A+

 Photographer Rankin also had a good connection with the students and drew the best out of them and, as with Jazzie B, he didn’t assume that he was the star of the show. Mark: A

 Teaching isn’t as easy as it might seem.

 A lot of comment on the programme has focussed on the poor behaviour and attitudes of the students so I’d like to say a word in their defence. The voiceover told us that several of these kids had been rejected by their chaotic families and were living in council flats alone. Now imagine being rejected by those you love, being alone and vulnerable and not seeing much of a future for yourself beyond alcohol, drugs and the job centre. There’s no one in the world who will stand up for you or to be on your side.

 Now, are you ready to get yourself up in the morning, go to class, sit still, listen and learn?

 And what happens to thes youngsters once the programme finishes and all the fuss has died down? I can only hope that the producers will continue to support the students and that the celebrities might find it in their hearts and busy schedules to be there for them.


5 Responses to Jamie’s Dream School

  1. guerrillamum says:

    As ever Citizenr you are spot on. With one or two exceptions, like JazzieB for instance, (and we can’t all be JazzieB ;o)) this programme shows that there is no substitute for professional, specialised teaching.

    DfE watch and learn!

  2. citizenr says:

    Indeedy! Kids are very quick to sniff out an imposter.

  3. J.G.Harston says:

    All too often whenever I’ve encountered polititians teaching pupils about politics, they blatently lie, such as by telling them local councils decide how your local services are run (no they don’t, Eric Pickles decides), that councils debate policies (no they don’t, polices are decided by the controlling group, and then Full Council is a playground slanging match where all voting results are known in advance), that in general elections voters decide who the government is (no they don’t, only a handful of voters in a handful of marginal constituencies do that), even that voters chose who the prime minister is (sorry, Tony Blair was not on my ballot paper), or that local elections are about who runs your council (no they’re not, they’re a referendum on central government, and local campaigning blatently states that).
    The sooner schools teach what *really* happens in politics the better, and keep the b****y politicians out of schools.

    • citizenr says:

      Which is why good quality Citizenship should be taught well in schools. It’s been a statutory subject since 2002 but it’s rare to see a truly inspirational Citizenship curriculum where politics is taught well. It’s not valued as a subject in many schools.

  4. Pingback: Jamie’s Dream School: things get political « I was a public sector worker

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