I do appreciate, that in a world fuelled by entertainment values alone (on occasions), what we call reality television isn’t always real. I know we shouldn’t take it at face value, or become too embroiled on what we see on our screens. But we do. I do. And on this occasion, it’s the Channel 4 programme, Educating Yorkshire that has really irritated my easily irritated conscience.
It’s Educating Yorkshire, as entertaining as it may (or may not) be that has made me fully appreciate how strict, formal and teacher like the staff at my secondary school and sixth form were. I didn’t attend a private school (that’s a whole other article) but a very well run state secondary school, who pushed their students to become well rounded people, without trying too hard to be their friends. Which I think is how a school should be run.
Now I appreciate that the statement above may sound like the school I attended was some kind of miserable dictatorship, but this wasn’t the case at all. There is a fine line and a balance between being a pupil’s friend, and someone that they can trust, look up to but also be slightly scared to cross. The latter is how I personally believe the relationship between teachers and pupils should be – and unfortunately, I think for many schools, this isn’t the case, a prime example being the number of teachers depicted in Educating Yorkshire.
In case you haven’t yet had the privilege of watching the show, I’ll give you a little run down of the most recent episode. When faced with impending GCSE’s, two young girls who fall out (and let’s face it, teenage girls DO fall out – I’ve been there), the school day is halted to talk through the petty gossip and ‘try to resolve’ the situation. In fact, in many ways, the ‘teaching staff’ even seem to be joining in the gossiping, revelling in the new advancements at lunchtime. Rather than sitting them down and asking the girls to re-evaluate what is important in the grand scheme of things, they seem to be fuelling the fire, rather than putting it out.
When another female pupil, who has a lifelong dream of becoming an air hostess is told she needs a C in English to follow through her aspirations, her teacher who claims she will do her utmost to help her succeed (but it’s ‘touch and go’ – irony) tells her that her chances of achieving the desired grade are ‘pretty low’. How motivating. How inspiring.
The rather smug head teacher, who claims to be ‘turning the school around for the better’ seems rather intent in catching up on the gossip of the school also, appearing disappointed when one of the girls hasn’t come to him first to give him the low down. When faced with an unruly pupil he appears disinterested and when asked for help he reads the paper at his desk.
I know that a whole week’s filming, condensed into one hour episode won’t show us all the melancholy, boring bits – therefore we see a more ‘dramatised’ version of events however I can’t help but think that if we are happy to watch this programme, and accept that this is how many schools in the UK operate, then what else are we letting slide. I appreciate that teaching is an extremely difficult occupation, with unruly pupils just one of the many problems faced, however I feel disappointed and disheartened that many schools that are bringing up the next generation are behaving in such a strange manner.
Your school life is obviously a time you wish children and young adults to enjoy, but similarly it is also a place to learn, grow and develop – and you can’t do that efficiently if you’re allowed to run riot and centre your day around petty school gossip. It’s also a shame that the badly behaved pupils are the ones who demand all the attention, while those who strive for success and follow school rules are (in the context of the programme) completely ignored.
Are we more concerned by entertainment values – or depicting what schools in the UK are really like? Do you think schools are there to be our friends, or nurture pupils whilst adhering to certain guidelines?