Why would we want to watch schools on television?


With the overwhelming number of adverts for ‘Educating Yorkshire’ it is not surprising that education is yet again in the spotlight. Thoughtful columnists have been extolling the virtues of the wonderful pupils and teachers we have been introduced to in a school far, far away. It seems that everyone has expressed an opinion about the way in which the school has come across. It is not the only school to have let the cameras in as we have been allowed into the exclusive, mysterious world of ‘Harrow’, although by contrast its camera work is less ’24 hours in A&E’ and more ‘Inside Claridge’s’. Add to this the wonderful dalliance with education created by David Walliams and Catherine Tate in ‘Big School’, Jack Whitehall continuing to have fun in a school setting through his ‘Bad Education’, and the on-going bizarre world of ‘Waterloo Road’, it all makes you start to wonder. Is working in a school the funniest and best job in the world? Would everyone want to work in a school if they could? Here are some thoughts on why schools make such essential viewing:

1. Everyone has been to school.
There are not many professions where everyone can claim to have an experience of what it is like to be there. We’ve all been to school and we all know teachers. Therefore there is a universal appeal of the classroom. Everyone has a story to tell from their childhood and people tend polarise their experiences so that they fulfil one of the stereotypes of either naughty, rebel child or swotty golden pupil. Either way there is a humanistic appeal that we can all relate to, even if it is noticing that the first year ‘Shells’ cheat as much as state school kids in ‘Harrow’.

2. It heals those that suffered
I think it is odd when some people try to say that school days are the best days of your life. For many they are excruciating times of huge insecurity when self-esteems are trailing along at floor level. What is hugely frustrating for many is that they felt so powerless, either having to keep up with the ‘in crowd’ or to dodge their tormentors. By laughing at all the shenanigans on the television versions they remind themselves just how secure they are now and how good it is to be grown up and past all those school days. Viewers can empathetically share in the experiences of these schools, real and imagined from the safety of their sofas.

3. Everyone has an opinion on how to teach.
Most teachers are fully aware of this, whether it is the on-going debate about Gove, examinations and levels. It is one of those professions where most people think they know how to do it, even if they have been trained for an entirely different job. Think about the average parents meeting where the educated professional lawyer parent is quite happy to explain to you how you should be teaching their child, when you would never tell them that they hadn’t completely understood the law with their latest case. Admittedly we see very little actual teaching in the comedy series, other than mayhem, starters and well plenaries…sort of. It has been gratifying to see non-teachers recognise the authority, good judgement and patience already demonstrated in ‘Educating Yorkshire’

4. Teachers are funny
Now how they are funny is somewhat debatable. Are they funny ha ha or funny peculiar, well of course they are both. There are so many odd balls in the teaching profession that we are most of us just a hop, skip and a jump away from the caricatures that we encounter in the comedies. Teachers are Kings and Queens of their own domains, who are allowed to thwart any challenge to their authority. Is it any wonder that we all go a little power crazy at times? Is it bad that the teacher encounter that has made me laugh most so far from the ‘Educating Yorkshire’ stable is the scary Deputy shouting “Do Maths!” in the corridor at some random child. Haven’t we all felt that at some point. Just me then…ahem.

There are other ideas of course, the appeal of funny interactions of youf and old people (teachers) for example, but these are few immediate thoughts. My sense of nostalgia is now making me miss ‘Grange Hill’ with its opening gambit of bullying via forceful,use of bangers and mash. Come back Mrs McClusky and take charge again, I think Miss Jones has been at the whiskey. Ahh those were the days. Now shush because I want to hear more about Bailey’s eyebrows…