Owen Jones`s criticism of Channel 4`s "miserable programme", Benefits Street, and of programmes of a similar nature, which use "unsympathetic examples" and where poor people are portrayed "in the worst possible light", was spot-on.(Independent,08/01/14) Sadly, such "sensationalist programmes" are not confined to focussing on the unemployed and low-paid; there are others which "airbrush out the reality", especially when it comes to education in the state sector.
The coalition government since 2010, aided by the right wing press, has been constantly criticising state schools, with the clear aim of creating its own justification for, not only the reform of the examination system, but the creation, in the long term, of a two-tiered system, and a return of grammar schools. Hence, TV programmes which tow the populist line are commissioned, and we have a preponderance of documentaries about comprehensive schools, like "Educating Yorkshire" and now the recent "Tough Young Teachers" on BBC3, which not only highlight the worst aspects of school life, but ignore the best. Do cameras ever linger on the classes where behaviour is impeccable, where all homework has been handed in, and where the focus is on learning? No, of course not, but that is the reality of what happens in most lessons! Instead, we watch disruptive behaviour, low sets failing to grasp basic mathematical concepts, and pupils, previously excluded from other schools, causing problems for teachers. The government propaganda is therefore reinforced, the misleading message underlined. The truth, that education in state schools has never been better, teaching quality, because of detailed preparation of lessons and the enthusiasm and determination of the teachers, is of the highest order, which even Ofsted is forced to admit, and that a huge majority of lessons are orderly, with pupils respectful and on-task, is ignored.
Owen is right; rejecting the truth "has been encouraged by our political leaders", but that does not mean television should pander to their wishes. It`s time to concentrate on reality!