With its recent publicity being far from flattering, the BBC is in need of a boost; as Alan Yentob says, it is a "brand that is the best of British when it`s good", but rival television companies are clearly forging ahead, and not simply because they can afford more live sports or attract bigger "stars". Relatively inexpensive programmes, on other channels, about poverty and indiscipline in schools have not only attracted millions of voters but also generated public debate. This is an area in which the BBC should be excelling, and could be again, starting with an analytical evaluation of state education; documentaries like the recent "Educating Yorkshire" and "Tough Young Teachers" proved popular and thought-provoking, but tended to focus on poor behaviour, and young teachers`, usually unsuccessful, efforts to remedy it. This one should, in effect, do the opposite.
With the lack of social mobility currently being a major concern, along with the resulting waste of young talent, especially as there is a bias evident in our society which generally leads to top jobs going to the privately educated, a sensibly focussed television series would change perceptions. By having cameras in a number of state secondary schools, directors would be able to ensure viewers saw what older and retired teachers like me have seen for years, articulate and ambitious young people talking sensibly and coherently in their classrooms, with teachers only having to guide the discussions? A teacher giving back homework essays might sound boring, but only if the teacher failed to read out some of the best answers, or to request verbal summaries. Question and answer sessions at the start of lessons, when previous work is being recapped, would no doubt prove enlightening to right-wing sympathisers who think not only that real learning only takes place in private schools, but that comprehensive schools fail to challenge, academically, the brighter pupils.The opportunities available to the director would be endless.
It would be misleading if the programme pretended the challenging behaviour did not exist in comprehensive schools, but there would be little need to focus on it, as viewers would be enthralled by the positive aspects of state education, which the media have denied them for many years. Politicians and writers, who constantly complain about state schools do not, perhaps understandably, spend days in them getting an accurate picture; these programmes would serve the country, and its economy, well, by setting the record straight. Tristram Hunt might even learn from it! (see previous blogs!)