Jamie's Dream School-Oh My.

Shane Rae's picture
Well, nothing there that was outside of expectation. It met (if not exceeded) the sensational failure of a few learned celebs that hoped their passion for a subject alone could garner the respect of some disengaged kids. I'm sure no one is surprised that the only one that came close to succeeding was Rolf-who basically IS a teacher. His attitude differed as well in that where he felt there was failure he saw it was a failure in his ability, not a failure somehow in the kids ability to concentrate etc.

However, the show certainly highlighted my personal bugbear-that is the role (or lack of) that parents play in the education of their children. This episode focused somewhat on the home life of one of the ‘pupils’ of Jamie’s ‘school’. It was clear that the parents had no control over the lad whatsoever and very little interest in his education. They very much gave off the typical vibe of ‘it’s not our job really; hopefully the school will sort him out’.

The other distasteful element was Jamie’s constant assertions that ‘I respect you all and your opinions’ to the pupils-when they had all done nothing whatsoever to earn it.

Ok perhaps this is slightly removed from the remit of this website but we’re talking about children that on the face of it have been failed by their local school. I would be very surprised however if we didn’t find that the real breakdown here was the partnership between home and school. I know I’ve been banging this drum but I believe it is fundamental. In my experience the parents that complain most loudly about their local school are the ones that feel they have little to no responsibility for the education of their own children. Sadly, Michael Gove seems to share the same attitude.
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Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 03/03/2011 - 12:35

I recorded the programme and haven't watched it yet. However, like all these fly-on-the-wall documentaries I expect the participants will be influenced by the presence of recording equipment and some of them will play up to the camera. We'll only see the edited highlights which are not likely to be the times when the participants were working quietly - this wouldn't be exciting enough. No, there'll have to be a bit of confrontation, some aggro and temper tantrums.

Shane Rae's picture
Thu, 03/03/2011 - 13:12

I should state that I'm well aware Starkey served as lecturer at LSE but he is certainly no school teacher.

He offers "The programme hasn’t necessarily offered solutions, but it has highlighted the problems we face. And it does provide incontrovertible evidence to show why a lack of discipline is at the root of our educational malaise. "

He's spot on of course. But kids can't live in a disciplined way in school whilst living a completely undisciplined life outside of school.

Parents, please step up.

Fiona Millar's picture
Thu, 03/03/2011 - 13:38

Shane is right that schools have to pick up many of the pieces left by dysfunctional home lives and some schools have to pick up more pieces than others. I suspect Starkey hasn't had much experience of children from these backgrounds before but I am holding my breath for next week when my other half ( who does know a bit about this through our own children) gets tested as a politics teacher!

Shane Rae's picture
Thu, 03/03/2011 - 13:44

Yes, I have great hopes for Alastair myself.

Fiona Millar's picture
Thu, 03/03/2011 - 15:23

No pressure then! I think the (brilliant) teacher who taught all our children A level politics is very much looking forward to this too.

Nigel Ford's picture
Thu, 03/03/2011 - 16:34

Couldn't your kids have done A'level politics independently Fiona without attending lessons with the politics background in your family? That way it would have made way for another A'level they could have studied.

Didn't see the programme but agree with Shane 110% about the role of parents. I helped supplement my kids teaching in quite a few subjects and got a real buzz revisiting French and Maths topics as well as seeing the kids learn new concepts. I should add that the kids would mark most of the teachers in the credit column for the way they carried out their jobs.

Not for me, farming them out to private schools at considerable expense and expecting the school to be responsible for their academic, sporting and personal development.

Fiona Millar's picture
Thu, 03/03/2011 - 17:27

I am not sure either of us would make very good teachers but may be proved wrong in episode 2 next week!

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 03/03/2011 - 17:03

I've now watched Jamie's Dream School. I really enjoyed it - it was better than I thought it would be. However, I was annoyed that Jamie said that not getting 5 GCSEs C and above was a failure of the education system. As I've said elsewhere, if 5 GCSEs C and above become the basic standard then it has no value.

When GCSEs were brought in, they were regarded as being a qualification for all ability levels with E being the average. Even the lowest grade of G was regarded as a Pass as it demonstrated, like the German Hauptschule, that the pupil had stayed the course. This philosophy was doomed from the start with commentators saying that GCSE G and F showed what the student couldn't do rather than what he/she could. This has led to the pressure to get all students up to GCSE C and above while at the same time GCSE C is supposed to be the equivalent of the old O level which was for academically above-average pupils.

If GCSE C is now the basic standard for 16 year-olds, then it needs renaming as "Basic Cert". GCSE A and A* would then be the grades required to do A levels.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 03/03/2011 - 17:32

Comments about the programme's content:

1 Dr Starkey is a brilliant historian and I expect he has his students hanging on every word. However, he was clearly out of his depth and I felt sorry for him. Nevertheless, he shouldn't have made a personal comment to one of the boys, neither should he have talked down to them. Dr Starkey did not recognise that he had been at fault but blamed former teachers for giving too much "milk of human kindness", and not laying down boundaries with set sanctions. The latter might work with most pupils, but with the kind of pupils in Jamie's school that approach won't work. Isn't it funny how so many people who've never taught challenging students think that all that is required is a iron body of rules. Discipline is essential - yes - but it takes more than commands.

2 Rolf Harris was great - so concerned about his charges. And I loved the painting of the smoking skull.

3 Simon Callow got the pupils engaged by asking them to think of a contemporary character each student would like to be. I had hoped to see him equating each of the chosen characters to a similar one in Shakespeare but I'm not sure which one would be Katy Price. He'd brought in a sonnet which one of the girls had a good stab at reading (even though she didn't think it was proper English). However, if Simon Callow had been on one of the excellent National Association of English Teachers courses, he would have known that one of the best ways to engage reluctant pupils in Shakespeare is to give them Shakespearean insults to shout, hiss, or whisper at each other. With Simon Callow, that one have been wonderful.

4 Robert Winston - brilliant, although taking a chain saw to a dead pig was perhaps too much in the first lesson.

5 Ellen McArthur took four of the students sailing but it was her chat over coffee down below that impressed me. She talked to them as equals.

Looking forward to next week.

Michael Keenan's picture
Thu, 03/03/2011 - 20:43

This man should be on Dreamschool:
If you haven't seen him in action, you really are missing out - much more entertaining than the clebs last night.

Shane Rae's picture
Fri, 04/03/2011 - 15:53

Now, getting Ellen to teach them Maths at sea-that's the new frontier!

I was lucky enough to be involved in a program in NYC where we brought children out of Homeless shelters from the 5 boroughs and bussed them to an outdoor education center outside the city. When they we free from the shackles of behavior expectations placed upon them in their 'city life' their minds and ears opened. Whilst teaching them how to canoe etc we snuck literacy and numeracy lessons in amongst the other 'fun'. Some remarkable results I will remember for ever. But, another digression...

Looking forward to next week's installment.

Jonny Walker's picture
Fri, 04/03/2011 - 21:43

Reading the comments on this and on the review of Jamie's Dream School on the Guardian, I've noticed people keep mentioning that David Starkey's Cambridge Uni students might be riveted by this but it is unsuitable for kids.

It's not suitable for University students either.

Undergrads are just as responsive and want to be as active and involved in their learning as primary school kids! The best lectures I have had have effectively been Circle Time, with the esteemed and wise lecturer plonking himself beside us and we all discuss things for two hours.

I can say without any doubt that you learn more from this than by having to sit in front of the David Starkeys of the academic world - I would be out of his lecture hall and in Starbucks so quickly, the door wouldn't have even shut by the time I get my coffee.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 05/03/2011 - 14:07

You make a good point, Jonny, about the need for university professors to engage with their students as well as lecture. However, there is a place for lectures. I've no doubt that if I were one of Dr Starkey's students being lectured at I would sit there furiously scribbling notes, but then I would have a foundation of knowledge on which to build. Having said that, I do remember being very bored at some of the lectures in teacher-training college.

It should also be remembered that Dr Starkey did come prepared to engage with the students -he brought along some priceless Anglo-Saxon jewellery. His Cambridge students would, no doubt, have been delighted, but to Jamie's students these artefacts might just have well have been junk dug up from the ground. That's not to decry the pupils. It's just that they needed some preparation. Faced with such a lack of interest, Dr Starkey floundered.

In an interview of morning TV, Dr Starkey returned with two of the students to discuss the programme. Despite the inauspicious beginning we saw last week, one of the students said that they eventually got on. I shall be very interested to see how this transformation happened.

Nell's picture
Sun, 06/03/2011 - 10:01

I would just like to comment that Henry and his 3 brothers all went to local comprehensives for their education. His dad is a school governor at the school and has been for many years throughout a dodgy time going into special measures and coming out, and is a great supporter of the state system. I have 2 jobs one of which is a TA in our local primary and am constantly impressed by the lengths all the staff go to, and not only in teaching children from all walks of life, but also helping the parents. It is a real skill that combines imagination, compassion, clarity and discipline. Henry actually remarks in the programme how much the schools have tried to help him. I am not prepared to tell you about the length of the measures we have taken to do 'our job' but I do mention that even so I feel I have failed in this case - but we are still trying, maybe it is the wrong way, but we continue to try. Incidentally AC was his favorite tutor.

Fiona Millar's picture
Sun, 06/03/2011 - 13:49

I thought Henry's qualities ( and his parents') did shine through in the programme. Last night I watched some of the unedited clips on the Channel four website. I found them interesting and possibly more illuminating than the final cut version that is being shown on TV, which did (possibly inevitably) tend to focus on some students and types of behavious at the expense of others and also underestimated how well the teachers actually did.
The longer clip of the Rolf Harris art class creates a different impression to the one left by the first episode.
Being a parent is a very difficult job which gets harder as your children get older.
If you are still reading these comments Nell, Alastair would very much like to hear from Henry.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 08/03/2011 - 14:41

Teachers’ reactions in The Guardian to Jamie’s Dream School highlighted the importance of teacher training, although Ms Birbalsingh did her usual ploy of conflating one incident (the pupils’ reaction to Dr Starkey’s name-calling) into a generalisation about “what is wrong with modern Britain”.


I watched a 24 minute clip on You Tube of Dr Starkey and most of the time the pupils were attentive especially when Dr Starkey told them about his background.


On the evidence of the You Tube clip I would have judged Dr Starkey’s lesson as “satisfactory” although the incident where he called the boy “fat” was not shown. This shows how editing can influence the viewers’ perceptions.

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