Educating The East End: ‘This will change the perception of London teenagers’

In it’s preview of Educating the East End, the Guardian looks behind the scenes at putting together a series of Educating and its impact on those involved…

…While the schedules are saturated with fly-on-the-wall documentaries, Educating… has always stood apart, dealing almost exclusively in those infectiously life-affirming moments that are the holy grail of reality television…

But if Channel 4 is searching for more fuel for its cockle-warming bonfire, Frederick Bremer seems, on paper, an odd place to come. A relatively new school (it opened in 2008), it was awarded a “satisfactory” rating from Ofsted last year. According to head Jenny Smith, who arrived in 2012, “it was always this school that was sort of just by Homebase. No one really came in.” That’s about to change: starting from September, they’ll have the nation at the gates. Once the Guide gets through those gates, it becomes more obvious why Channel 4 has pitched up here. There’s “an ambience”, as assistant headteacher Alex Palombo puts it. “The kids love being here. And that comes across in everything they do. It’s harmonious.”

…By now, as invariably happens with reality television, it does feel as if a formula has been established for the series. Inspirational moments come courtesy of a familiar troupe: the loudmouth pupils, a pricelessly precocious little one, the no-nonsense head, an energetic young teacher. Bispham has clearly been cast in the latter role…

Despite that sort of self-awareness creeping in, in practice, the filming methods (fixed rig cameras that stay for months on end) mean there’s little danger of this ending up a posed portrait. Series director Jo Hughes, who strides down the corridors greeting pupils more like an enthusiastic head girl than a visiting TV producer, explains how she had to mollify the fears of the staff. “All the teachers came back to us saying, ‘The kids are going to be acting up all week aren’t they?’ And we were like, ‘No, they really won’t. But you won’t know that until you’re in it.’” Mr Bispham confirms that he completely forgot about the cameras, with one exception: “I caught the camera in the corner of my eye and had this weird feeling: if I fall over now that could be really bad. I don’t know why I became so fixated by it, I’ve never fallen over in class, but that’s the only time I can really remember it happening.”

If all the teachers have to worry about is maintaining an upright position, they’ve got it easy. It’s the pupils who have their personal lives sequestered into each episode’s narrative. We’re having lunch with Tawny and Alice, who feature heavily in the series opener, when somebody mentions they first saw Educating Yorkshire on Channel 4’s Gogglebox. As it’s mooted that they could be featured next, an unease descends. It’s a serious thing to turn young, vulnerable people into easily digested plotlines, but the team behind the show are well-versed in the protocol. “They’ve been going round to their homes, they’ve been talking to their parents regularly, psychologists have been looking after them,” says Ms Smith of the more prominently featured pupils…

Educating The East End is on Channel 4, 9pm, Thursday…

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Comments

  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Good to see that a variety of Ofsted graded schools feature in this show, & may highlight the whimsical nature of the grades

  2. @andylutwyche SchoolsImprove Not ‘whimsical’: they simply reflect the value added in the exam grades…
    It’s the rest of the OFSTED report that could be described as whimsical.

  3. C_Mcfc

    SchoolsImprove No it won’t.Most of of London schools are full of immigrants … Blinding.Even Polish kids get school choice before English

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