Jamie’s Dream School

Mar 3, 2011

Category: Teaching    Tags: ,

If you’re not tired of Jamie Oliver’s attempts to change the world (or even if you are), his ‘Dream School’ (Weds, Channel 4) is well worth a watch. If you missed yesterday night’s first episode (which is available to watch again here), the concept is as follows…

Twenty or so teenagers have been invited to take part in Dream School. They have all left school for one reason or another and are disillusioned with education in general. One boy mentioned how he was “kicked out of school in Year 4″ — these kids have deep-seated feelings about school.

As teachers in Dream School, Jamie Oliver has picked celebrities and people who are at the top of their field. Robert Winston teaches Science, David Starkey attempts to teach History, the English teacher is Simon Callow and so on.

It has to be said, the concept makes for a fascinating watch. Seeing ‘celebrities’ in the classroom is always interesting. Just because someone is the best in their field and an inspiration to adults, doesn’t mean they will automatically be able to teach well or inspire a classful of pupils (see David Starkey, who struggled in last night’s episode). It seemed most of their problems were with crowd control.

The programme throws up so many questions about how best to motivate the demotivated and inspire the disillusioned, but one of the main things we took away was to do with the personal touch…

Ellen MacArthur had that much-desired small class size as she took four pupils out sailing. After learning to sail, they sat drinking tea and she was able to talk to them individually.

The reason David Starkey failed so miserably in episode 1 seems to be that there was no initial bridge-building between himself and these pupils. He spoke condescendingly and ended up being exceptionally rude to one of them. It looked like (and perhaps this is just good film-making) he didn’t care. No doubt things will improve as the series goes on.

You don’t have to be a celebrity to inspire young minds. You just have to be able to relate to your pupils, teach subjects that are relevant (are you listening, Mr Gove?), be excited about that subject and, most importantly, care about who these kids are, what makes them tick and what they go home to each night.

Or, of course, you could be Tinchy Stryder — that helps too.

Take a look at Jamie’s Dream School if you get a chance — it’s on Channel 4, Wednesday nights. And if you’re interested in a “hands-on” approach for those who school isn’t working out for (or if you’re the Education Secretary) take a look at this.


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So, what do you think?

  1. As a mother, grandma, actor and teacher, I am finding Jamie’s Dream School programmes moving, disturbing and inspirational. I agree with much of what has been said about the series so far, but I truly think that if the concept is taken seriously, it could herald a genuinely needed shake-up of our Education System. I am mostly nowadays involved directly as a Supply Nursery teacher, but have 40 years of work in ‘education’ behind me. The core of Jamie’s concept, as I see it, is the desperate need to find a way to ‘engage’ with disillusioned, confused and angry kids, who feel they have failed because they have been mishandled — at home and at school, by the most important adults in their lives.
    So, really,the ‘Jamie’s Dream School’ concept needs to commence at Nursery age. I see the same behaviour, in miniature form, from three and four year-olds in Nursery classes, as we are watching on the TV every Wednesday. So by the time the kids reach teen-age, the hopelessness, rage and denial is well-established.
    What is especially important about this experiment is that the ‘teachers’ are changing along with the kids. This is what is so different. Teachers don’t have the opportunity in most schools to change themselves, because they are tied pretty rigidly to other ‘experts” decisions and rules on how it should all be done.
    I believe that Jamie has not chosen ‘celebrities’ as such to be his teachers, but people who are at the top of their field. Most of the kids have never even heard of most of the ‘celebrities’. However, if Jamie is now seeking REAL dream teachers, that will be a brilliant next stage, because being super-skilled in your own career does not necessarily mean that you can impart your expertise successfully to students. On the other hand, these kids hate the word ‘teacher’ because of personal connotations, and Jamie’s series is allowing the teachers to learn from the kids needs so that they, the ‘teachers’, don’t fail either. This puts the staff and the children on the same spot. These kids will learn because they WANT to, and they will want to because they ‘teachers’ genuinely care that they should — not for results in exams, but results in self-growth, management, vision and passion. This series is SO IMPORTANT, and could revolutionise our whole education system. It takes brave (and, yes, successful and probably wealthy,) people to dare to challenge what is really happening to our young people, and our future generations. If I were thirty or forty years younger, I would be trying properly to get involved. As it is I can only try and spread the word, which is what I have been doing in my own small way, over the past 10 years or so years in Nursery Education.
    Good luck Jamie, and all your Staff and kids in Dream School! Education: bringing out. Jenny

    Jenny Ellis
    11:32 am on March 25th, 2011

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