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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