Vic Goddard, principal of Passmores Academy – the setting for Educating Essex – writes:
Tonight was the story of three different young men, all with very similar issues to deal with – even if it didn't look like it on the surface. In all three cases, Louie, Devonté and Charlie, it was so easy to see the cyclical nature of their challenges.
Let's start with the angelic-faced Louie. Louie missed the first four weeks of Year 7, those oh-so-vital early weeks. His story was close to home for me; my son has just started in Year 7 and no matter how much faith you have that you have helped your child become a good communicator and generally nice person, you can't help but worry about whether they will fit in. I can assure you that one thing that isn't going to help is missing the first month of school. Pecking orders get sorted, common interests are found out and friendships bloom. So Louie is at a disadvantage to begin with and feels like a square peg. So he doesn't want to go to school. And in his absence, those 'blooming' friendships become solid lifelong 'bruvvers' and, guess what, Louie feels left out and doesn't want to go to school. Someone, somewhere needs to get Louie to school every day.
Devonté's challenges are very similar to Louie, but for what seems to be very different reasons. It doesn't take Einstein to work out that Devonté needs some attention. I can't really imagine a tougher thing to cope with when starting 'big school' than being a carer at home as well. Through no fault of his own, as an only child and a carer for his mum, his life must be a lonely one at times – what 11-year-old doesn't want some attention? The incredibly astute Mrs Austin hit the nail on the head when she said that Devonté doesn't differentiate between good and bad attention – it is just attention. For that reason, the decision to get him into lessons – rightly championed by Mrs Austin – was always fraught with danger and mainly posed a danger to the learning of other students. However, Mr Skinner showed just what can be achieved when a teacher finds the hook. Rap or, let's call it what it really is, poetry, is the way in for Mr Skinner. No matter how hard Devonté tried to look uninterested, he kept receiving encouragement and, to his surprise, kept making pertinent comments. The future is tough for Devonté and possibly for those young people around him, but Frederick Bremer is as good a place as anywhere to help him.
There is a huge amount to be told about young carers and how little support they get. In my opinion it is a national disgrace that so little is done, so often, apart from by schools.
Last, but definitely not least, we had Charlie, who provided tonight's Susan Boyle moment. Who'd have guessed that the bag of nerves was going to sing and play like that! I know I won't have been the only one that shouted, "COME ON CHARLIE" at the screen when we were waiting for his entrance to the stage! When in the group hug after the performance one of his friends said, "I am so proud of you mate", I actually snorted out loud. No higher praise can be given.
Charlie has the pressure of a successful sibling and an obvious ability that raised everyone's expectations, both of which have led to his panic attacks. Panic attacks are real and debilitating, but Mrs Yldiran got it spot on when she said Charlie needed some tough love. Thankfully, he was mature enough to reflect on his own anxiety after successfully completing the lesson he was dreading and he will continue to do so, with the right mixture of love and challenge. Who knows if he'll make Oxford, or if he even wants to go, but I can assure Charlie that, while he may think Joel has been more successful with the ladies before, with Charlie's brains, eloquence and the ability to sing like that, he's going to be just fine.
Find TES' full coverage of this series at the Educating the East End landing page