Boys will be boys. How often do you hear these words in education? If it is a self-fulfilling cliché then nobody bothered to let the behaviour team at Harrop Fold know. Episode four of Educating Greater Manchester was a textbook example of when behaviour support outside lessons works brilliantly.
As the education folk on Twitter were quick to point out, inside the classroom is another matter. What the tweeters seem to be missing is the fact that these scenes are obviously edited with both sounds and sequencing giving way to allow the narrative to move forward in less than an hour. But, you would’ve thought the teachers were watching a live observation the way in which some were carrying on.
Instead, what they – the tweeters – should have been focusing on was the support given, without question, to some very challenging young people.
This combined with the production team’s ability to masterfully manipulate their audience by presenting the boys initially as irritating pests before hitting you with a snapshot of their vulnerability gets me every single time.
Kayden jumped from a student that would drive you insane to an upset little boy in an ill-fitting blazer who couldn’t cope with the world, in a matter of seconds.
Vincent was not only rewarded for obvious enthusiasm about the student council, but also treated with understanding when his promotion campaign nearly went horribly wrong. How many of us would have not believed him when he said he was set upon and seen his troubled past as evidence it was his fault?
This should give the public cause to reflect on how they want their youngsters to be treated in education. I hope many start to appreciate the sterling work schools do to support difficult young people and the variety of ways to skin the proverbial cat.
Beacons of consistency
However, of all the narratives, the one that nearly made me weep was that of Kimberley and her brother facing a custodial prison sentence.
We are so used to hearing about prison and sentencing in the public discourse as an abstract number about a crime that we don’t understand – it loses its potency. But, seeing Kimberley face the prospect of not seeing her brother and – in her words – her best friend, was devastating. The moment when she was alone and shaking uncontrollably was horrible to watch. But, it reminded us that school staff are vital beacons of consistency in these young people’s lives and why we do the job we do.
It was wonderful to see that Kimberley made a success of her time at school and is now working with the amazing Prince’s Trust to build her confidence. If they can build on some of the work done at Harrop Fold, then I am sure she will be fine.
Next week is elections week – one of my highlights from Educating the East End and always a refreshing break from the uninspiring national political outlook. I would hazard a guess that Harrop Fold will do elections very well.
Joseph Bispham teaches at Forest Gate Community School, and starred in Educating the East End. He worked in politics before moving into teaching and tweets @MrBispham