The final lesson from Educating Greater Manchester: 'To give children the chance to succeed, we need more money'

Mr Bispham, of Educating the East End fame, reviews the final episode of Channel 4's sister programme, Educating Greater Manchester

Joseph Bispham

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With teachers collectively breathing a sigh of relief as half-term fast approaches, our time at Harrop Fold comes to an end. 

The final episode was a sobering reminder of the challenges facing schools up and down the country and the blindingly obvious fact that seems to have been lost on our current government: you cannot provide a world-class education to all pupils if you are not willing to fund it.

The faces of the senior staff during meetings were telling as they began listing the "shortcuts" they had needed to take to make ends meet – larger class sizes, fewer teachers, less in-class support, fewer resources. Whilst the big shiny and modern building can apparently mask this (I would wager a fair amount that this is part of a financially crippling PFI contract) on the day-to-day, the Povey brothers could not escape this reality as exams came around. They may not want to make excuses but they know what I know. To give children the chance to succeed, we need more money.

Drew Povey may have been putting a brave face on events after the exams, but he was fully aware that the majority of his Year 11 group were not on course to achieve the grades that would set them on a journey to success. You could see it as he talked about the results.  Harrop Fold should be producing year after year of academic high-achievers – the young people we have got to know deserve this much and the staff are clearly eager to help them achieve this. Yet the sad truth is many of those staff will have left in a few years' time, dragged down by a system that condemns them to failure.  

'Schools have it tough'

I applaud the school and the producers for their bravery in tackling this. It is important we do not simply promote education as being all wonderfully fulfilling slick narratives. The reality that schools face, created by policymakers who are at best disinterested, prevents pupils from the most deprived areas from becoming successes. 

This may not have been the "Musharaf" moment many of us had hoped for but I have really enjoyed our time with Harrop Fold. The compassion of the staff and the experiences of the pupils made compelling viewing and will have only added to the number of people who are on the side of teachers as we continue to battle for our young people. 

And I hope that, even with the odds stacked against them, they can begin to realise the success they deserve.

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

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Joseph Bispham

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