Cameras have once again been allowed access to UK schools for a new television programme that aims to shine a light on the current funding crisis in education.
Filmed across one academic year, BBC2’s new documentary, School, features three secondary schools in South Gloucestershire – The Castle School, Marlwood School and Mangotsfield School – all of which are part of the Castle School Education Trust (CSET).
The series guides viewers through the school gates and into the heart of the trust to see the key issues and decision-making at play, along with their human impact.
Will Roberts, chief executive of the CSET, said that he had no doubts about taking part when approached by Label1 – the production company behind the series.
“The story of schools needed telling," he said. "Everybody knows what it’s like to be at school, everyone knows a little bit about school; there’s been some fabulous programmes about schools like the 'Educating' series, which were excellent, but actually, they don’t necessarily show the complexity about what we do on a day-to-day basis – the decisions teachers have to take, the decisions headteachers have to take, how that impacts on the lives of young people and their families.”
BBC2 controller Patrick Holland said that the series required an extraordinary leap of faith from the schools, pupils and parents involved.
“The result is a clarion call for education to rise to the top of the national debate,” he said.
The first episode looks at The Castle School and shows headteacher Angie Browne making some tough decisions about balancing the budget – one of which is to remove teacher responsibilities, and subsequently, cut their pay.
The episode also covers cuts to pastoral care, which has a huge effect on the two girls that the programme follows: Chloe, who is struggling with overwhelming anxiety about her GCSEs; and Chelsea, a black Year 7 girl who behaves badly after experiencing racist bullying in the predominantly white school.
Ms Browne said that such decisions are difficult for headteachers who believe in the importance of student wellbeing, but know there’s no other option but to balance the budget.
She said: “I can’t image there are many school leaders who champion pupil and staff wellbeing, but don't have to deal with this terrible reality and the budget, and I think it’s the sense that’s well captured in the programme.
“You’re trying to keep the wheels on something, but it comes at an incredible cost to everyone we’re working with. I thought [the series] was an incredible opportunity for everybody to see what that’s like.”
The first episode of School will be aired on BBC2 at 9pm on 6 November.