Unrequited love, a pot-noodle head and the bad boys of Year 7: Mr Bispham reviews this week's Educating Greater Manchester

13th October 2017 at 17:14
With every break-up and make-up in this week's Educating..., I went on a rollercoaster of feeling both uncomfortable and slightly sick, writes our weekly reviewer, Mr Bispham

As this series goes on, it is clear to me that the producers of Educating Greater Manchester have set out to push my buttons on a weekly basis. 

I know many of you may be thinking that I have an exaggerated sense of self-importance – and you are probably right – but just look at the evidence. Last week, they dedicated the whole hour to social media and mobile phones. This week they focused on pupils who were 11 claiming to be in relationships. Could it be a coincidence? I think not. 

There was no sofa large enough for me to hide behind as I cringed my way through Lily and Jacob discussing the goings on of their "relationship". Please tell me I'm not the only person who experienced this. Why do children want to grow up so quickly? Surely they can see that being an adult is a far inferior state of affairs? With every break-up and make-up, I went on a rollercoaster of feeling both uncomfortable and slightly sick from this narrative. I wanted to tell them to pull themselves together and that they have a whole lifetime to experience the lows and lack of highs of unrequited love.

However, the absolute gems that came from the face-to-camera interviews with Year 7 pupils made up for this. Their definitions of relationships hit the jackpot with young Jack’s cameo and words of wisdom. "It’s like a mate but a girl". What more could you want?

'Shakespearian' insults

In these face-to-camera interviews, the Year 7 pupils come into their own. Now, I would never condone pupils (or adults) insulting each other. However, if you are going to be mean about someone – and once again, I cannot emphasise enough how much I would condemn any act of malice – lead with something as creative as "pot-noodle head", an insult so ridiculous I actually made an involuntary snorting sound when I heard it. It is almost Shakespearian in its majesty.

Apart from our young Romeo and Juliet, we were treated to the bad boys of Year 7. Tiger and Billy were familiar to all teachers even though they have never met them. Every year, we see the pupils we know are going to be trouble in the future. They weren’t nasty people, but boredom and a love of mischief had sent them on a path that wasn’t going to end well. Tiger’s problems were easily solved by staff and showed the beautiful simplicity of how seating arrangements can transform a class (a lesson for any new or aspiring teacher).

But Billy’s issues looked more complicated. He seemed immune to the authority of the classroom teacher and it was only the brilliant Ms Bland who seemed capable of slowing him down for a moment. He will be hard work for the staff at Harrop Fold, but in many ways one of the most rewarding pupils to see through the highs and lows of school. You had genuine hope for him and if he can continue on the right path, then I am sure he will be able to achieve great things.

So, that leaves us with one more trip to our favourite school in Greater Manchester. And, despite the producers' knack for pushing my buttons, I wouldn’t miss it for the world. 

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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