Bad teacher. Bad jokes. Bad, bad film

28th August 2015 at 01:00
What The Bad Education Movie (doesn't) reveal about teaching

It's curious that offices, radio stations and sitting rooms have all been so well-observed in contemporary culture, yet the landscape of the classroom - where we've all spent so much of our lives - rarely is. A checklist of hackneyed stereotypes is usually rolled out: teachers look like a beleaguered platoon of shambling Jeremy Corbyns; white working-class kids are all "misunderstood" Tony Sopranos; anyone overweight is a self-loathing victim of 247 bullying.

The Bad Education Movie, the big screen outing of the unremarkable BBC Three sitcom, celebrates all these stereotypes con brio, and throws in some more for good measure.

The film is written by and stars Jack Whitehall (pictured, below) as history teacher and self-confessed "massive lad" Alfie Wickers, who escorts his beloved GCSE class on a post-exam trip to Cornwall with the express intention of taking them to the pub. In the first five minutes, a pupil asks his teacher, "Did you go on a post-GCSE trip, Sir?", to which he smugly replies, "Yeah, Shagaluf with the lads." You get the picture.

Just another `maverick' teacher

The motley crew swiftly get caught up in a series of "zany" capers that include a naked Alfie zip-lining across the Eden Project and a rowdy night with a one-legged stripper and the Cornish National Liberation Army. Fans of Game of Thrones will raise an eyebrow at the sight of Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen); he delivers a rather fine performance as a weathered Cornish rogue.

The gang end up at a huge party at the home of an old friend (evil toff with disinterested and absent daddy: tick), who then forces Alfie to teabag a swan. This, like many of the big set-piece gags, is about as funny as.well, it's just not funny.

Ultimately, the film is an unfortunate collision of unabashed ladism and the "maverick teacher learns more from the kids than they learn from him" trope. Alfie is a "bad" teacher not because of his hapless nature, but rather because of the sinister and pathetic way in which he tries to befriend his students instead of actually teaching them anything.

He "loves" the kids so much that he wishes they would fail their GCSEs, stay on at school for sixth form and learn about the siege of Troy by throwing paper around. Like so much of the film, this is hilariously irreverent if your marker for hilarious irreverence is Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps.

The reason why comedies such as The Office, I'm Alan Partridge and The Royle Family endure is that they are based on truth, no matter how unpalatable and tragic. The truly disappointing thing about The Bad Education Movie is not that it isn't funny, but that it reheats tedious stereotypes about teachers and teaching that don't even attempt to nod in the direction of reality.

Carl Hendrick is head of learning and research at Wellington College in Berkshire. @C_Hendrick

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