Cut to the real action

8th December 2000 at 00:00
Wannabe film star Colin Dowland delivers a script from the school of gritty realism

We've all seen those amazing "model lessons" featured on the literacy and numeracy instruction videos. The teachers are dynamic, super-organised and have spent weeks preparing resources. The pupils are angelic, have all the right answers and never get confused.

Are these schools real or are they in some elaborately scripted drama with fake sets and child actors?

If they videoed one of my lessons it would go something like this: SCENE:A Year 5 classroom in north London (cameras are set and the sound man is ready).

Director: OK Mr Dowland. Ready when you are. Quiet everyone. Camera roll.

Mr Dowland: Right Year 5, the objective for today's numeracy lesson is to recognise the equivalence of simple fractions.

Clive: We've done this, Sir. Director: Cut! (Clive is removed and excluded for the rest of the day) From the top, roll 'em. When you're ready Mr Dowland.

Mr Dowland: So Year 5, the objective of today's lesson is to recognise the... (Knock on the door. Enter Year 4 pupil Hannah) Hannah: Sorry to disturb you Mr Dowland, but could Miss Peters borrow some glue?

Director: Cut. Let's go again. Cameras rolling. Mr Dowland (Enter caretaker, without knocking) Caretaker: Sorry, didn't realise you were filming. Need to move your car, Mr Dowland. I've a lorry load of urinals I can't get down the driveway.

Director: (sighing) Keep rolling. (Car keys are handed over) When you're ready.

Mr Dowland: So Year 5, the objectiv of today's lesson is to recognise equivalent fractions. For the mental warm-up, let's have a look at the OHP sheet on the screen. (The OHP is switched on and the bulb blows) Director: Cut. Be a love someone and sort this out. (General mutterings from the director about this not happening in Barking and Dagenham. Enter Year 6 pupil Shane with book and pencil) Shane: Miss Peters says I ain't done no work and can I work in here?

Mr Dowland: Sit at the back, not next to Terry.

Director: Right. Take it from where you got to, Mr Dowland. Roll it. When you're ready. (Someone breaks wind) Director: (nasally) In your own time, Mr Dowland.

Mr Dowland: You can see I've drawn a large cake. Now, if I cut the cake into two equal pieces, what fraction of the cake is each piece? Hands up. (Lucy puts her hand up, beaming) Mr Dowland: Yes, Lucy.

Lucy: Please can I go to my trombone lesson, Sir?

Mr Dowland: Yes, off you go. Anyone else?

Terry: Doesn't look much like a cake, Sir. More like a pepperoni pizza.

Shane: Or your mum's face, Terry.

Mr Dowland: Yes, thank you boys. Now what is the fraction? (No hands go up. The camera pans round to blank faces. Some are picking their noses, some are chatting. A few are sleeping) Director: Cut, cut, cut! (The fire alarm goes off. The class and teacher head off quickly in the direction of the nearest fire exit. The film crew head off even more quickly in the direction of Barking and Dagenham) Colin Dowland is a Year 5 teacher in north London. Email:

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