Editorial - Yorkshire has made teaching fans of us all

15th November 2013 at 00:00

I read a lot of words about education every week. Lots and lots. Part of the job. Some of them are good, some bad, some depressing, some uplifting.

But this week one thing really jumped out at me: the news that Educating Yorkshire is returning to our screens for a one-off Christmas special. Cripes, but I was chuffed.

Don't get me wrong. I am, of course, a hardbitten, cynical hack who views everything through cold, dead eyes that look for nothing more than a decent headline.

Well, this was true - at least until I watched the famous "Musharaf episode", the one with the lad with the unfathomably bad stutter whose teacher coached him through the speaking-and-listening part of his English exam. The episode that was like The King's Speech, only better.

I swear I had something in my eye.

It will come as no surprise to learn that I am a big fan of Mr Mitchell and his staff, just as I was of their predecessors, the protagonists in the equally wonderful Educating Essex.

First and foremost, I am a fan of the show as a casual viewer of great television, but I also tuned in every week because I am a big fan of teachers.

It may be unfashionable, but I believe - the TES believes - that teachers do a hard job in often tough circumstances and they mostly do it exceptionally well. And their thanks? To be maligned the world over.

All too often the media is chief detractor. This is true in huge swathes of the world, including in the US and in dear old Blighty.

As such, to settle down and watch a mainstream channel - normally a purveyor of tabloid freak shows dressed up as serious documentaries - uncynically celebrating teachers, teaching and students has been fantastic. More astonishing still, it has been a critical, commercial and ratings success.

People in the UK loved it. And, it turned out, viewers around the world loved it too. It soon emerged that a small but devoted audience beyond British shores was tuning in online and then taking to social media to ask their broadcasters why they too couldn't have such a show celebrating education.

So why did this programme resonate so strongly, not just with teachers but with casual sofa-bound viewers?

The fact is that most people have a good experience of school. The majority leave with happy memories and - at the very least - decent qualifications. Most people in the developed world still have a good local school to which they happily send their children. Most people like teachers and like the idea of teaching.

Keep this in mind in the weeks ahead, because they are going to be tough. At the beginning of next month, the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) rankings are due to be published. These are the international league tables that politicians and pundits the world over use to bash their teachers and schools. It won't be pretty because, well, it never is.

But it will only last for a week or two and the dust will soon settle. And when it does, it will be the end of term and you'll be settled too, on the sofa, preparing to watch the wonderful staff and students of Thornhill Community Academy in Yorkshire.


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