Forget Fame Academy...

7th November 2003 at 00:00
A BBC documentary showing a day inthe life of Britain's schools aims to be the unvarnished truth, without star turns. Adi Bloom reports

On a sunny Thursday in mid-October, an angry parent strode into a Liverpool comprehensive and began a tirade against the deputy head. It was not a particularly unusual afternoon at St John Almond Roman Catholic high, a school that serves the large estates of Liverpool's Garston area. Except that the lights were on, the cameras rolled and the episode was captured for the small screen.

Jim McTaigue, the deputy head at the receiving end of the outburst, is one of a number of teaching and ancillary staff being filmed for A day in the life of Britain's schools, a new BBCdocumentary. A dozen film crews are trailing heads, new and experienced teachers, teaching assistants, cooks and caretakers in schools across Britain for a day. The one-hour programme will be shown on BBC1 in May.

Being followed by a camera crew with equipment poised to record without mercy had its challenges.

"It was interesting how the children reacted," said 54-year-old Mr McTaigue.

"When I was teaching a sixth-form group, one big lad came up to me embarrassed and whispered that he didn't have a pen. Unfortunately everyone knew about it because I had a microphone in my pocket."

When a parent burst into school, complaining about an injustice to her daughter, she was taken into a private room to let off steam off-camera.

All sound was captured by a microphone outside the door - the aim of the documentary is to show the warts-and-all reality of life at the chalkface.

Mr McTaigue does not want to present a sanitised version of teaching. "The children aren't there to love you," he said. "It's about doing the best for them. Yes, you make sure your lessons are well-prepared for the cameras, but you do that anyway.

"Everybody knows about education, because everybody's been in school. But all they can do is relate to their own experiences, even if they were a long time ago. People should see what goes on now."

Showing the public what goes on inside the school gates was also the motive of Steve Greenwood, the series producer. "We're not Panorama," he said.

"We're not looking at colourless issues. We want to see them through the eyes of the people involved."

The media far too often focuses on problems within the education system, Mr Greenwood believes. He aims to show what motivates school staff despite the problems.

He is not deterred by classroom equivalents of Jane McDonald from The Cruise or Maureen from Driving School queuing up for their moment of reality-TV glory.

"We're not looking for Dale Wintons. We want someone who can light fires in people. We want people who know in their own hearts that they don't mind being themselves and saying what they think."

The BBC is still recruiting subjects for the documentary. Tel 01179746861

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