Grown-ups behaving badly

29th July 2005 at 01:00
Teacher's reality-TV nightmare teaches him to be more tolerant of his pupils. Adi Bloom reports.

A classics teacher who appeared on television enforcing strict classroom discipline is now starring in a TV series that highlights faults in his own behaviour.

Simon Warr, who works at the pound;17,000-a-year Royal Hospital School, in Ipswich, is appearing in the Channel 4 reality-TV programme The Nightmares Next Door.

The programme forces five households of designated nightmare neighbours to live in a purpose-built village in the Dorset countryside. The aim is to see if exposure to each other's bad habits can transform their own.

Mr Warr, 51, has been drafted in as the resident busybody, concerned with the litter-dropping, music-playing habits of his neighbours.

He applied to appear after a neighbour drew his attention to an advert for a "community-minded" volunteer and he did not learn the title of the series until two weeks before it was due to be screened.

"I imagined living in a cottage with roses around the door. It was the shock of my life to meet my neighbours," he said.

"It's much easier to deal with pupils. They behave in a far more constructive, restrained manner than some of the adults on The Nightmares Next Door. These adults live as they want to and don't mind if it impinges on other people's freedom. I would really have liked to punish them at times. That's how you learn."

Mr Warr's earlier experiences with reality TV allowed far greater scope for on-the-spot detention.

In 2003, he appeared as the gown-wearing Latin master in the Channel 4 series That'll Teach 'Em, an experiment to see how pupils responded to 1950s-style teaching.

And he will once again assume the mortar-board and cane of the 1950s grammar-school headmaster for the third series of theprogramme, which is to be filmed later this year.

"Whatever era you live in, right will always be right, and wrong will be wrong," he said. "Litter, graffiti and loud noise are unacceptable," he said.

"Perhaps they thought I was a little bit pernickety on The Nightmares Next Door, a little bit insensitive to people around me. But standards in society have deteriorated remarkably over the past 30 years."

He hopes that he has helped to remedy this slightly during his time on the series. He tried to persuade a mother to punish her tearaway children. And he helped rebuke four unruly students who wrecked communal tables and chairs after a night's drinking.

"If ever I thought pupils were tiresome, I don't any more," he said. "They don't behave in such a ridiculous and infantile manner.

"But I've learnt I can be over-bearing and intolerant. I think I'm more tolerant of pupil behaviour now than I used to be. It was wonderful to be back at school."

Howard Blackett, Royal Hospital head, welcomes his Latin teacher's alternative career. "He's entertaining himself during the summer holidays," he said. "But I'm sure there's going to be plenty of banter and pulling of his leg when he gets back."

* adi.bloom@tes.co.uk

The Nightmares Next Door is on Tuesday at 9pm on Channel 4

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