Joseph and the BBC's amazing school choir cock-up

25th May 2007 at 01:00
Teachers say the voting is open to abuse, the website is wonky and some in the top 100 are shouting, not singing.

THERE WAS no crash of drums or flash of light, but when the BBC's popular Joseph Choir Search competition faded into darkness last Friday, it was the final straw for many of the hundreds of schools who had taken part.

Heavily promoted on the popular BBC1 show Any Dream Will Do, presented by Graham Norton, the contest promised schools a chance to sing in a West End production of the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

But it has been dismissed as a "disaster" by angry teachers after many computer crashes wreaked havoc on the ratings system, resulting in frustration for thousands of pupils.

The BBC website asked schools to upload footage of their choirs to be rated by members of the public, with the final 20 going on to be judged by a panel including Andrew Lloyd Webber. But it has been dogged by technical difficulties and allegations of dirty tactics.

Videos have disappeared from the site and schools have yo-yoed in the ratings while voting is supposedly closed, raising questions about the integrity of the scoring system. Rankings are produced from average point scores rather than the total number of votes, indicating pupils are sabotaging rival schools' positions by bombarding them with low ratings, teachers say.

"We have gone from being constantly in the top 10 to 536th," said Jo Rose, head of music at the Royal Alexandra and Albert school near Reigate, in Surrey. "There are many choirs in the top 100 who are, quite frankly, abysmal: children shouting, forcing their voices and singing out of tune."

Kirsty Body, a Cambridgeshire music teacher, is also exasperated. "It is catastrophic and has been a waste of time. The children were really excited but now they feel let down," she said.

Caroline Stamp-Dod, a Year 6 teacher at Millfield primary in Littleport, Cambridgeshire, said: "We got ourselves on local radio and then ratings were suspended, so the DJ was plugging the site but nobody could vote.

"It is a nice idea run by a bunch of incompetents. The children think it's very unfair. It's such a high-profile show. Why haven't the BBC apologised to them?"

Abi Hulme, a music teacher at Little Green junior school in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, said: "It's just been one disappointment after another. The children are so frustrated they've basically given up."

Any Dream Will Do, which has attracted up to 7 million viewers, aims to find a male lead for Joseph. The spin-off contest, which finished this week, was entered by nearly 1,000 schools. The BBC has told schools it has been cracking down on suspicious voting.

A spokesman said interest in the contest had been "phenomenal", with 2 million hits on the site in one day. The BBC had extended the deadline and expanded web capacity to cope, he said.

TV PHONE-IN CHAOS

February 20 Richard and Judy's premium-rate telephone quiz You Say, We Pay is suspended amid claims that presenters invited viewers to call after potential winners had already been chosen.

February 27 Saturday Kitchen is caught plugging a 'live' telephone vote with guest Eamonn Holmes while he simultaneously presented his BBC radio show.

March 1 X Factor voters are overcharged by pound;200,000 because of a voting flaw. ITV suspends telephone voting on all its channels.

March 8 The Channel 5 lunchtime show Brainteaser admits it invented names of competition winners.

March 14 Blue Peter apologises to viewers after a girl visiting the set is asked to impersonate the winner of its Whose Shoes? competition.

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