SCHOOLS AT WORK Channel 4 Fridays 11.35-11.40am Age range: all
Any politician who wants to pontificate on the state of our schools, should first be obliged to produce proof that he or she has watched every programme in this marvellously upbeat series. There may be plenty of things that are wrong with state education, but these five-minute films are a welcome reminder that there is also plenty to celebrate.
Four new programmes, that have been added to the series since it was first broadcast, exemplify the general approach. The film-makers simply point the camera at pupils engaged in some absorbing activity and let the pictures do the talking.
We see a class of wannabe Olga Korbuts at Newlaithes Junior School, Carlisle, doing their thing with consummate grace. The gymnastics are, of course, impressive, but even more so are the expressions on their young faces - a blend of concentration and obvious satisfaction.
One programme features the European City of Stones at Frome, which is a surreal collection of monoliths set in rolling park land. It is the perfect setting and stimulus for creative work, as youngsters from a primary school, a secondary and an FE college in Somerset discovered. They created costumes, painted their faces, made music, improvised dances and put on plays. Such activities might be far removed from whole-class teaching but they teach the whole child in a way that the Gradgrinds couldn't possibly imagine.
Another shows a Year 10 student at Lord Mayor Treloar School in Hampshire who wanted a sport which made use of his wheelchair. It took him and his technology teacher 18 months to take their idea from the drawing board to the prototype - a wheelchair which doubles as land yacht.
The children at Trythall Primary School in Cornwall seem to get as much of a thrill out of playing chess. They are so keen they even have a giant chessboard marked out on the playground, where two players battle it out using their fellow pupils as pawns in their game. Politicians would know all about that.