Readers' show is hardly on song

24th September 2010 at 01:00

"Morning, Tristram."

"Morning, Skye, Pennie, Gareth. Now, we've got a spare slot in our programming, and I'm wondering if we can do something on primary education. What about children's inability to read properly these days? That's always a contentious issue."

"We need to be careful, Tristram. Remember that disastrous Panorama recently, where we sent an undercover reporter to show how poor teachers aren't being sacked? The one the TES editor tore to pieces?"

"Well, I accept it was scantily researched, shoddily edited, badly narrated and most of the evidence didn't stack up. But apart from that, it was pretty good. Filled a slot in the schedules. No, this time let's go for something more entertaining. We'd need a minor celebrity to front it, of course ..."

"I've got it, Tristram. Let's get hold of that nice Gareth chap who does the choir thing."

"I don't think the public would thank us for another programme where he gets people who hate singing to form a choir, Skye. I suppose we could make it more gimmicky and get him to teach a herd of cows to sing."

"No, I meant getting him to solve the reading thingy. Here's the scenario. There's bound to be a bit of research somewhere that says boys don't read as quickly as girls. Then we find a school out in the sticks where the head is worried about her reading results, so she calls in an expert ... Gareth, of course."

"No, Skye. Gareth's not an expert on reading. He teaches people who can't sing to sing."

"No, but he's a celebrity, Tris, and cheaper than Simon Cowell. Gareth bounds in and has just eight weeks to raise boys' reading standards. We can rack up the tension over three shows. Will he or won't he get the boys to read? And he's bound to have all sorts of wacky ideas ..."

"Skye's right, Tris. He'll probably take them to the woods and get them building bivouacs and skinning rabbits, or prance around as a highwayman and get them all excited."

"Take them in the woods? Good God, has he been CRB checked? We'd have to get the children wearing hard hats ..."

"Oh, we can sort all that. We'd start with the boys saying how they hate reading and how boring they think school is and how crap their teachers are and take it from there. Slip in a few parents saying they can't tear their kids from their PlayStations. And we could have fun with the sound ... a bit of Ron Goodwin as Gareth rides in to improve the children's speaking and listening skills. Perhaps that rollicking piece from The Trap."

"Steer clear of that, Gareth. The older viewers will think of Olly Reed abusing Rita Tushingham. What about a blast of 633 Squadron or The Great Escape? Cliched, yes, but always works. You're very quiet, Pennie. Share your thoughts ..."

"Well Tris, my son is really happy at school. And there are thousands of teachers out there making learning exciting for children, despite all the ridiculous constraints they're under from the Government's obsession with health and safety, data and tick boxes. Couldn't we just have a short season of programmes showing outstanding teachers and the amazing things they achieve?"

"Sorry Pennie, but that idea's a non-starter. Where's the celebrity factor? Where's the tension? And what would we do with our Ron Goodwin records? No, we could get a lot of mileage out of this. We could film a follow-up series with Alan Titchmarsh teaching nursery children to speak Swahili. He'd have eight weeks to do it ..."

Mike Kent is headteacher at Comber Grove Primary in Camberwell, south London. Email:

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