Standing in front of the kids is the easy bit, Jamie

11th March 2011 at 00:00

There is no better way to spend a grey weekend than catching up with friends and eating and drinking too much. Chatting over soft pumpkin and ricotta pasta, crispy fried squid with chilli and lemon aioli, focaccia dipped in aged balsamic vinegar and first-pressing olive oil, washed down with a glass of velvety Merlot or three ...

What's that you say, dear reader? "Hold your bloody horses, missus! This isn't a flipping cooking magazine." And, of course, you are right. Very occasionally I've been known to try to release my inner domestic goddess, only to leave my kitchen resembling a cross between fireworks night and a Lady Gaga awards outfit. I think I'll stick to teaching, because that is what I'm trained in. Pretending to be an expert in something I only do after a few glasses of Rioja would just be, well, a bit presumptuous.

Try telling Jamie Oliver that. Not content with taking the twizzler out of the turkey, he's only gone and made his own school. His new show, Jamie's Dream School, pits our nation's finest experts against a class of disaffected 16 to 18-year-olds. Luminaries include David Starkey teaching history, Rolf Harris doing art, and Alastair Campbell taking on politics.

The premise is that "star teachers will make star pupils". It might make them "want to turn up to school" and "will be the last chance they get" (perhaps Jamie is planning a Titus Andronicus ending where they all end up in a pie).

It is fair to say it wasn't the walk in the park the experts expected. Jamie told one newspaper that "all of us very quickly had a lesson in how hard it is to be a secondary school teacher in the UK and I think this show proves what they put up with every day". And this, Mr Oliver, is just the standing up in front of the kids and talking about your particular line of expertise bit.

Did you mark their books, Mr Oliver? Did you plan four-part lessons? Did you teach for five hours straight? Did you write reports? Did you go to lunchtime and after-school meetings? Did you do duties? Did you enter data into Excel? Did you discuss APP for hours on end? What AFL strategies did you use, Mr Oliver? What types of learners are there in your class and did you cater for them all? Did pupils reflect on their PLTS? Standing in front of the kids is the easy part.

I actually agree with Jamie when it comes to the part about teachers inspiring children. There is not a teacher alive who went into the profession because they wanted to change the life of paperwork, or reach out to a spreadsheet. The administrative constraints of our job cripple our ability to inspire. David Starkey reflected that "the programme hasn't necessarily offered solutions, but it has highlighted the problems we face". I hope it does.

Meanwhile, as Jamie and his band of merry men realise that teaching isn't just about being really, really good at your subject, we should be proud that we do continue to inspire pupils, day in, day out.

Amy Winston is an English teacher at a comprehensive in the West Midlands.

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