Stitched up by the media as 'too thick'

24th October 1997 at 01:00
David Barrie's article on the "paranoia" exhibited by schools towards letting in TV cameras reminded me of every time a camera has been into my workplace (TES, October 10).

His comment that "the media are more likely than ever to react to education in a positive way" sent me back to an incident a few years ago. I received a phone call from a TV producer who said he wanted to do a feature on how English teaching needed to be much more diverse than Prince Charles was allowing for in his pontifications. He had heard that we were a place that "had some really interesting work going on". He went on to agree with several things I said on the phone and persuaded me to set up a lesson for them to film.

Here was the chance to make a point in an important debate! To challenge the heir to the throne's definitions of English! Actually it was just succumbing to the chance to be on TV. We were naive.

We let them film us teaching about popular culture. They interviewed us at length making the case for what we were doing. We waited for the item on a Sunday lunchtime news programme; I rang all my relatives to say I'd be on. And there it was: "Would you want your child to be taught Shakespeare or Madonna? We visit a school where they've banished the bard."

We were stitched up. I didn't even appear in the finished piece (thankfully) as they only showed my colleague, who fitted a stereotype more neatly. "They've made Miss out to be a bimbo," as one of the students put it. "They're making out we're too thick to do literature," said another. At least the piece made some useful teaching material to go along with the sickening feeling and the various repercussions.

Every other occasion has been a nightmare - the one kid who was crying on A-level results day ends up in the news headlines in a huge close up from a zoom at the other end of the hall, with the voice over: "And for someI failure" (She got two As and a D).

The reporter on that occasion asked me if I could go and find a student who'd done badly for them to interview as all they could find were successes. I refused. Yes, to teachers, you are "just bastards"I and it didn't need me to tell the kids that either. The girl in tears, of her own volition, rang the duty officer to complain about how she had been represented. She got no apology.

If television companies want programmes about schools and they feel so positive, give the cameras and the editing to the teachers and students. We'll tell our stories, but we're not handing them over for you to tell.


25 Perne Avenue Cambridge Cambridgeshire

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