Their glitter, our glory;Opinion

30th July 1999 at 01:00
IF THE soundtrack of Hope and Glory, the BBC drama about a failing school, is anything to go by, I was wrong to suggest that education is the new rock and roll. Popular classics, played loudly to the point of obtrusiveness, seem to be the dish of the day.

The programme is interesting for a brace of reasons. First, there has been no "quick fix, win the pupils over" scenario. The head does not gain instant respect by whipping out an electric guitar or cricket bat and demonstrating his prowess.

Second, the school itself is not in an urban hell-hole of drug addiction and gangland violence. Rather, it is in a fairly leafy neck of the woods and is being choked by apathy from pupils, parents, the education authority and most of the staff.

Hope and Glory has its share of stereotypes, improbabilities, sentimentality and so on, but it is a television drama and thus could not be expected to devote a proportionate amount of time to the likes of filling in EX5s or whatever the GCSE equivalent is. It is there to entertain and has a few useful lessons about praise and pupil expectations thrown in as a bonus.

Let's face it: if we only watched realism on television we could say goodbye to Taggart, Morse, Casualty and Paddington Green, to name but a few.

Meanwhile, my own career seems to spookily parallel that of Morris Simpson of School Diary (page 13) fame. We started teaching at pretty much the same time and, almost to the day, were given acting principal teacher posts. Not having a life scripted by Lucy "Hope and Glory" Gannon or John "Further Adventures of Morris Simpson" Mitchell was one reason my acting stint of promotion passed without major trauma.

Not having the type of colleague sketched by these literary pillars was a more significant factor. There is something pure in the pride, unsullied by egotism, of being part of a team that works well together. (Quick - shove Beethoven's Ninth on the CD player.)

On the other hand, the smug feeling engendered by seeing someone else make a prat of themselves is pretty good too, particularly if we're only talking fiction. Unless you identify too closely with the hapless fictional character.

Somewhere at the end of a shelf in my bookcase is a copy of John Mitchell's Probationer's Diary (unsigned). Every now and again I reread it. By about page 12, I realise that my backing track is not "Ode to Joy". It is the theme from Laurel and Hardy.

Gregor Steele now treats the Morris Simpson adventures as a horoscope and dreads the day his hero is sacked for gross professional misconduct.

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