Tune in, switch off - A bad case of the geeks

29th May 2009 at 01:00

Take a group of actors, all aged over 20, dress them in school uniforms to look 16 and have them pretend to be 18 to get served in a pub. No, it's not The History Boys, but the plot of the first episode of The Inbetweeners, the first series of which is now showing again on E4.

Topically, there was also the public schoolboy, Will, (pictured) whose daddy suddenly couldn't afford the fees, so he had to get acquainted with the low life at the local comprehensive.

A budding entrepreneur, Will calculated that purchase of a carvery meal would qualify him for the alcoholic beverage to accompany it. Mummy, driving an open-top sports car, looked like his wildly attractive younger sister, so was the subject of shagging fantasies by his new mates. If you think it sounds rather silly, that's because it was.

Deadly serious, in contrast, was Unreported World, the Channel 4 undercover investigative series. This episode featured Recife in northern Brazil. A glamorous beach resort, it's also home to 4,000 murders a year. By coincidence, when you read this I'll be there, unless I cancel the flight in fright.

In fact, it's my third visit. Schools there are safe havens where meals are provided and pupils thrive. The Brazilians are full of joy and generosity. They embrace, sing and dance without the politically correct child protection rules that tie us in knots. Their teachers touch the children affectionately, and the children hug them in return. Call me unadventurous, but I'm not going to try this in Devon. Why risk arrest?

While education liberates, Unreported World graphically showed how poverty and drugs are the universal villains that spawn death squads. These squads often consist of police who are instructed by senior officers whom they must target; one confessed to personally having shot 30 young people. The executions are sometimes requested by shopkeepers desperate for action to get rid of the "scumbag crooks" because the legal system is regarded as too slow.

The price varies, depending on the value of the individual. Much more expensive to remove a politician than a drug dealer. Given recent developments, I'm not sure we'd place much value on a UK politician's life. Scumbag crooks sounds about right to me.

This was brave journalism, filmed among the action in grim detail with first-hand witnesses. I'd heard about the high murder rate from the teachers in the schools I visited. The body in the school playground is an everyday event.

Equally harrowing was the portrayal of Lucy by Molly Windsor, who acted and looked 11 in The Unloved, part of Channel 4's Forgotten Children season. Directed by the actress Samantha Morton and seen through a child's eyes, we experienced the damage adults do. There are no problem children, only problem parents.

Ditch the bucket loads of child protection training the Government has planned for schools in the autumn. Show this extraordinary drama to teachers and governors everywhere and hearts will break

Ray Tarleton is principal of South Dartmoor Community College in Ashburton, Devon.

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