TV fiction echoes fact

29th October 2004 at 01:00
There is a saying in Bristol where the new series of Teachers is filmed - another term starts, another school closes.

So for teachers and pupils in the city, the twists and turns of the latest plot in the Channel 4 programme are uncomfortably real.

Like the staff at the fictional Summerdown school, many Bristol teachers have seen their secondaries close only to be faced with the challenging task of making new friends at new schools.

The first three series of Teachers were filmed at Merrywood school, which was shut in 1999 after being placed in special measures.

Since then, a further three Bristol secondary schools have closed as part of a reorganisation of education in the city.

These include a secondary on an estate to the north of the city, Lockleaze, where the latest series was filmed.

The TV crew did not arrive at Merrywood until the end of its last term, but the final group of pupils at Lockleaze were sitting their GCSEs when filming began this summer.

Many pupils who attended Lockleaze have transferred to St Thomas More, a school which in turn will be amalgamated with Fairfield high in 2006 when it is expected to double in size from 550 to 1100 students.

Nina Franklin, secretary of the Bristol branch of the National Union of Teachers, said pupils whose schools had closed often felt unhappy in their new classes and that some teachers could also have difficulties settling in.

"Some schools that have taken on pupils from the schools which closed have gone into special measures themselves. It's been unfair the way the pupils can get blamed for it," she said.

"We have a saying now in Bristol - 'Another term starts, another school closes'."

The current series of Teachers is expected to climax with a Christmas special in which the school is visited by the Office for Standards in Education.

It is hard to judge from the experience of Bristol schools what the outcome will be for the fictional Wattkins comprehensive.

Portway school, which took on many pupils from one of the closed secondaries, received a critical inspection report last year and was placed in special measures.

But two other schools in similar situations, Henbury and Brislington, saw their inspection reports improve after new pupils arrived and were lifted from special measures and serious weakness status respectively.

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