TV Review

4th December 2009 at 00:00
Tonight: Who Wants to be a Teacher? ITV1, 8pm, November 30

"Chaos! In the! Classroom!" Chris Tarrant pronounced the words in suitable tones of doom.

He was standing in for Trevor McDonald as presenter of an edition of ITV's Tonight programme entitled Who Wants to be a Teacher? (See what they did?)

"It's at least 40 years since I last stood in front of a class," Mr Tarrant, a one-time teacher, said. "And yet I remember teaching as if it were yesterday."

The reason for this, it transpired, was because he found pupils' misbehaviour such a challenge. But that was nothing compared with the problems teachers face now. In a post-inclusion world, classrooms are now teeming with biting, swearing, pre-pubescent sociopaths.

This was one of the unquestioned assumptions of the programme. It was backed up by the testimony of former teacher Colin Adams, who was attacked by a rabid 12-year-old: "I was on the floor with this child wrapped around me, trying to strangle me."

Pupils like this, Mr Adams believed, "should be in specialist schools, getting specialist help". One suspects what he actually meant by "specialist school" was "borstal". But he was not the only one to speak in euphemisms. As a counterargument, we were offered the example of the Village Primary in Stockton-on-Tees where problem pupils are placed in a "nurture group".

We saw nurture-group head Simon Lidgard hug a wriggling child, who responded with a throaty "fuck off". Mr Lidgard, however, refused to talk about violence. "I look behind the aggression," he said. "Is it sometimes a cry for help? Is it something he uses to communicate?"

"The Village Primary", one realised, was the programme's euphemism for "crazy hippies".

Also in the crazy-hippy corner was Wigmore Primary in Luton. Here, angry-eyed Reggie Flynn, aged 11, boasted that no one would dare hurt him. Head Carole Crabtree said that a disciplinarian approach would be counterproductive for Reggie: "he wouldn't handle that".

Reggie was last seen making a bid for freedom across the playground, a teaching assistant in frantic pursuit.

But as Mr Tarrant delivered his closing platitude - "these children and their futures are too precious for us to give up on" - viewers were uncomfortably aware that children do not exist in a vacuum of platitudes, euphemisms and half-hour TV slots.

The world is not black and white: problematic behaviour inevitably has causes and reasons. Problematising the children, however, helps no one.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today