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Pamorama Broke My School

Discussion in 'Personal' started by Duke of York, Sep 21, 2019.

  1. Duke of York

    Duke of York Star commenter

    Archive on 4 tonight https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0008pfw

    "The personal story of how a single TV documentary affected a London secondary, and had a role in creating today's school system.

    1977 was the year of the Yorkshire Ripper, Star Wars, the Silver Jubilee and Roots. It was also the year the BBC came to Faraday High School, a large comprehensive in East Acton, to make a remarkable fly-on-the-wall documentary for Panorama, called ‘The Best Days?’ It was a vision – or a nightmare – of everything critics thought was wrong with progressive, comprehensive multicultural education at its height. Viewers saw chaotic classrooms where teachers with few resources were out of their depth, working amidst an almost total lack of discipline. They also saw caring, sympathetic teaching - but this was largely forgotten.

    The school found its name in the national newspapers every day, as part of a rising concerns about what was going on in classrooms. This was only two years before Mrs Thatcher – a former education secretary – swept to power, promising a radical shakeup in British schooling. Her policies - a national curriculum, more testing, strengthened school inspections and league tables - were largely continued by subsequent Labour governments, especially in England and Wales.

    Shabnam Grewal was a Faraday student when the Panorama team filmed in her school and her very class. She later became a BBC journalist and herself produced episodes of Panorama. For Archive on 4, she tracks down and speaks to the film's director, teachers who featured in it, academics researching the changing nature of secondary education, experts in education policy and her fellow former pupils."

    This might be worth a listen, to reflect on whether education has improved as a consequence of Thatcher's policies. The Panorama documentary was a fly on the wall observation of life in a single school, deliberately intended to be devoid of any commentary or input from experts.

    The documentary is available on youtube. I've watched the first 20 minutes and shall watch the rest later, before I listen to tonight's programme.

    My personal reflection so far, has been that the school is quite unlike the comprehensive I attended in the 60s, in terms of discipline and the ability to both teach and learn, but not much different in many ways, to some of the schools I've visited since 2,000.

    It will be interesting to hear the opinions of those who will have been at the chalkface in 1977 and those who are currently at it.

    slingshotsally likes this.
  2. Flowersinspring

    Flowersinspring Lead commenter

    I've just watched this. Kids don't change, do they?!

    I was surprised at the teachers and how understanding (mostly) they were. For some reason I thought they'd have been much harder then-more like the PE teacher shown! I really felt for the English teacher, the American one. Would love to know what became of her.
  3. LondonCanary

    LondonCanary Star commenter

    What we're her education polices 70-74 that might have caused the problems in 1977 and after. I mainly rember her for closing grammar schools and stopping school milk.
  4. Duke of York

    Duke of York Star commenter

    I listened to the radio programme, which caught up with her. She now lives in France and commented that she loved the kids and although they were giving her grief in the documentary, the suggestion was made by others that the kids were playing up for the benefit of the cameras.

    What the documentary doesn't show, but was explained in the radio programme, was that another school had previously been in the news over it's silly progressive education ideas, which had gone wrong. The news media loved it and milked every dreg possible from it.

    I'll add my own comment that the late 70s were a time of unprecedented social upheaval with rampant inflation, regular strikes and a sense of societal breakdown, not dissimilar to the feelings many fear over the consequences of the election and the lunatics now in government.

    It all fed into the notion that there was something fundamentally wrong with the education system causing a breakdown of society, which Thatcher was able to capitalise on.
  5. Duke of York

    Duke of York Star commenter

    I don't know that she did much before she became Prime Minister, but as I explained above, the disruption happening in the 70s, following the oil crisis, and the inability of both Tory and Labour governments to resolve, opened the door to a right-wing revolution, which allowed her to attempt to mend all sorts of things that weren't broken; and end up leaving them in bits, because she didn't know much about what she was doing.

    Pretty much the same as I imagine you would, if you tried to tinker with your motor, then end up buying a new one to replace it.
  6. LondonCanary

    LondonCanary Star commenter

    I'm not understanding the connection betwwn Thatcher and the school in the documentary.
  7. Duke of York

    Duke of York Star commenter

    The connection being suggested is this:

    The school welcomed the Panorama team in, hoping to show what they were achieving, despite having difficult students and a lack of resources at a time of immense political disruption taking place in the economy.

    The Panaorama programme presented the school in a poor light, which Tory owned media made a fuss about.

    Thatchers government used that as the reason for reform on education, bringing in more testing and more scrutiny of school achievement along with league tables and the introduction of academies.

    The programme told us why education was thought to be broken in the late 50s, with its elitist grammar schools and why comprehensive schools were deemed to be a better and fairer option.

    It was an ideology that the media claimed was a failed one and enabled Thatcher to replace with another ideology.

    That's the connection.

    The person making the radio programme asserts that the Panorama documentary wasn't representative of the school she attended, and her credentilal of subsequently becoming a BBC reporter and creater of Panorama documentaries herself, suggests that the school wasn't as bad as the media made out, or that the nation needed to imagine that the education of its children would improve with the privatisation of education through the back door.
  8. LondonCanary

    LondonCanary Star commenter

    What was Thatcher's éducation ideology ? She was supportive of comprehensive education anfd closed the most gtammar schools.
    What did Thatcher privatise in education ?
  9. Flowersinspring

    Flowersinspring Lead commenter

    Thanks for that, Duke.
  10. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    Academies were introduced by Labour, not by Thatcher: they were the brainchild of Andrew Adonis (Blair's education advisor) and were brought in by Blunkett in 2000 when he was education secretary.

    League tables were a Tory idea, but were introduced by John Major, not Thatcher, although the idea was probably cooked up during her final years.

    I haven't listened to all of the Panorama programme yet, so I don't know if it was mentioned that the school in the programme (Faraday High) was only nominally a comprehensive. The LA (Ealing) had a tripartite system and had engaged in a bitter fight to keep its grammar schools, which it lost in 1974, three years before the programme was filmed. Faraday High was a Secondary Modern until then, and its older pupils would have been among the final batches of 11+ failures when the programme was filmed. I imagine that many of the staff in the film would have been appointed to Faraday when it was a Sec Mod.
  11. Rach05

    Rach05 New commenter

    Faraday was the feeder school from my primary school!!I remember watching it as a 10 yr old and recognising ex pupils..
    My primary school was great but Faraday already had a bad rep...I didn't go there...The documentary was def looked upon locally as confirmation that it was to be avoided...

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