Jamie’s Dream School

I’ve always felt my dreams were a bit undisciplined; especially that one of me being chased through a field of scissors by the ghost of Nicholas Lyndhurst. If only there were some kind of school they could go to where they’d be trained to be less unruly, I often thought (or dreamed, rather).

Thankfully, Jamie Oliver has risen to the occasion yet again, and has developed an Inception style system to invade the unconscious mind and bring a sense of discipline and order to the images pooped out by our sleeping brains.

Wait, hang on a minute. Ah, sorry. I seem to have got the wrong end of the stick. I blame my addiction to heavy duty bear tranquillizers.

Apparently, Jamie’s school isn’t for dreams at all, it’s for kids.

Yawn! How boring. Schools are usually for kids. That’s hardly revolutionary, is it?  Who’s going to stand up for the educational rights of neurobiologically generated images, ideas and other fitful emissions of long term memory occurring involuntarily in the mind, eh? Not Jamie Oliver, that’s for sure.

Bastard.

But hang on, what’s this? The kids in his dream school might be real rather than, say, imagined, semi-hallucinatory extrusions of unconscious thought, but that doesn’t mean they’re regular or common-or-garden youngsters. Nope, they’re all victims of what Jamie terms the ‘failing education system’, i.e. kids who failed to get the minimum 5 GCSEs at A-C standard you need in order to move on to A-levels.

Not that they’re a particularly lonely group- apparently 51% of young people don’t meet this minimum standard: something I found genuinely surprising and which dispels the myth that they’re just low achievers. There’s no way that over half of today’s children are, to coin a phrase, thick as mince- I couldn’t help but think that there must be something up with the current system if this is the case.

And you know what conclusion I came to? Teachers aren’t famous enough.

I often sat in English lessons thinking “What the hell do you know, Mrs Beales? You never won the Booker prize. And when was the last time you starred in an RSC production of Hamlet alongside that bloke off of Doctor Who, eh?” before starting to swear loudly and pelt her with broken biros.

P.E. lessons with Miss Hill left me cold, almost certainly because she’d never won an Olympic gold medal. “Climb that rope? Don’t make me laugh- you’re not even a Dame. Where’s your O.B.E., eh?”

Thankfully, Jamie Oliver – who rose to fame by mixing ingredients with other ingredients and then heating them up (unless they’re a salad) and who has absolutely no teaching experience- has realised this.

In last week’s episode, Jamie introduces us to twenty kids who got an average of half a GCSE each (in measurement terms, that’s equal to one nano-PhD). Feeling that these kids need an inspiration injection (rather than their usual ADHD medication), Jamie has recruited some of the ‘finest minds’ in the UK to act as their teachers. Never mind the fact that Rolf Harris, Simon Callow et al. have no teaching experience- they’re sure to succeed where trained professionals have failed.

Or not.

Fairly predictably, this lack of traditional training causes problems just two lessons in, when famous history midget David Starkey takes his first class. It’s clear he sees the kids as a baying rabble to be defeated, rather than a crowd of disengaged, fairly unhappy young people who’ve spent their whole lives being told to shut up.

Deciding attack is the best form of defence, Starkey starts his lesson with a stream of entirely unnecessary, belittling, bullying put downs- telling eighteen year old Connor that he’s ‘so fat’ he can barely move.

Tsk- insulting him isn’t going to encourage him to pay attention, is it? If that method worked, I’d rename my blog “OI! READ THIS, YOU UGLY PRICK”.

Unfortunately for Starkey, ‘porcine’ Connor is approximately 1000% better at insults (and, arguably, more sharp-witted) than the Cambridge educated historian and immediately hits back with a put down of his own. ‘You’re about 4ft tall, mate. Have you always been that tall?’

Kids 1, flustered academics – 0.

I’m not sure if Jamie expected the kids to be so star struck they’d simply forget to be badly behaved- if so, I’d suggest picking teachers the youngsters might actually have heard of rather than, say, Simon Callow. The veteran RSC actor is so far down the kids ‘celeb radar’ that they seem genuinely shocked when they go to the theatre in week two to see his one-man performance of Shakespeare: The Man From Stratford.

“’Ere, that’s our drama teacher!” brays Angelique from under her hoody.

Er…yes.

Instead of Callow, I’d suggest the cast of Skins for drama- or possibly just let the youngsters act out the whole ‘Connorgate’ incident: one of them does a spot on Starkey impression after a few pints of vodka.

However, there are a few genuine successes. Week two’s portrait customisation workshop by fashion photographer Rankin goes well, with the kids producing some genuinely thought provoking pieces. It’s clear from this approach (as well as Professorlord Sciencemoustache Winston’s fairly full-on dissection lesson in week one) that the solution to their lack of interest in education could simply be making learning more hands-on, relevant and interactive, rather than using ‘well known’ individuals.

But then again, what do I know- I’m not a famous telly chef. Actually, forget what I just said: I think the real solution to the UK’s education woes is to make every single teacher in the UK slightly more famous, ideally by having them appear on the X Factor, Masterchef or at the very least Homes Under The Hammer.

That’ll make the kids respect them. Oh yes.

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About Hilary Wardle
Hilary is a freelance journalist and copywriter who writes for a wide range of websites, magazines and newspapers, including Buzzfeed, MSN, The Poke, Chortle, the Guardian and the Independent. She specialises in arts and entertainment, comedy, video games and viral content. Contact her at Hilary3@gmail.com.

6 Responses to Jamie’s Dream School

  1. algarlic says:

    “We didn’t bother at school and look where we ended up!” say Jamie and Dame Ellen, simultaneously telling them they have to try harder at school.

    Great message, guys.

    • ladyribenaberet says:

      Heh. You just won comment of the year for that. READERS, please imagine that the above is something I thought to say and that I put it in the main article. THX.

  2. Laura says:

    Ha! I’d love to see Jamie and the others try to tackle the little weasels I have in my class.

    If only the government would realise the “failings” of the education system are all down to the lack of famous teachers.

    Now, how could I get famous? X Factor? Great British Bake Off? Crimewatch?

    • ladyribenaberet says:

      Have you considered a job swap with J-Olv? You could be a telly chef and he could do some weasel wrangling… “Now brother, let’s cool it yeah? Brother? Brother” *thud*

  3. I don’t think non-traditional teaching methods (traditionally being “I stand up here and tell you what to think, you sit there and listen”) per se is a bad road to go down… having teachers who have a bit of a different approach to how to learn has to be a good thing. I’d have thought, though, that the main problem in the system is the “you have to learn this bit of a Philip Larkin poem then spew out this essay on it in exam conditions” approach to assessment, which some folk are of course no good at – and I’d imagine this is why such a high percentage of people fail to get GSCE passes, something which I doubt even Jamie Oliver would manage to put a dent in with this show. But then what do I know!

    • ladyribenaberet says:

      Yes indeedy- teaching to exams is a real problem. My school were really bad for that. They practically gave you answers and forced you to rote-learn. It always felt like cramming and very little actual learning stuck in my mind. The most memorable lesson remains an RE lesson on Fairtrade in 2nd year when I stuck an actual banana onto a sheet of A3 paper with superglue.

      I’m not sure what my point is. I’m quite tired. Anyway, the banana went off and it was quite amusing.

      BYE

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