A new series, Educating Essex begins on Channel 4 this week. It is the latest in a recent trend of ‘fly on the wall’ school documentaries, such as Jamie’s Dream School, or Gareth Malone’s Extraordinary School for Boys. Some of these documentaries have been predicated on the belief that schools are failing at least some of their pupils, presenting dramatic, over simplified solutions. In contrast, Passmores Academy, the subject of Educating Essex has been judged outstanding by Ofsted. According to Vic Goddard, the head teacher of Passmores, part of the reason he gives for allowing the cameras in, is to give people an insight into what really goes on in a “normal school”.
The series promises to capture some of the mundane reality of a comprehensive school, and Vic Goddard is no doubt correct in his prediction that some people will not like what he and his team are doing. He appears to be genuinely committed to dealing with the everyday challenges his school faces, while aiming at positive outcomes for all Passmores’ pupils. This series should be a reminder we don’t need to look to celebrity endorsed quasi-experiments to find caring committed teachers who can make a difference.