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June 13, 2011 / mrespiers

Dream School, Real Politics

A great deal has been written about Jamie’s Dream School but I have to admit that I am gob-smacked.

The government has invited participants from Dream School to appear before the education select committee.
I really don’t know where to begin. I want to swear, I want to shout. I want to know who’s idea this was and who then said ‘yes, that’s exactly what we need, some input from a some people who have not been trained to teach but spent a few hours trying to ‘teach’ 20 young adults who have already left school’.
If you did not see Dream School or have not heard or read about it, let me try to summarise it:
Jamie Oliver (yes, the chef and  all round good guy, super hero campaigner) decided that because he did not do well at school he would try and sort out the problems of the education system. I had high hopes for this initially. He is rich, well connected due to past campaigns and enthusiastic. I hoped for the TV equivalent of The Guardian’s ‘The School I’d Like’ campaign/project but what we got was basically celebrities with no training in rooms with young adults who had done badly at school. The school was not real, the teachers were not real, the students were not real.
And now the government wants to know what lessons they learned! This is a bad case of blurred of boundaries here. What next? The cast of Holby City are called in as part of the NHS listening exercise, John Nettles consulting with the equalities commission?
In a statement, the committee said: “Whilst Dream School had only 20 students, many of the challenges faced by them and their teachers are found across the UK and in other schools and colleges as well.” – what, like TV cameras and untrained teachers?
‘A spokeswoman conceded that while the purpose of the session is to explore behaviour, discipline and the curriculum, the MPs were also keen to connect with a wider audience than its loyal following of education specialists’. – discipline? Like the esteemed David Starkey calling a child fat? And if they wanted a wider audience what about the great teachers who contributed to the one good thing to come out the show, the dream teachers competition and films? Engaging, creative, committed and trained, what better input?
Maybe I am naive and stupid to be so amazed at this? The boundaries between politics and entertainment have been blurring for a long time before this but something else bothers me too.
Why education? Would Jamie Oliver or C4 have put untrained barristers in court or untrained doctors in surgery? Of course not. And as many teachers pointed out at the time – I’m not very good at cooking and was let down as a kid in this respect, so can I get a job at one of your restaurants please Jamie?
I don’t blame Jamie Oliver, I think his heart is in the right place and he makes some good points about giving teachers freedom and trust, but there was another problem too and one I hope the select committee pick up on. According to the roll call at the end of the series two ‘pupils’ were being supported/trained/employed by one of Jamie’s restaurants, one was hoping for an internship via Ellen MacArthur and one was being helped by Simon Callow’s agent. So perhaps one of the unintended lessons was the old adage – it’s not what you know, but who you know.
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