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Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Brilliance of Educating Yorkshire


There were a lot of opportunities during ‘Educating Yorkshire’  for one to feel they’d seen it all before. I don’t mean literally – though I’m not sure secondary state schools will ever be wholly “different” places for each passing generation. I mean in regards to the TV show. In 2011’s ‘Educating Essex’, Channel 4 broadcast one of the best British TV shows of the last ten years, a perfect glimpse inside what may just be the most fascinating place in the world. If ever there was an environment to witness sheer humanity – a series of characters allowing themselves nothing except another day – it’s a secondary school, and ‘Educating Yorkshire’  was as brilliantly similar to its predecessor as it ever needed to be.

Whilst head-teacher Mr Mitchell was not the perennially wise-cracking Mr Drew, he embodied everything someone who spends their day with teenagers should be. Whether he was educating himself on eye-brow artistry, or dealing with a group of lads who spent a day off pelting pensioners with snow-balls, we saw a man whose most heart-felt wish was that every young person be given a chance. With a focus on discipline, episode one saw him deal primarily with two students, Bailey and Kamrrem, whose behaviour required Mr Mitchell and his staff to approach from very different angles.

From amongst all this came Ryan, a 12 year old who drank latte’s in the corridor and asked female teachers rather personal questions. The idea that we don’t see more of him is almost inexplicable. Between he and Kayleigh, a year 10 who seemed to make lifestyle choices based on the severity of the school punishment, ‘Educating Yorkshire’ displayed the sort of polar-divides that any good reality show should. Indeed, Thornhill Community Academy prided itself not only its academic improvement, but it’s racial diversity – an almost 50/50 split between white-British and Asian.

Channel 4 do these sorts of shows brilliantly. The fixed cameras provide a genuine insight into the school day. There's no acting up for the sake of the cameras and everything feels real. It's also the sort of show that sends Twitter into a frenzy.



The channel did a superb job trailing this with those clever snippets from the episodes designed to build a following before it had even aired. You'd have to be a peculiar person not to have got a great deal for enjoyment from Educating Yorkshire. It was full of warmth and humour and dealt with some every day and real situations. It always irritates me when series like this are brushed off as "reality TV" that's a lazy description. Reality TV conjures unpleasant images of TOWIE and Made in Chelsea, this on the other hand, is documentary making at its finest - raw and genuine. It proved a hit on Thursday and I just hope Channel 4 deliver more series of this quality and leave documentaries like Dogging Tales and Sex on Wheels as a truly distant memory.

Contributed by Will Downes

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