REVIEW: Educating Greater Manchester teaches us to look beyond challenging behaviour

by | Nov 4, 2020 | All, Reviews

 



This years’ series of Educating Greater Manchester is
different in 
more ways than one. Filmed in 2018, the series takes us back
to a 
simpler time when the biggest concern teachers had was a Year
11 
secretly selling bags of Starburst in the corridor. As usual,
this 
episode is full of childish pranks and classroom antics that
make you 
as nostalgic for your own school years as they will
pre-lockdown days, 
but there is an indication from the offset that this series
will deal


with more serious issues than we’re used to seeing at Harrop
Fold, 
opening with headteacher Mr Povey’s remark that “it was going
to be 
our best year ever, and then it all went quite badly wrong”.
Of 
course, Mr Povey is referring to the school being placed in
special 
measures in 2018, which meant that this series was almost
never aired 
– and what a shame that would have been!



The episode opens with familiar faces such as the mischievous
student 
council rep Vincent and boisterous Katelyn, and though it may
have 
been nearly two years since we saw their playful smiles on our screens, in the Educating world, only a new school year has
passed. As 
we watch the pupils run down the corridor, laughing with
their friends 
and talking back to teachers, we are instantly transported
for an hour 
to the familiar and welcoming playground antics of Harrop
Fold. And 
something that has not changed is the respect and trust that
the 
teachers at Harrop Fold have for their students. It has
always been an 
endearing quality of the series that the teachers speak to
the pupils 
as equals and treat each conversation with them as a dialogue
between 
two capable adults. And never is this more evident than when
the 
school receives a call about a student carrying a knife, and
Mr Povey 
enlists the help of Year 11s in working out who it might be.
Though 
unorthodox and perhaps unthinkable to many others, it is a heartwarming moment that encourages us to place more trust in
this 
generation.



Fortunately, the incident regarding the knife turns out not
to be 
quite as serious as first thought, however, the series still
handles 
it with professionalism and heart as always. And rather than
brushing 
it off as the harmless incident that it turned out to be, we
are 
reminded that harmless incidents such as this one can quickly
lead to 
– or at least open the door to – serious knife crime. With the increasing problem of knife crime in Salford at the time, and continuing across the whole of Greater Manchester today, Mr
Povey’s 
decision to encourage the student in question to use his
platform to 
speak out about the dangers of carrying knives speaks
volumes. We must 
be understanding, but we must also have zero tolerance, and
that
includes harmless incidents such as this one.



Also in this episode, we are introduced to cheeky year 7
Jacob as he 
interrupts his Spanish lesson by shouting through a mouthful
of 
sweets. Immediately, he seems like quite a handful whose behaviour
is 
difficult for the teachers to manage, yet, like many other
children in 
the series, in his interviews is polite and witty. This is
something 
that the Educating series does really well, is allowing us to
hear the 
children’s’ perspectives rather than taking their behaviour
at face 
value. They remind us that behind every misbehaving child is
an 
underlying need for support or to be understood, in whatever
form that 
might come.



For playful Jacob, it soon becomes apparent that much of his
behaviour 
stems from his discomfort with his dyslexia and a fear of
being called 
stupid. This leads to a very touching moment between him and
Mr Povey, 
in which the headteacher himself makes quite a courageous
disclosure 
about his own dyslexia, which leaves Jacob mindblown. It’s a
moving


moment, and exactly what the Educating series is about –
allowing 
children like Jacob to feel seen and remind the rest of us to
look 
beyond the boisterous behaviour and see the potential that
exists 
beneath it. And no doubt when others see this episode and
hear Jacob’s 
eloquent speech about how dyslexia is his superpower, they
too will be 
inspired to see their own potential.



Similarly, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Katelyn’s
insistence 
that she finds it difficult to concentrate would be due to
lack of 
trying – as many teachers had told her in the past. But when
she tells 
us that she was diagnosed with ADHD, we see that what they
really need 
is to be treated with understanding, and they find that at
Harrop 
Fold. And suddenly, this becomes more than a light-hearted
docuseries 
about bunking off and playground romances – though it is
that, too – 
it reminds us of the compassion we should try to show for one another, especially
 those of us that are still in the process of
becoming 
adults in this strange new world in which we find ourselves.


But of course, it’s not all straight faces, heartwarming
stories and 
tense music, as we are still given plenty of laughs. This
episode in 
the form of seasoned tuck shop veteran Tumy, whose looming
graduation 
opens up new business opportunities for budding year 7
businessman 
Nelson. And even in the more serious moments, the staff at
Harrop Fold 
seem to have a mutual understanding that sometimes the best
way to 
handle a situation is with a sense of humour, which is
something that 
we’re all grateful for at the moment.



Educating Greater Manchester leaves no child behind, and as
always 
reminds us that everyone deserves a second – or even third or
fourth 
chance. Children don’t misbehave for the fun of it, there’s
always 
more than likely an underlying reason that this series never
fails to 
get to the heart of and empathise with. And with the
foreshadowing of 
the school being put into special measures in later episode,
this 
series promises to bring us more weight and sincerity than
ever


before.

Educating Greater Manchester continues on Tuesday night on Channel 4 at 9:15pm 

Contributed by Megan Hyland 

Megan Hyland

Megan Hyland

04/11/2020

Children and Young Person’s Worker by day; TV reviewer by night (and sometimes vice versa). Always searching for something new to watch but inevitably end up watching the same 5 comfort shows on repeat instead. I love all things Russell T Davies; Pheobe Waller-Bridge and Michaela Coel, but can also be found “ironically” enjoying binge-worthy reality TV such as Love Is Blind.

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