Jamie's Dream School, Channel 4, Wednesday
Attenborough and the Giant Egg, BBC2, Tuesday

Jamie Oliver's chums may be the alpha males of the media world, but naturals in the classroom they are not

Dismayed to learn that half of Britain's schoolchildren flunk their GCSEs, Jamie Oliver unveiled a new project: Jamie's Dream School.

An educational failure himself (two GCSEs, presumably in Domestic Science and Applied Lisping), he rounded up 20 fellow flunkers and bussed them into an empty school, there to be taught elementary history, English, art and science by a squad of public figures from a territory somewhere between the groves of academe and the palace of celebrity. "It's the great and the good vs the bored and the badly behaved," said Oliver in one of many pungent comments on his own experiment.

It quickly became apparent that both sides were slightly miscast. These kids weren't thick; they'd either been ignored or shouted at too much (like Angelique, who said, "How can I be 16 and still facing the wall?"), or accommodated too indulgently, like middle-class graffiti artist Henry. And the "dream teachers" may have been alpha males of stage and TV, but they sure weren't natural teachers.

Taking English was Simon Callow. Initially a confident, booming presence, he faltered under the hail of irrelevance that followed his questions about the Bard of Avon. Had the class heard of Stratford? "OhMiGod, I live, like, an hour away from Stratford," shrieked Angelique (from Romford). When he asked them to nominate a person they'd like to be, one black youth chose Katie Price. Callow blinked. He'd been expecting Nelson Mandela, or Barack Obama, or someone who corresponded to a Shakespearean hero; alas, there are few Bardic heroines whose importance lies in their breast implants.

Less happy outcomes followed the interventions of Robert Winston's science class, whose climactic dissection of a pig made some scholars vomit; of Rolf Harris's art class (he almost wept when he saw some canvases had been muddily shit-coloured and abandoned); and especially David Starkey, who stole the show. Beadily irascible, he began by telling the children, "You're here because you're failures," and within five minutes had upset a brooding sociopath called Conor by saying he was fat. Conor retaliated stoutly ("Are you a midget? How long you been that high?") but the damage was done. Jamie's headmaster friend John D'Abbro explained that, had Starkey been a teacher, he'd have been dismissed. "We'll have to help him," he and Jamie agreed, as though discussing a delinquent. "Or help him help himself."

Behind the programme's square-dance of co-operation and rejection lay a question. Had these kids really been "let down" by the education system? Or had they, as Starkey asked, "had too much of the milk of human kindness"? Getting to the root of their threadbare self-esteem is the real challenge for the naked educationalist.

In 1960, a boyishly keen zoologist called David Attenborough visited Madagascar for BBC1's Zoo Quest. Heedless of conservationist ethics, he collected species of animals, lizards and insects to ship to London Zoo – and also discovered some thick, white shards of a 3D jigsaw that became a giant egg. Half a century later, snow-haired, dishevelled and dismissive of his youthful anthropomorphism, Attenborough returned to the Indian Ocean to see what had become of the island and its fauna, and to try to work out what happened to the "Elephant Bird" which produced the super-egg.

Attenborough and the Giant Egg made for a bitty but fascinating documentary, hopping between 1960 and 2011, between forest lemurs, baobab trees, museum exhibits of giant bird skeletons (about which Attenborough was subtly sceptical, whispering to camera that the curators might have added a few vertebrae for effect) and the wasteland of deforestation. He gave a bravura exhibition of the things that have made him the god of zoological programming: the airy deductions about how creatures evolved, the vivid synecdoche ("this small, spiked object in my hand holds the secret of an entire species"), the respectful whispering in the presence of animals, the close encounters. When he offered a lemur some leaves for its lunch, the lemur accepted with shy delight, as though about to ask the great man for his autograph.

And the Elephant Bird whose remains he sought died out in AD700. It was killed off, not by climate change, or hunters, or deforestation, but because its eggs were nutritious and easy to steal. Rapacious Man, as usual, was the culprit. You could almost go off homo sapiens as a hopelessly nasty species, were they not so charmingly represented by Sir David.

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker