Last Night's TV: Jamie's Dream School/Channel 4
Kidult – Cuban Punch-Up: the Boys Who Fought for Castro/BBC4

Things at Jamie's Dream School continue to be nightmarish from any conventional view of educational progress. But if you jettison all thoughts of discipline, control and purposive movement there are beginning to be glimmers of light. As last night's episode demonstrated, it is actually possible to tear the mask of torpid disaffection off these faces and replace it with something more animated and even hopeful. Which is, surely, good news, even if some large questions remain about the wider practical application of this experiment's findings. One shudders to think how some sections of the press would react to the strategy Robert Winston had settled on to secure his class's interest in reproductive biology. "Robert Winston's hands-on science class is reaching it's climax," was how the voiceover put it (why settle for one innuendo when you squeeze two into the sentence?), but a blunter description would be curricular handjobs. Two of the class had been sent off with a lads' mag to produce sperm samples, so that Winston's nifty projecting microscope (what proportion of an ordinary school's budget might that consume?) would have something to magnify. Gloomy eugenicists may have noted that the results seemed to be of excellent quality. Then sea urchins were issued to everyone in class for another exercise in erotic stimulation. Apparently, if you jiggle a male sea urchin you can persuade it that the time is right for spawning, a fact that caused some excitement in class. "I made a sea urchin come!" yelled one girl. Not a big draw on a CV, I would have thought, but still evidence that she could be engaged by something other than the latest text message.

There may also be something in here for professional teachers, enduring the implicit insult of the concept, which is that charisma is all that is missing from the education system. The episodes so far have categorically disproved that, I would have thought, as celebrity teachers floundered and despaired. But there are some interesting studies of how authority can operate with unruly students. Jamie himself is an absolute natural, I think. "Yer all right, darlin?" he asked casually as he passed a pupil in the corridor, but that easy familiarity with the students doesn't translate into a collaboration with their lack of discipline. "You know the drill, guys," he said at the beginning of a lesson, pointing at the large mixing bowl into which he wanted his pupils' mobile phones deposited. His manner suggested that he was merely reminding them of something they'd collectively signed up to, and that he had no anxiety about their not complying.

Cherie Blair, by contrast, reacted to classroom hubbub with a nervous "settle down", every intonation suggesting that things were getting out of hand. And poor old Simon Callow is still speaking the wrong language entirely, a bit like an Englishman abroad, convinced that if he just slows up and enunciates more clearly the natives will eventually get it. Urging focus on the chronically fuzzy, he came up with an elaborate metaphor to do with circus acrobats and the importance of teamwork, a donnish image that only gave the disruptive more to work with. "My human pyramid is faltering, you know that?" said one girl cheekily, after her classmates started talking. Even Callow, though, got a little epiphany when he finally did what he should have done first, taking his drama refuseniks to the Globe theatre and letting them strut and fret through a fight scene in Romeo and Juliet. It was a shambles, but it was an engaged and interested shambles. Along with the diving class conducted by Daley Thompson (another natural), it underlined one of the truths the series has displayed – that you can have arrogance without having confidence, and supplying the latter makes the former diminish.

They have some minor problems with discipline at the Havana boxing school that was the subject of Kidult – Cuban Punch-Up: the Boys Who Fought for Castro but nothing terribly serious. Santos, one young contender, has been sneaking off to the local pie shop to buy empanadas, thus endangering his hopes of staying at fight weight and Junior came back late from the weekend because his parents were splitting up. Given the atmosphere of machismo and ideological rectitude ("Comrade athletes, are you ready to start training?" shouted the coach as they start their pre-dawn routine), you might have expected these infringements to have been met with stern brutality, but one of the most touching things about Andrew Lang's film was how suffused with emotion and empathy it was.

That this is a poor country was obvious. The dorm was rudimentary and the gym even more so. In one corner you could see boys whaling away at a punchbag constructed from old car tyres, an object that had been polished to a high gloss by repeated pummelling. The urgency of their desire to do well came not only from an (apparently) unquestioning commitment to El Jefe Fidel, but also from the knowledge that boxing might be their only way up and out of poverty. But the familial sense of shared endeavour seemed absolutely genuine. When the team sheet was read out for the national championships, the successful candidates were instructed to console the tearful losing ones, and when a teammate lost his bout he was immediately surrounded by supportive friends. Even the coach got in on the act, seeking out his defeated rival to give him a sympathetic hug. If you were looking for a dream school, this one seemed like a reasonable candidate.

t.sutcliffe@independent.co.uk

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jude Law in Black Sea

film

In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops

film

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
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.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game