Abandon Hope all ye who watch

It might be a hit on prime-time TV, but Hope And Glory presents an over-simplified view of teaching through inaccurate stereotyping. Just who has time to sit around drinking coffee?
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So Hope And Glory came back-this laughable TV representation of a deprived and struggling comprehensive school, Hope Park.

So Hope And Glory came back-this laughable TV representation of a deprived and struggling comprehensive school, Hope Park.

The resident "Superman", played by Lenny Henry, leaps on to the playground. He interrupts a perfectly good basketball match, leaving the children thinking, "Why doesn't he bloody well leave us alone, we don't go into his office and muck about with his lap-top?"

Then he gasps into school, leaving the viewer thinking "health issue to be covered in future episode!" Inside, his irritating Nescafé-bearing secretary greets him. She already has his day mapped out like an ageing aunt who is telling her nephew to remember mummy's birthday. Then he sits quietly at his desk pondering, hopefully, why he agreed to do a second series.

Amanda Redman has gone but I'm not sure where. Is she now the deputy at "Hopeful Park" or is she selling pension plans to teachers? Her departure introduced us to new and even more implausible members of staff, creating a web of improbability that even Crossroads in its prime would have found difficult to match.

Let me run this past you. The new deputy head lives with a man who has a daughter at the school who is infatuated with the token Afro-Caribbean pupil, whose mother is destined to have an affair with the head teacher.

Meanwhile, Tony Horrocks (Jess Quigley, the bad boy in Coronation Street) who was conveniently plastered over the walls of a Weatherfield shopping precinct during a murderous story-line, has been resurrected to play the role of an equally dead character, the stereotypical one brain-celled PE teacher. He is now Tony Elliott and his great one-liners like "Who's got me keys?" are bound to have kept viewers riveted. Still, he is the young male interest in the programme and available to spray his testosterone liberally in the direction of unattached females on the six-strong staff.

Then there is the Fat Controller or Chief Education Officer, who, in spite of the fact that he rules over a complete education authority, seems to spend all his time whispering ideological claptrap into Lenny Henry's ear.

But we must not lose sight of the fact that this is a tough, socially disadvantaged comprehensive school that appears to be permanently on "special measures". Tough and socially disadvantaged - give me strength! The Von Trapp family are more scary than the Hope Park lot, although there was a potentially dangerous incident when a dispute occurred over who should play "first violin" in the school orchestra.

Lately, a new social unit has been added to the school, presumably introduced to toughen up the school's image. Good thinking, but shouldn't the students be of school age? It was somewhat improbable watching a 32-year-old sharpening his pencils!

I know that ever since the days of Z Cars, the police have been forced to endure the inaccuracies of drama. The public also seems obsessed about medical stories. I suppose it was only a matter of time before education was given the "luvvie" treatment.

Enter Hope And Glory, a new idea on a well-worn theme - hero turns around depressed and disillusioned staff. Drags them screaming into a new and exciting tomorrow. What nonsense! Schools are successful because all the staff are working together, patiently building up successful strategies to overcome problems. All that programmes like Hope And Glory do is present an over-simplified, and unfair view of reality through glaringly inaccurate stereotyping.

Most teachers don't sit around grubby staffrooms drinking and belly-aching any more. The job, especially in a tough school, is far too time-consuming for such luxuries. Yet this is a recurring theme in Hope And Glory.

But there again, Hope Park falls well short of the fearsome reputation it sets out to portray. I may be wrong but series creator Lucy Gannon's research bears all the hallmarks of visits to Holland Park Comprehensive followed by long and tedious nights in a wine bar, producing long and tedious episodes.

You never know, perhaps special measures will lead to closure of the school, Lenny Henry will return to comedy and the PE teacher to the walls of Weatherfield. We live in hope.

'Hope And Glory', BBC1

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