Chalk talk: BBC's Tough Young Teachers dispels any myth that teaching is a cushy career
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Wednesday 15 January 2014
"It's worse than I thought it was going to be – it's not going to be good at all."
So says one of the five new Teach First recruits whose forays into teaching are captured in a compelling new six-part series, Tough Young Teachers, the second instalment of which goes out tonight on BBC 3 at 9pm.
The documentary soon dispels any myth that teaching is a cushy career with a six-week-long summer holiday period as the main perk of the profession. All five are teaching in schools in the capital that have the euphemistic label "challenging" ascribed to them.
The first part showed how nerve-wracking the initial few days of teaching in such an environment can be. As the series moves on, though, viewers will see how the teachers can make a difference – as some of their pupils, often suspicious of them at first (two of them have come into teaching in the inner city from top independent schools) battle against the odds to achieve extraordinary exam results.
The five are given comfort by Chloe Shaw, a geography teacher in her second year at the Archbishop Lanfranc School, in Croydon, that it does get better. "The first year – it's about surviving," she says.
Most do survive. As Oliver Beach, one of the five who is teaching at Crown Woods School in Eltham, south London, said, most Teach First recruits carry on in the teaching profession for much longer than the two-year period to which they commit themselves.
It is worth bearing in mind that the Teach First recruits are among the outstanding graduates of their age and have been recruited into some of the country's most disadvantaged schools. As Andrew Adonis, the former Schools Minister who is now a trustee of Teach First, reminded me: before Teach First, schools like these would probably never have seen an outstanding graduate teaching their own subject – and would have to make do with teachers filling in and taking lessons in subject areas for which they had no qualifications.
A must-see documentary, then, particularly for those who write about education or pontificate about it in other ways and are tempted to dismiss teachers as a lazy, less than competent, molly-coddled bunch.
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