The latest fly-on-the wall school series has arrived, reminding us of the struggles of adolescents in their secondary school days and the true trials that their teachers face. With two sister series, Educating Essex (2011) and Educating Yorkshire (2013), under Channel 4’s belt, there are some high expectations for Educating the East End.
The first episode, in which we are welcomed into the classrooms of Frederick Bremer School shows promise. An early stand out – deserving of a gold star – is teacher Mr Bispham, who is straight off the teacher training wagon. He represents all those who have dreamed of teaching and shaping young lives – absolutely haggard and wondering what the hell he’s doing. Describing teaching as ‘50% stand-up comedy and 50% motivational speeches’, it hard not to wonder how he will fare over the series.
However, what has enabled the success of the Educating… series is their ability to offer a dual-perspective of comprehensive secondary education. Though viewers will sympathise with the struggles of newly qualified Mr Bispham, they are also allowed to enter into the lives of the school’s pupils. In this week’s episode, we get to witness the trials and tribulations of the Year 9 girls. Taking centre stage is lively Tawny, a mischievous (and at times utterly delinquent) young teen chasing stardom; “I wouldn’t mind being in EastEnders. I could be Bianca’s long-lost sister or something,” she chirps.
Yet beyond the typical teenage ambition is the story of Acacia, whose mind remains strictly on the difficulties she faces at home. With her mother hospitalised for a serious health condition, the school’s deputy head, Ms Hillman, steps up, offering kind words and a good lesson in professionalism. Thus, it would seem the debut of Educating the East End has retained both the charm and integrity of series past. A rather low key start perhaps, but who knows what is to come.
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