Educating Yorkshire

Last night, I watched the first episode of a new documentary/reality show on UK network TV (telly) called “Educating Yorkshire”, which placed cameras in a secondary school here in Yorkshire for a semester. The similarities between this school, Thornhill Community Academy, and any large US high school like Warren County High School, where I teach, were striking. The students may wear uniforms at Thornhill, but much of teachers’ hall duty was spent correcting and punishing uniform violations. At one point, the principal tells a student that heavy makeup is against the school dress code. When she is pressed to remove her thick base makeup, it is clear that she is covering her serious facial scars. Even something as seemingly clear-cut as a uniform policy is more complex when a school serves teens from all backgrounds.

The administrators appeared to spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with behavioral issues. The isolation room where students went for violations like smoking and cursing could have been our school’s “In School Suspension” room. The teachers seemed weary, but involved in the students’  lives and concerned with steering each child toward a good future. Their principal was committed to making positive changes and “turning his low-performing school around.” Sound familiar?

This week’s episode ended with the school’s administrators looking over a newspaper with headlines showing Thornhill ranked as “most improved in league tables.” I keep learning more and more about the “league tables” here in the UK, the all-important school rankings that remind me so much of home.

I will begin my secondary school observations in Yorkshire later this month. I guess then I will be able to judge how much reality there is to this reality show. If there is any truth to this show, I think I will feel right at home.


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