Why we let the TV cameras in to our schools

November 27 2018

MANGOTSFIELD School is braced for some backlash when it features in the final two episodes of the BBC2 documentary series School.

But although its leaders admit that some parents and grandparents, as well as other people who have not had recent contact with the schools system might be shocked, they say they are pleased to be contributing to a much-needed debate about education in 2018.

And they are pleased at the supportive response they have received to the first two of the six programmes, which featured some of the difficult decisions that had to be made at Marlwood and Castle schools in Thornbury, which are part of the Castle School Education Trust, along with Mangotsfield and Downend secondaries and three primaries.

David Spence, head of Mangotsfield School, said: "We had a fantastic Parent Forum meeting last week. It was clear that they had all watched the programmes. It's fair to say there was real solidarity with what schools are experiencing. They said it had made them appreciate what teachers and leaders do in a school, frequently in the face of very trying challenges. It has galvanised a real wish to do some serious fundraising, which will be great. They really understood now our motives for wanting to take part."

Mr Spence admitted incidents would be screened that he would rather were not made public, but the three schools had agreed that the camera crew could have unprecedented access to all areas throughout the 2017-18 school year.

He said: "It is not a cosy, warm PR piece - there is no spin. Some things work out well, some don't  - but what the programmes do show is teachers working incredibly hard and people having to make hard decisions.

"We have to make judgements every day. We have to prioritise one thing over another and our choices might be different if we had extra funding. Resources are so tight."

He said another thing the programmes showed was how quickly things moved on in a school. This was echoed by Will Roberts, chief executive of CSET, who said: "Mangotsfield School is in a much stronger position than it was a year ago.

"I hope people will respect the honesty and transparency we have shown."

The schools hope the series will develop public understanding of schools and the issues adults and children in them are facing daily, as funding not only for schools but  other public services, is stretched.