Appearing on a fly-on-the-wall TV series helped Jenny Smith take her school from requiring improvement to being rated ‘good’ by Ofsted.
Ms Smith is head of Frederick Bremer School in East London, featured in the BBC documentary series, Educating the East End. The series followed Ms Smith and her staff, as they encouraged, cajoled and chided their pupils into better behaviour and higher aspirations.
In particular, the inspectors said that: “The headteacher has been relentless in driving improvement over the last three years.”
Or, as Ms Smith phrases it: “Three and a half years of solidly slogging. Fifteen-hour days, six, seven days a week. Sometimes not feeling that you’re making any headway at all.”
But one of the things that made the struggle for improvement easier was the school’s TV celebrity.
Since the series screened in 2014, every advertised job vacancy at the school – teaching and non-teaching – has drawn hundreds of applicants.
“Particularly in communities like ours, teenagers tend to be quite demonised,” Ms Smith says. “People said how different they found the kids they saw on TV from what they’d expected. The programme brought out how quirky and individual our kids are.”
And, she believes, viewers were charmed by what they saw. “We may not be able to pay the highest salaries,” she says. “But applicants said that they wanted to work in a local school, where it’s not just an exam machine, churning out results. Where you’re really making a difference to kids’ life chances.”
This is an edited version of an article in the 15 January edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article by clicking here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. Or pick up the magazine in all good newsagents.