Ofsted chief condemns TV ‘caricatures’ of state education

Television programmes are skewing the public’s perception of teaching with “patronising caricatures of state education”, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said today.

The head of Ofsted said he found it “deeply upsetting” to watch the BBC series Tough Young Teachers, which showed “idealistic, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed new recruits struggling daily to cope with Jack the Lad and Sally Show-Off”.

It was “hard to watch young teachers putting up with this sort of nonsense on a daily basis” with “little or no support” from senior teachers, Sir Michael said. “I found this deeply upsetting and a sad commentary on the nature of leadership in a minority of our schools,” he added.

He also criticised programmes such as Grange Hill and Waterloo Road for portraying state education in “negative ways”, saying it was “no wonder that people form a particular view about what it must be like to teach in the state school system”.

“Compare this to the paean praise to public schools in a programme like Harrow: A Very British School,” he said. “It may be British but it’s not typical. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by all this when so many in the media are privately educated.”

Too few TV programmes showed “great teachers teaching great lessons in well-ordered state schools”, Sir Michael argued, although he added that the Educating… series had been fair.

“Wouldn’t it be great to see an outstanding headteacher leading a school from inadequacy to success in the state system?” he told the Festival of Education at Wellington College. “Wouldn’t it be great for viewers to see that teaching in the state school system is a terrific job that doesn’t involve a daily battle?”

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