Educating Essex Review: School On Camera

EDUCATING ESSEX: Thursday 22nd September, C4, 9pm

You may expect this programme to include guidance about the safe application of fake tan and hygienic removal of plastic fingernails, but Essex stereotypes which have been juiced for all they’re worth in recent shows such as TOWIE (and reviews such as this) are thankfully cast aside in this funny, insightful documentary.

Channel 4 has done it again. Following on from the success of One Born Every Minute, in which secret cameras captured perhaps a little too much of the action on maternity ward, comes Educating Essex. This time round Passmores School in Harlow gets the Big Brother treatment with cameras and microphones rigged up throughout the corridors and classrooms of the “no-failâ€? Academy.

Last night’s opening episode introduced us to a few of the key players at Passmores including various mouthy students and a number of weary staff with the focus on the lean, mean coat-confiscating machine that is, Mr Drew. With the end of the winter term fast approaching and the students clearly getting in the Christmas spirit, the teachers have the unenviable task of getting year 11 students to focus more on their GCSEs and less on pelting each other with snowballs.

Mr “brick wallâ€? Drew is what stands in the way of mayhem.

The school prides itself on never resorting to permanent exclusion as a punishment for unruly teens because of the damage it can do to a young person’s prospects. The winner in this scenario is obvious because the mental health of the teachers who fight daily battles with kids who refuse to remove hoodies or run in corridors, seems to be severely compromised.

Exchanges between the sarcastic but well-meaning Mr Drew are a joy to watch. One dumbstruck, fur-clad teen is told, in no uncertain terms, that there is “no need to wear that dead animal in the corridorâ€?. Watching people get told off at school was always brilliant but watching it on TV is even better because there is no risk of being thrown into detention for sniggering at the back. Snigger away, viewers.

Seeing inside the staff room and hearing teachers swear are other obvious highlights for the child within.

The first episode also deals with the slightly more serious matter of a false accusation of assault by one of the more “challengingâ€? students in the school. Unfortunately for the cunning Carmelita, numerous CCTV cameras are on hand to prove her wrong and secure her a one-way pass to temporary exclusion. As serious as accusations such as these are, the programme does not allow anything to heavy to weigh down its hour-long glimpse into the inner workings of a
rough and ready secondary school.

And I am definitely on the side of the students, hearing a teacher say “cockâ€? is pretty bloody funny.