The first history lesson is only five minutes old and a short-sighted fool has already called someone in the class fat, branded everyone else ‘failures’ and generally run his mouth off like Charlie Sheen after a 12 hour drinking bender. There’s always one in every classroom. But it’s not usually the teacher…
David Starkey is renowned for being an abrasive character (his career controversies almost warrant their own Wikipedia page..) but unfortunately for him he’s just insulted a lad that is determined to grasp this opportunity to redo his education with both hands. “I never got on well at school because the teachers were always talking down to me..” 17 year-old Conor tells Oliver just before he walks into the class. And then one of Britain’s most noted living historians calls him a fatty. Suffice to say this first episode of Jamie’s Dream School is not without drama.
There might be a few less fatties in Britain thanks to Jamie Oliver, but the celebrity chef has apparently broadened his horizons since his last British outing. Now he wants to help kids who – for whatever reason – have slipped through the cracks of the education system. To do this he has brought 20 pupils to a specially constructed school where they will be tutored by some of Britain’s leading figures in various fields. Many of them admit that their failure to gain decent grades at GCSE was down to a penchant for bunking lessons and bike-shed smoking sessions. Needless to say, their constant posturing and bravado comes straight out of the troubled teenager textbook. Anyone who has experience of being or dealing with such youths will know that confrontation is not a good way of making a breakthrough, but David Starkey’s approach highlights the fact that even those considered to be great and good can behave like dullards.
Being the intelligent thesp that he is, Simon Callow seemed to realise this and he managed to get the kids reasonably interested in William Shakespeare – an impressive achievement in itself – by not talking down to them and engaging them on their level, but the greying history buff failed miserably. From his pre-class chats with Oliver it was quite obvious that Starkey had already made up his mind about Britain’s teenagers and he certainly would not be indulging their backchat. The result was quite disastrous. “Attention Deficit Disorder is not a disease, it’s a description for a for an entire generation..” he said like a monumental snob side-stepping the fact that he’d just launched an unprovoked attack on a 17 year-old lad. Unsurprisingly, the headmaster was aghast when he viewed the footage and warned Jamie that if he’d been a real teacher, Starkey would probably have been facing a disciplinary. With one of the pupils revealing that he used to run several street gangs, Starkey might have more than a verbal warning to worry about before the next lesson..