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I TALK Educating Yorkshire

It's that time of year again, September. Time to go back to school.

Even those too old to go to school will feel like they've stepped straight back into a classroom if they tune in to Channel 4 every Thursday night at 9. Why? Because Educating Essex is back - well not quite, we've moved a fair few miles north for the follow up series - Educating Yorkshire.


That's right, Channel 4 have left England's very own Orange County Essex behind and have headed to Thornhill Community Academy in Yorkshire, where Jonny Mitchell, the school's Headteacher of 18 months was waiting with the rest of his school.


The very first thing we learn about him in the series is that "he is there to drive up standards." - oh and that he doesn't like Christmas, but we'll look past that. Within the first five minutes we see girls being asked to get rid of their make-up, pupils flipping the bird at anyone who stands in the way, lads punching one another in class, pupils wearing the wrong shoes, wearing silly hats and sporting some very dodgy haircuts. Just a typical British Secondary School then. We are then introduced to the team around Mr Mitchell starting with Mr Burton, the Assistant Headteacher. Then we meet Mrs Marsden, Head of Year 7 and his two Deputy Heads - a very shouty Mr Steer and a much quieter Mr Barrowclough.


A few weeks ago I went back to school, sadly not my school, nor in fact Thornhill, but one in Central London, to watch Episode Three of Educating Yorkshire and whilst there had the chance to speak to Jonny Mitchell and what I really wanted to find out was - Why do it? Mr Mitchell told me that - "If you know anything about the location of the school, in Dewsbury, you'll know that for most people, and especially in the media, conjures up negative connotations and I felt it was about time that the town did something to readdress the balance and try and do something positive for young people and the families who try very very hard to make their lives better." He also went on to say that he thinks his school is brilliant. - "Our school shows what happens in a lot of schools and brings it all together. We wouldn't have been able to go ahead with this had pretty much every member of staff not agreed to do it." "It's a great marketing tool of course, and I'm not going to hide behind that."


Back to Episode One then and the return of the isolation booths - where kids are sent to work in, you guessed it, isolation as punishment. In this case three Year 10 pupils are caught smoking and kick up a fuss because as far as they were concerned they thought being caught smoking meant a detention and are not happy about being isolated cue slammed doors, tantrums and bags of attitude.


Except for Bailey who actually doesn't kick up a fuss, heads back to isolation, says how much she loves Mr Mitchell and tries to make her friend think the same - with very little success. Later on in the episode we learn of Bailey's ambitions to become school Prefect - but will she make it?


Next we meet Ryan, who's in Year 8, but his mum calls him "A little 40-year-old". Why? Because the way he carries himself isn't that of a 12/13-year-old but rather that of someone much older. I like Ryan, he's a likeable lad, polite to the teachers - "Miss. It's an honour being taught by you." yet cheeky at the best of times too - "Miss. Maybe you're going through the menopause." - brilliant.


In one of my favourite scenes from the first episode, Ryan goes to visit Mr Mitchell in his office with hopes of winning a place on the school's new Student Parliament. Whilst there Ryan interrogates Mr Mitchell about what he does in his job and reassures Mr Mitchell that as a result of his work the school is running smoothly. Something I'm sure a Headteacher is not used to hearing from a pupil, let alone one in Year 8.


Episode one also includes an angry neighbour complaining about some of Thornhill's kids chucking snowballs at her elderly husband, and a young lad called Kamrrem whose name keeps coming up for misbehaving. We find out that he has visited the Headteacher's office 73 times and as a result of his behaviour, had five official reports from parents wishing to take their kids out of school as a result of his behaviour. So what will happen to Kamremm? Obviously I wouldn't want to spoil it for you, so make sure you don't miss the first episode to find out.


In Episode Two, we meet Georgia, from Year 11 and follow her last few months of one of Thornhill's most popular students - Queen Bee of the 'Cool group' - if you like. As her behaviour appears to be heading in a downward spiral, she is met with an ultimatum - keep misbehaving and you will not attending the Year 11 Prom. Throughout the episode, we see Georgia's behaviour seemingly improve but with a few slip-ups here and there, and a history of bad behaviour, has she done enough to earn her place at the Year 11 Prom? Tune in on the 19th September to find out.


What I love about Educating Yorkshire, and the same can be said for when I watched Educating Essex, is the way in which the series really places you inside the school. You feel as though you're in there with the pupils and what's fascinating for me, is the lengths some pupils go to to misbehave, totally unfazed by the many cameras dotted around the school.


All in all it's a great series but I'd really like the character to come out of their shells a bit more. Thinking back to the last series, we had real characters like Mr Goddard and of course the brilliant Deputy Head Mr Drew - this time around the kids seem to be providing most of the entertainment. I guess only time will tell.


Educating Yorkshire airs Thursdays at 9pm on Channel 4

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