Thursday, September 03, 2015

School TV

I watched an ITV documentary (in 2 parts) at the end of August called "School Swap", it was basically an experiment where the headmaster and a couple of kids from a private school swapped places for a week with the same from a state school. Normally I wouldn't go out of my way to watch a reality TV programme like this but in this case I had a good reason. The private school that was featured was called Warminster School, which I attended from 1975-78, so I was intrigued to see how the old place had changed and see what it might be like now.

The first programme was about the kids from Warminster travelling up to a comprehensive school in Derby for a week, I thought there might be more resentment of the "toffs" in evidence (you know what teenage kids are like) and especially since it was up North (albeit the soft-North) But, the kids actually seemed to have more in common than you would expect a couple of the boys actually struck up a decent friendship, I guess kids (particularly boys) tend to gravitate toward certain things, (Xbox, sport, banter, girls) the playing field seemed pretty level on that score. On the academic side though it was clear that the private school kids were much more confident and articulate than their state school colleagues, their attitude towards learning was generally more healthy but not perhaps as much as people might think. One of the girls attending the state school was a recent immigrant from Syria and completely out-shone (academically) her buddy from Warminster (who seemed pretty clueless!) The big surprise of the episode was when one of the private school boys attended a Maths class, a subject that he struggled with and for which he was in the lowest set at Warminster. The state school teacher rated him much, much higher and made the claim that if he were his pupil he would expect an A grade!

The second programme was much more interesting for me as it was the reverse of the first, i.e. the state school kids visited the private school so I had fun trying to recognise bits of the dorms and classrooms as the camera followed them through their daily routine. A lot was made of the grounds and the facilities and the place has changed a lot since I was there (all weather pitches, modern classrooms, IT, proper canteen etc.), but the feel of the place seemed the same (it's essentially Hogwarts!) Barring the impact to their senses of being woken up at the crack of dawn and working an extra 3 or 4 hours a day ("prep" in the evenings etc.) the state school kids seemed to get on just fine. The amount of extra-curricula stuff (like sports) was a revelation to them ; one of them (Brett Riley) ended the show saying he really wanted to attend the school and apparently a place has since been offered, I wonder if he'll take it?

**UPDATE: apparently Brett took the place. I wish him the best of luck, work hard, have fun and what's the worst that can happen?

At the end of the program I came away thinking that kids are kids, broadly the same raw materials; how we treat them, teach them and encourage them makes most of the difference in terms of outcomes.

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