School's out as Jamie Oliver's big education experiment closes its doors for the summer. But with the teachers needing taught a bigger lesson than the students it'll probably never open again.
It’s probably best to point out that I’ve only seen one or two episodes of Jamie’s Dream School so far, and that’s including the one where David Starkey slapped the fat lad and made him do press-ups until he spackled the walls with regurgitated Snickers bars.
That was it, wasn’t it? Anyway, for once I’m actually quite thankful for the ‘Last week on Jamie’s Dream School’ recap section. As we enter the final week, it seems that Jamie Oliver has basically wandered around the playground while his bizarre army of celebrity teachers does the hard work. Well, someone has to do the voiceover, don’t they?
Speaking of hard work, even the recap is stressful. “I will fucking BATTER you in this class,” shrieks Harlem in Alistair Campbell’s politics lesson from earlier in the series. At least she’s learnt something from him. Similarly, stroppy Angelique’s situation is typical, and she only recognises her misdemeanours in hindsight. Her violent outbursts in Campbell’s classes result in probably the only letter of apology that he’s ever received, one in which she begs to be allowed to join the rest of the class on a trip to Downing Street. He catches up with her in a play rehearsal to lay down the law. Brilliantly, in the background, one of the students’ pictures in the school hall flops down and swings from its one remaining fastener during their tense reconciliation – it’s like a Coen Brothers film.
But the kids aren’t the problem, and nor were they ever in this programme – it’s the teachers.
No such artful scenes elsewhere. Describing the children as having “Emotional incontinence of the worst sort”, David Starkey is remarkably astute for once, but rather sullies it by declaring himself emotionally cold while casually hammering a spike through a newborn. Jamie is, bewilderingly, full of praise for Starkey: “He’s teaching them how to think!” he yelps like a spanked whippet. If battering them into submission with his blustering insistence on talking over everyone is teaching someone how to think, then yes, Starkey is a modern-day Plato.
In this final episode, everything seems to be aimed at the proposed class trip rather than other matters like Andrew Motion’s poetry reading (during which the rough diamond simplicity of the kids’ poems caused everyone to cry so much their ears go mouldy). Yes, the class trip to No. 10 Downing Street must rank alongside the introduction of a particularly slender Pinot Grigio to Kinga off Big Brother as one of the worst ideas in reality TV history. Actually, scratch that, Cherie Blair turns up later and that’s much worse.
There’s no time for that though – it’s time for another recap! Mary Beard causes Jamie Oliver’s now-delirious voiceover to say “I love a bit of Beard,” and Daley Thompson apparently instils a sense of self-belief by pitting the kids against a posh private school in a sports day competition. Yeah, the bloody posh bastards, they’ll shit ‘em! What’s that, they lost? Oh. Thanks Daley, looks like self-belief in the underclass will only lead to a lifetime of being gobbed on by poshos.
Before they storm Downing Street, each child has a school report meeting with two of their teachers – pity the ones who ended up with David Starkey and Jazzie B. David Starkey and Jazzie B should get their own sitcom where they’re forced to sit next to each other for hours at a time. It would redefine awkward comedy and cinéma vérité in one simple concept. As they march the kids in and out of the report scenario, Starkey takes another opportunity to take the piss out of the fat one, and Jazzie B quite rightly tells him off. It highlights the fatal flaw of Jamie’s Dream School (aside from a fixation on fat kids): ultimately the problem is that all the teachers disagree with one another. At last! An interesting point about presenting a united front to impressionable youths! Maybe we’re actually starting get somewhere with this confounded experiment!
Brilliantly, in the background, one of the students’ pictures in the school hall flops down and swings from its one remaining fastener during their tense reconciliation – it’s like a Coen Brothers film.
No time for that, we’re off to Downing Street. The kids are gambolling merrily around outside – will they behave? Will one of them do a shit in the breadbin? As it turns out, they’re all disappointingly well behaved and David Cameron is able to sleepwalk his way through their questions before leaving so quickly you’d think they greased the corridors. The kids feel as if their points haven’t been heard by the PM and they’re right, but the idea that he hadn’t thought of those points before is madness on the part of the programme makers and, funnily enough, Alistair Campbell. Of course they were going to be disappointed.
Conclusion time, then, and it turns out they all get a chunk of cash to fund their studies and there’s a firework display. Splendid! Half of them end up peeling potatoes in one of Jamie’s restaurants and the rest of them seem to want to go back into education, so to be fair it’s a minor success. But the kids aren’t the problem, and nor were they ever in this programme – it’s the teachers.
School’s out for summer, but will Jamie’s Dream School be back next term? If he intends to patronise the current crop of NQTs with his wacky, unrealistic ideals of teaching as it’s meant to be, then I certainly hope not.
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