I was enthralled right from the start of Jamie Oliver’s crusade to change Britain’s worst school pupils and get them back into education. With none of them achieving anywhere near the right amount of GCSE qualifications to give them a good start in life it’s probably fair to say that none of them is, as one of the students astutely put it, ‘the brightest bulb in the tanning bed’. Or is it? Are they actually some of Britain’s best, and if so, what has gone so wrong? Who has failed them? Jamie says it’s the schools but more probably it is their backgrounds, their parents and their own negative attitudes that have let them down.

Teachers are some of the worst paid do-gooders in society today. It is a thankless task in which they receive nothing but abuse and inattentiveness in Britain’s worst schools. The fact that Jamie is using the most high profile celebs to do the teaching (the likes of politician Alastair Campbell, historian Dr David Starkey and artist Rolf Harris leading the fore) implies that he believes our teachers are failing to engage their pupils. The ‘system’ is failing them. But surely it should be the other way around. Surely they are failing the system. And Jamie is failing our teachers, those who battle it out in the classroom-come-mosh-pit. His choice in “teachers” is so unrealistic and the fact that they are struggling abysmally is a case in point. Jamie, for all his good intentions, seems to be overlooking the main problem and that is the students’ home lives and the resultant lack of drive these cause.

One particular example of Jamie’s project naively overlooking the roots of the students’ problems occurred in an episode in which one girl was forced to drop out of the programme. She was a very young mother who was only able to go to Dream School by using her local day care centre to take care of her child whilst she was away for the day. Unfortunately the child caught chicken pox and was not allowed to go to the day care centre, with no one else around to help Jamie’s pupil was forced to quit school to take care of her child. Whilst the programme was throwing cash at one pupil to allow her to go on a trip to Arizona they couldn’t fork out anything to pay a babysitter to look after one of their pupil’s children. Apparently the programme’s vision is blinded when forced any further than education.

Clearly the roots of the problem do not lie in school or with Britain’s teachers but rather with the millions of parents who fail to teach their children the value of education, or, it seems, anything at all. If their children are allowed to run wild at home how on earth can they know that this is inappropriate behaviour for school? Whilst Jamie’s project is both valid and necessary, it seems that he was too ambitious, Britain is in need of Supernanny for teenagers far more urgently than it is in need of a re-vamp in education. Once everyone knows where the naughty corner is then it might be time to implement celebrity teachers, although who knows what Katie Price would teach.

Move over Cameron and Clegg, Supernanny and Jamie have got Britain’s future covered, not to mention our tan lines.


Emma Gundry