Educating Cardiff-Review

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Episode 4 of Educating Cardiff took me back to my years at secondary school. It made me reflect- as often programmes such as these do.

Although it was the first episode of this series that I have watched I still felt instantly connected to both the teachers and the students. This was once a school where only 14% of their students achieved A*-C grades. This figure however has now increased to 50%- making it one of the nations most improved schools!

Last night’s episode focussed mainly on Linda, a young girl with the ability to achieve but who let behavioural issues get the better of her.

Both the Head (Mrs Ballard) and the focus teacher (Mr Sage) really proved in this episode that they go the extra mile to help the students at Willows High School. They showed care and compassion resulting in heart-warming viewing.

We saw at the beginning of the episode Linda incorrectly calculating 99+10- a sum she clearly had the ability to work out. This clip emphasised her bad attitude towards education and her ‘kick up a fuss’ ways.

Mr Sage (Linda’s head of house) showed a well thought out approach to dealing with Linda’s behaviour. It was evident that he wanted her to improve and genuinely believed in her ability- “work with me, you are better than that.” Fighting a continued battle of Linda being on report and her insisting that she ‘hates it when teachers tell her what to do’, it was obvious that something needed to change! He showed a good balance between discipline and understanding which made him a brilliant head of house and support figure for Linda. Linda was troubled, but she without doubt wanted to be better and all she needed was a little encouragement.

Mr Sage believed that Linda’s behaviour and attitude was partially due to her lack of stimulation from being in set 3. She was regularly loosing concentration in class due to tasks being too easy for her, which meant that she completed her work before other students and was left restless. The main reason for her being in this set was due to poor behaviour. For teachers such as Mr Sage there are so many decisions to make in situations like this one. I can only imagine how stressful weighing up the choices must be. Both Mr Sage and Mrs Hammond after much deliberation decided to move Linda from set 3 to set 1 in all subjects, in hope that this would improve her attitude and stop her ‘playing up’ in the classroom.

Mrs Ballard refers to herself as not being ‘a traditional head teacher’ and I would probably agree with this- I honestly don’t remember my Head showing such sincere and endearing qualities. When she bought a present for Linda’s brother, to be posted on Linda’s behalf, I felt as though I understood her passion, her want to help, and her desire to be involved in the student’s lives- this student in particular. Linda’s brother had been sent to the Czech Republic to live with his Grandmother, due to his Mother no longer being able to deal with his bad behaviour. Both Linda and her brother were very big characters. Remaining at school without her brother left Linda very distressed.

Seeing Linda cry made me want to reach through the screen to hug her and seeing Mr Sage with tears in his eyes made me realise that teachers often can’t help but get emotionally involved in situations that often are out of their control. Mr Sage in this case clearly felt genuine sympathy.

The episode really confirmed for me the fact that what happens outside of the school environment has a huge impact on how students behave within school, something often too easily forgotten.

I loved Mrs Hammond’s idea of asking Linda to write a letter to include her thoughts. The outcome of this showed us all that Linda did have that desire to do well. She wanted to move sets, she wanted to improve her behaviour and she wanted to prove herself to Mrs Hammond and Mr Sage.

Improved body language, a more positive attitude and increased mental stimulation- it was clear that the decision to move Linda in to set 1 was a beneficial one for her. The clips of her weeks later showing a dramatic change in behaviour throughout classes was heart-warming to see.

She gained respect for her class teacher’s discipline and was taking responsibility for her own education. I felt many emotions towards Linda throughout the episode but ultimately I was pleased. I was pleased that it worked out for her, that Willows didn’t give up on her, but was with her every step of the way! She could now be proud of herself.

People emphasise that there are more things to life than education and I believe this to a certain extent, but at the end of the day whether a student loves or hates school, they have to go. School isn’t just about education though; it’s about the relationships you develop, your behavioural characteristics and your attitude to life. When I watch programmes such as these I realise the real impact teachers have on children. Each teacher is different, but each teacher has the ability to make such a big difference to every student.

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