Why Jamie’s Dream School works for all the worng reasons

In his new show, Jamie Oliver wants to show education is best when you have inspirational people teaching inspirational things. As pure entertainment, it works quite nicely but as a comment on the current state of schooling in the UK, it falls short. Mikey Matthews has five reasons why.

1) Jamie Oliver
Say what you like about Jamie Oliver but the man is entertaining, and not many people can walk into a room of kids and command their respect straight away but he did. However, some of the things he says are so ridiculous it beggars belief. On meeting the students, he got them onside by telling them they weren’t failures; he is one of them. Then, when debriefing Simon Callow, he described them as feral – yep, feral – before going on to ask what had he got himself into. Are we supposed to believe Jamie was genuinely surprised that the students didn’t just fall into line? He must understand that it takes more than a few funny bearded men to inspire people to learn?

2) David Starkey
Seldom has man, in such a short period of time, managed to come across as so out of touch with the rest of the human race. He may have the entire alphabet after his name; he may have taught in some of the finest institutions in the world; but if you’re trying to inspire someone it’s probably not a good idea to tell them they are big fat failures within five minutes of meeting them. Anyone that has seen Starkey on Question Time will know that he is a caricature but he does makes for great TV. In fact, he was one of the only interesting things about this programme. Every episode from now on should involve Starkey lining the students up and setting them straight, like an erudite Simon Cowell, with insightful comments like “your sovereign ring is so big it could well have belonged to a former sovereign” or “you’re not listening to me so you must be a witch”.

3) Simon Callow’s beard
A truly wondrous sight. Goatee in style, short in length; nothing special you might think – aside from the fact it looked like he’d Pritt-Sticked a skunk’s back onto the bottom of his face. It was literally half jet back and half white. What they should have done is structured an entire lesson around that: famous beards from history; the beard’s influence around the world, that kind of thing. And if they didn’t like that, he could have just made up any old shit – the whole class would have been so distracted by his confusingly-hued chin warmer they wouldn’t have absorbed any of it anyway.

4) The pig guts
The dissection was probably the highlight of my week – you don’t often get to see a pig being cut up with a bandsaw until its entrails gush out all over the table. It was like watching Eli Roth’s Hostel, just without all the pot smoking and naked girls… both frowned upon in schools, apparently.

5) The students
I love them all already. I was worried that they would be starstruck and just sit and absorb everything they were told. However, within minutes of meeting Simon Callow, my worries disappeared – they had no idea who he was. Jamie may consider him one of the best actors in the world but, as they clearly hadn’t seen Thunderpants, these kids just saw some old bloke and described him as “proper posh”. Credit where it’s due, though: when Callow was confronted with one girl’s confusion over the location of Shakespeare Stratford he just nodded and agreed – Starkey would have placed her in the stocks. Henry won my heart over everyone else. When offered the chance to go sailing with Ellen McArthur he begrudgingly agreed to go, even though he already had plans that weekend. I’ve never really understood the popularity of the whingeing globe-circumnavigator – stand her up Henry, mate, stick to your plans.

*This was originally posted yesterday for the blog www.theweekinlists.com. I will be writing regularly for The Week in Lists but not on subjects that directly relate to politics. I have posted this here as it follows quite nicely with previous posts on education.