This week it’s the final months of school and the Year 11 students are preparing for life beyond Thornhill. English teacher Mr Burton is one of a kind. An Assistant Head at just 30 years old, music, fancy-dress and a penchant for jumping on tables are all part of his teacher’s toolkit. This year, he has his most challenging C/D borderline class to date and two of his students pose demands for very different reasons. Musharaf has a severe stammer and anxiety about leaving Thornhill seems to have made it worse. He is about to face his toughest test yet - quite literally – as he has to navigate his GCSE English oral exam. Mr Burton is determined to help improve his fluency and is prepared to try any tactic, however unusual. Meanwhile Hannah is a bright girl capable of A grades, were it not for her aversion to staying in class. Staff are concerned that she’s in serious danger of not reaching her potential and wish she’d devote more energy to staying in lessons, rather than finding various excuses to escape them. Will Mr Burton’s unique teaching style be enough to help his students make the grade?
Known affectionately as Mushy P, Musharaf is a polite but popular member of Thornhill. Musharaf has an acute stammer, which, despite extra support and regular speech therapy lessons outside of school, is proving to be one of his greatest challenges. A hard worker, he is one of a team of student prefects tasked with modelling impeccable behaviour throughout school. An error of judgement led to him losing his beloved green prefect jumper – which he is determined to win back. As Musharaf gears up for his GCSEs, can his inner resolve and the staff at Thornhill help him to finally find his voice?
With her dry wit and endearing personality, Hannah is a stand-out student in any class. That is when she makes it to class. Hannah is part of Thornhill’s popular crowd. Occasionally ditzy, Hannah’s no dumb blonde and underneath her tendency to act the class clown lies a very bright student capable of top marks. As the exams draw closer and her attitude threatens to have a serious impact on her grades, can Hannah be engaged long enough to get her those all-important GCSE grades? The staff at Thornhill are about to be put to the test.
This week we see first-hand the lengths that a school will go to keep a student in mainstream education. From the top down, from the head teacher to deputies, teachers and Inclusion workers, the staff at Thornhill pull together to get the very best from their pupils. One such student is 13 year-old Jack, who is in Year 9 and full of contradictions. Angry but sensitive, threatening to lash out one minute – hitting the high notes in the school choir the next. He’s a boy with a big heart and sense of humour but a short memory when it comes to promises to turn around his behaviour. Despite his tendency to be disruptive in lessons, Jack has an enduring love for History and is hoping to take it as a GCSE – something which may be at risk if he doesn’t improve. As Jack’s behaviour continues to slide, the staff are seriously worried that, despite their best efforts, he may become Mr Mitchell’s first ever permanent exclusion. Will Thornhill’s committed team and Jack’s fierce desire to change his ways be enough to keep him at the Academy?
Exams are fast approaching at Thornhill and staff, as well as students, are feeling the pressure. From the highly experienced deputy head to the newly qualified teacher, the demands of hitting the school’s ever increasing targets are felt by everyone.
Deputy Head Mr Steer is in charge of the school’s attainment and as a rapidly improving academy it’s crucial that he makes sure that results are the very best they can be. Mr Steer is also a star Maths teacher and this year he’s set a particularly tough challenge as he takes on a group of girls more interested in hair, make-up and parties than algebra and trigonometry. Achieving grade “U's” when he takes them on, Mr Steer is determined to get them get that crucial C in Maths that will ensure them places in college. Pretty and popular Sheridan is at the heart of the group of girls. She proudly tells her friends “I love Maths me I’m just shit at it”, and while concentrating in Maths is a real problem, it’s nothing to how she behaves in Geography. New teacher, Miss Stephens, 24, is tasked with getting Sheridan through her Geography GCSE, and engaging Sheridan in academic debate around the E.U. is no easy feat.
As the clock ticks down to the all-important exams and stress levels start to soar, Mr Steer pushes himself to the limit…
Michael Steer is a maths whizz of staggering genius who turned his back on a career in banking to work in education. A brilliant teacher, when he is not manoeuvring the principles of trigonometry into teenage brains he is keeping his own mind limber by mentally generating individual timetables for hundreds of children.
Michael has senior responsibilities for perhaps the most important job in the school - raising attainment in both Maths and English at GCSE. A tireless workaholic, Headteacher Mr Mitchell and staff can worry he takes on too much.
Pretty, sometimes petulant and always up for a laugh, Sheridan chooses to spend most of the school day dancing at her desk, breaking into song or in fits of hysterical giggles. Her warmth and charm mean she‘s popular across her year group and she’s at the heart of a renowned group of girls who are mostly interested in make-up, hair and the pursuit of fun. Schoolwork is lower down on Sheridan’s list of priorities and engaging her in class can be exhausting. But with exams coming up and big ambitions to become a paramedic, Sheridan’s starting to realise it might be time to knuckle down.
At 24, Claire is Thornhill’s youngest teacher and a self-confessed eccentric. When she’s not teaching the kids Geography, she’s encouraging them to hoola-hoop, juggle and walk on stilts in her circus skills club. It’s only her second year on the job and being an NQT has come with its fair share of challenges – not least a particularly boisterous GCSE class. But Claire’s determination, resilience and passion for the job shine through and Mr Mitchell is in no doubt that she’s on course to become an outstanding teacher.
Year 9 is the year when everything changes. Halfway up the school, stocked full of hormonal 13 year olds it is also a critical academic turning point as the students choose their options for GCSE. It’s a year when Thornhill’s students, hopefully, do some dramatic growing up it’s also the year with the worst behaviour record in the school. At the helm, and tasked with guiding his students through a perfect storm of adolescent pressures, is Head of Year Mr Moses – an unlikely pacifier of teenage angst. His job, as a pastoral leader, is to keep every Year 9 on the straight and narrow. This year one student proves particularly testing and strikes a chord with Mr Moses. Meanwhile not all is complete in the Head of Year’s own life – Mr Moses is in search of love.
Steve Moses, Pastoral Year Leader / Head of Year 9
Steve Moses has only been in the job 18 months. Hailing from the heart of Manchester, the passionate Manchester City supporter worked as a careers advisor before joining the Thornhill ranks. He now finds himself as the man dealing with the ‘most difficult year in the school’, Year 9. Heading up a group of hormonal teenagers is proving to be an eye opening transition.
For better or worse, friendships define our schooldays. This week Educating Yorkshire brings us the unlikely duo Hadiqa and Safiyyah. As Head Teacher Mr Mitchell says, Hadiqa and Safiyyah are the last two kids that you’d expect to be best mates. Irrepressibly chatty Safiyyah punctuates every sentence with "innit" as she dreams of becoming an Air Hostess, while gifted student Hadiqa has her sights set on becoming prime minister. As pastoral Year Leader Mrs Crowther knows only too well, close friendships mean everything when you're a teenager. But heading into the final few months of secondary school is rarely without its challenges. As exams fast approach, a crisis in Hadiqa and Safiyyah's friendship threatens to derail the girls academically, as well as causing major upset.
This week, Educating Yorkshire focuses on two strikingly similar boys: one nearing his final year and another who is only just starting out at secondary school. Both are exploding with energy and charm but, to their teachers’ frustration, neither of them are that interested in learning. As Year 10 student Tom approaches his GCSEs his failure to settle down is starting to cause concern. And although Year 7 Robbie-Joe’s constant chatter seems harmless (and is often hilarious) his teachers are worried it’s a sign of more serious things to come.
This episode follows the school in their attempts to channel Tom and Robbie-Joe’s boundless energies in the right direction. We see how a chance, life-changing event radically alters the course of Tom’s year and watch as the school do all they can to intervene early with Robbie-Joe. Ultimately, this is a film about two inspirational teachers guiding two lively lads through some of the toughest times they will face at school.
Tom is one of the biggest, brashest and best-loved characters in Year 10. With explosive energy, limited interest in learning and an impressive skill for beatboxing he isn’t every teacher’s dream pupil. But what he lacks in application he makes up for in charisma – blessed with a boyish smile and a smart sense of humour, he remains a favourite of many of the staff. Still, with GCSEs looming next year the school is developing serious concerns about his chances of succeeding.
Year 7 Robbie-Joe is a charming member of his year but he just can’t stop talking. He’s always telling jokes and imitating TV characters. He may have only just arrived at Thornhill but he’s been preceded by his reputation. His record of behaviour at primary school wasn’t brilliant. Robbie-Joe recalls being badly behaved for four out of five days “so 80% of the time”. But Thornhill’s staff aren’t going to let him slip. Mrs Marsden, his head of year, and Miss Uren, his form tutor, are quickly doing all they can to make sure he doesn’t fall into the same pattern of behaviour at secondary school. But tackling the exuberance of an endlessly loveable rogue like Robbie-Joe is easier said than done.
This episode follows the paths of two Year 11 students from very different friendship groups as they go through their defining last few months of school. Jac-Henry is a well-behaved and generally quiet member of a tight-knit group of friends sometimes branded ‘boffs’ by others in Year 11. He has had problems with being picked on over his time at school. The school have worked hard to stop this but he has, on rare occasions, taken matters into his own hands and reacted to it. Georgia is queen bee of the “cool group”, wearing the crown of probably the most boisterous, funny and beloved of the popular girls. However, she can also challenge Thornhill’s staff with sometimes tricky behaviour.
Interactions between the two students are rare but during one lunch break their paths happen to cross. This chance encounter turns into a major flashpoint as Jac-Henry seemingly lashes out. It’s unclear who is in the wrong and whether Jac-Henry has been provoked. The school is forced to make tough decisions and fast about what must be done. Jac-Henry is full of regret and remorse but the teachers ultimately make the difficult choice to remove him from lessons for a few days and put him on a course of anger management with a school support worker. On this occasion the decision is made not to punish Georgia.
As the term progresses, Jac-Henry works hard at his anger management and seems to be progressing well. Georgia’s behaviour, on the other hand, goes downhill. So much so that Mr Mitchell and his team are forced to resort to one of their harshest (and most effective) discipline techniques: warning Georgia that if she doesn’t improve her conduct she may not be able to go to the end of school prom. The subject of months of planning the prom is the most important event in the school calendar. For Georgia and her friends in particular the idea of missing it is unthinkable.
Mr Mitchell and his team feel that it’s a vital part of their job to teach students lessons to prepare them for life beyond the school gates. This means it’s hard to make exceptions for behaviour that breaks the rules. As the year draws to a close and further challenges develop for both students, deciding what justice should be for Georgia and Jac-Henry is a tough call for the Thornhill staff. When school is about learning lessons for the real world, both students soon discover they have to be responsible for their own actions and that their behaviour can result in tough consequences. For both teens, their friends are always by their side as they negotiate their way through the twists and turns.
This film weaves together two very different coming of age tales that cross paths in unexpected and dramatic ways. Showing both hard-hitting and impossibly heart-warming moments of teenage life, it explores the role of a modern school where mistakes carry consequences and lessons must be learned.
Georgia, 16, is a much-loved member of Thornhill’s coolest of cool crowds. Bright and boisterous with a riotous sense of humour, she’s a big personality – a whirlwind of hair, makeup and heartfelt opinions. But what she doesn’t lack in energy and charisma, she sometimes does in self control. Georgia inspires affection from her friends and wariness from staff in equal measure. She has a long history of explosive outbursts at Thornhill.
For her final year in school though, she seems to be turning over a new leaf with her sights set on avoiding exclusion and being at the end of year Prom - which persistent troublemakers will be banned from attending …
Jac Henry is 16 and a firm fixture in one of Year 11’s closest-knit friendship groups. Studious, unassuming and sensitive he hasn’t always found the cut and thrust of school life easy but he has earned the respect and affection of a vast swathe of mates for his sense of humour, sense of purpose and profound sense of moral direction. Jac believes, “a man’s true wealth is measured by the good he does in the world”, and wants to be a psychologist working with troubled young people after A-Levels and University.
Filmed at Thornhill Community Academy near Dewsbury, this brand new eight-part series captures every detail of life in the school from playground hijinks and inspirational lessons to life-changing events. It follows the work of Headteacher Jonny Mitchell, himself born and raised in the area, to better the chances for all his students and build on successive years of improving exam results. Helped by a stellar team of staff, Mr Mitchell is on a quest to drive up standards and improve the reputation of his school in the local area. He’s determined that every child leaves his school having achieved their full potential - be that a full-complement of A*s or managing that vital C grade in English and Maths – as well as ensuring that the students graduate as model citizens with excellent manners and morals.
From the Year 7s to Year 11s, from the newly qualified teacher to the headmaster, this series shows what it is like to grow up and work in one of Britain’s secondary schools. Located at the heart of a diverse northern community and with a student population that is almost exactly half white-British and half British-Asian, the school offers a fascinating insight into modern school life in the UK. Told with warmth and humour, Educating Yorkshire explores the universally-recognisable themes of teenage life and those all-important pupil-teacher relationships which lie at the heart of everyone's formative years.
Series Directors: Grace Reynolds & David Brindley
Executive Producer: David Clews & Andrew Mackenzie-Betty
Production Company: Two Four