Welcome to Passmores
By: Vic Goddard, Head Teacher
Telling someone you have just met at a dinner party that you are a head teacher is usually the beginning of a long conversation about what teachers were like in their day and what schools are like now; almost without exception focussing on the negatives and how appalling young people are today.
Taking part in this series was a chance to give a true insight into a normal school in the 21st century.
Passmores is a comprehensive school that strives every day to serve the community of Harlow. We don't handpick which students come through the door, but we do everything in our power to ensure that no one leaves without having the qualifications and experiences to become good citizens.
I'm very proud to say that the school has just been awarded Academy status and is rated 'outstanding' by Ofsted. And this year's GCSE results are the fifth year running we have beaten our local authority targets, with 84% of students gaining five or more A*-C grades (up 17% on last year) and 50% A*-C including English and Maths.
The question I have been asked most often by other head teachers is why we said 'yes' to having 60-plus cameras installed all over the school - including in classrooms, corridors and offices.
The easiest answer is that we are proud of the work we do, both with the 98% of perfectly behaved young people and also the 2% who find it more difficult to exist within the rules of our school (and often wider society). We love serving the community of Harlow - and that includes all the highs and lows of dealing with 900-plus 11-16-year-olds!
Of course, we take our responsibilities to our students very seriously and we have been very careful to ensure that pupils, staff and parents were kept informed at all stages about the filming and that their consent to feature in the series was sought. We've also been given the chance to see the finished programmes to check they are accurate and fair. I'm pleased to say I'm very happy with the results!
I am sure some people will watch the series and view the approach we take as being too liberal and criticise us; there will be people in the media and public alike that will be shouting at the TV screen 'just kick them out'. As far as we are concerned, that would be the easy way out.
If we just permanently exclude students when the going gets tough, who is going to help redirect these young people to avoid them becoming the underbelly of our society in the future? Being a head teacher is about moral purpose and ensuring I can look myself in the eye in the morning when I do up my tie, knowing that we have done all we can to ensure that EVERY student has a future that can contribute to society positively.
I hope people remember that while the senior leadership team and the mentors around the school are dealing with a difficult situation the rest of the students are in lessons, being taught by professionals who are determined to help them to be successful.
One of the most remarkable parts of the filming was how quickly we forgot that the cameras were there. The journey home at the end of the day became a process of dissecting everything you did during the day and trying to imagine how that would look to everyone at home.
The fixed rig cameras seemed to have very little impact on the young people of the school but I am sure I noticed an increase in new clothing for the duration of the filming.
I hope that the viewers will take away the opinion that Passmores is a school where passionate and caring professionals go above and beyond what they are paid for to care for the young people we are entrusted to look after.
Parents want to know that someone is looking after their child and caring for them every minute of the day; I know that our school does that and I hope that is obvious.
We have all heard the saying 'school days are the best of your life', but how many 16-year-olds actually believe that? I hope when viewers get to see the emotional goodbyes from our year 11 students that they will see just how much school meant to them.