Jamie's Dream School

Category: News Release

Nearly half of British children leave education without the qualifications they need to succeed. Jamie Oliver was one of them: he left school at 16 with just two GCSEs.

Now he wants to do something about it. So he's bringing together some of Britain's most inspirational and expert individuals to try to persuade 20 young people, with just a handful of qualifications between them, to give education a second chance.

The kids, aged from 16 to 18, will be taught a range of subjects, supervised by an experienced head teacher, John D'Abbro.

The science teacher is Professor Robert Winston, history is taught by Dr David Starkey, politics by Alastair Campbell, drama by Simon Callow, music by Jazzie B, art by Rolf Harris, maths by Alvin Hall and sport by Olympic gold-medallist Daley Thompson

Other experts lending their weight to the project include former poet laureate Andrew Motion, hip hop vocalist Tinchy Stryder, sailor Ellen Macarthur, photographer Rankin, barrister Cherie Blair, actor Dominic West, classics professor Mary Beard, explorer David Hempleman Adams, environmentalist Jane Poynter, school dinner lady Nora Sands and former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan.

The project comes as 47% of British children fail to gain five GCSEs at grade A*-C, including English and Maths.

The issues faced by the students are diverse: Angelique moved home and school because of increasing violence in her area; Aysha lost the year before her GCSEs when her family sent her back to Bangladesh for unruly behaviour; Connor, from an old East End family, couldn't see the point of school and has been doing odd jobs labouring since leaving; and Jamal was bullied at school.

In the first programme of the series, David Starkey shows the class some seventh-century 'bling' from the Staffordshire Hoard, worth millions. A traditionalist, he plans to take a firm hand with bad behaviour, but he gets off to a difficult start when he and a student trade insults.

Meanwhile, actor Simon Callow wants to enthuse the children about Shakespeare by showing how relevant the bard is to today's society. Robert Winston, a doctor, scientist and founding father of IVF, wants to try a very hands-on approach with the kids, so he has them dissecting rats and a pig. And Jazzie B, who found fame with group Soul II Soul, wants to turn the students into composers.

The project's just begun, but Jamie already has a crisis on his hands: while David Starkey demands that the students' discipline is addressed, head teacher John D'Abbro thinks it might be the distinguished historian who needs to re-think his approach.

As well as the intensive and inspirational reintroduction to learning provided at Dream School, the project will be providing long-term expert support to help the kids get back into education.

The series raises the issue of why so many young people are unengaged by education and asks what more could be done by society and the educational system to help them. It also aims to find out if the new teachers can translate their real-life expertise into the realities of the classroom.

"Nearly half of Britain's young people leave school without the recommended minimum of qualifications - I was one of them!" says Jamie Oliver. "So I wanted to see if we could inspire some of these young people - a handful of those kids who hadn't been inspired at their own schools - by creating a school where the teachers were absolute experts in their subjects.

"I have to say that I've never admired teachers more than I do now. Until you've tried it, you can't possibly know what it's like standing in front of a group of young people who aren't interested in what you're saying. And I think all the Dream School teachers came away with this huge respect for teachers.

"I thought they were all really smart kids - a lot of them had trouble paying attention, but once you got them inspired in whatever subject grabbed them, their qualities really shone through.

"How did we cope? I won't spoil the programme, but let's just say that some teachers found it more of a challenge than others."

Jamie's Dream School isn't just a TV series: the curriculum is available to everyone. Fifty of the teachers' lessons will be available to watch in full on a dedicated You Tube channel - www.youtube.com/dreamschool - from Simon Callow's class grappling with Shakespeare to Alastair Campbell inspiring his class to campaign for their beliefs. 

There's more exclusive content at www.channel4.com/dreamschool, including 40 'Dream School Guides', such as David Starkey's guide to gangsters and bling and Robert Winston's guide to sperm. 

And in a unique partnership with YouTube, Jamie Oliver is kicking off the search to find Britain's Dream Teachers. If you know an inspirational teacher who can explain the hardest concepts in the most engaging way, visit www.youtube.com/dreamteachers

If you are tweeting about Jamie's Dream School please use the hashtag #dreamschool