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Educating Greater Manchester's uplifting insight into digital school life shows it's a constant education - episode six review

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 05/10/2017 By Gerard O'Donovan
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I get fonder and fonder of Educating Greater Manchester (Channel 4). Episode six focused on a keenly contemporary topic, best expressed by the delightfully irascible "head of behaviour" at Harrop Fold School,  Mr Chambers.

“I hate social media. It is the  bane of my life,” Chambers fizzed.  In an earlier episode his failure to know what the dating app Tinder  was prompted widespread hilarity. This week, the object of his rancour was Snapchat, thanks to a call for  a school-wide “trainer strike”  issued anonymously via the messaging app.

In the event it proved a feeble footwear revolution and was quickly stamped out. Offenders were condemned to an ironically analogue punishment: writing out lines (“I  do not make the rules here. We wear the same uniform because we are a team. I do not make…”)

All of which proved how nowadays teachers and students face challenges not dreamed of in pre-digital times.

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“It would be a nonsense to try and stop children bringing phones to school,” insisted deputy head, Mr Povey (the brother of the head teacher Mr Povey; there’s no calling teachers by first name here, no matter how confusing it gets). “It is new exciting technology. Why wouldn’t we embrace it?”

Indeed the school’s policy of actively intervening to encourage pupils to use social media responsibly seemed far more enlightened and effective – as evidenced by the  careful handling of crises such as the fallout from one student sending photos of her scantily clad self to an indiscrete admirer. 

In the end, it was the more old-world anxieties of another pupil – a heavy metal music fan struggling with social anxiety – that best exemplified just how far the teachers will go to support a student. In this instance encouraging him to do what he wanted most – play the drums – and organising an opportunity for him  to shine at a school concert, which appeared to work wonders.

Of course we never get the whole story, and complex problems aren’t always so easily solved. But it is uplifting to see, week after week, the dedicated staff at Harrop Fold doing such a terrific job of trying. 

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