The BBC goes back to school, and the man who died twice in soaps.
BBC2’s new documentary Tough Times looks at one school’s unusual approach to discipline. Miranda France skives off Games to talk to director Diane Tammes behind the bike shed.
‘The reason I’m raising my voice is because I always do that when I’m upset. I’m upset because I don’t know what to do. We’ve talked about it, we’ve painted pictures about it, we’ve had staff meetings about it. We’ve gone over and over and over it and I cannot think what to do. But I tell you one thing -— I will not tolerate what happened in the playground yesterday from any of you!’
There’s no beating about the bush when head teacher Geoff Sanders has something important to say in Assembly, but then the children at Culloden Primary school in London’s Tower Hamlets expect straight talking from their teachers. It is a multi-racial school where ﬁghts are few and far between and every child plays the violin. Too harmonious to be true maybe, the school is to be found in London’s halcyon Docklands and is the subject of a six-part documentary, Tough Times, made by Double Exposure Productions for BBCZ and starting on 15 January.
Culloden Primary School serves the Aberfeldy Estate in Tower Hamlets. One third of the pupils are white, the rest are Afro-Caribbean, Bengali, Chinese and Somalian. The school puts the relative lack of racial strife down to the fact that the discussion and solution of problems is a vital part of life there — something to which staff and pupils must address themselves before the business of teaching can be got on with. Children are expected to take responsibility for their
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Head teacher Geolt Sanders with children lrom Culloden Primary School.
disputes and ﬁnd solutions which don’t involve grievous bodily harm in the playground.
During the time that they researched and ﬁlmed the series, Director Diane Tammes and her film unit spent a year sitting in on classes at Culloden. She was impressed with what she saw. ‘They’re just asked to think for themselves. It’s very important that they actually talk through their behaviour — and not just the negative things the positive things as well. At the beginning of each day they have a ‘circle‘ — everybody sits round in a circle and they talk about what they’ve done at the weekend, or during the holiday, or things that happen day to day, and any new information or events that any of the childen have
experienced are discussed.‘
Call me cynical. but I remember a particular history lesson in class 4a. We were all asked to reflect upon a collective misdemeanor — rowdiness on a school outing, I think — and then apologise for what we had done. Most of the children spent the time stifling giggles, the rest sat in hopeless silence, and, far from getting an apology, the affronted teacher nearly exploded with rage. Diane Tammes did not see much sniggering in the back rows at Culloden: ‘Quite a lot of the children had been there since they were three and a half. There were children coming and going all the time and the children who had come in from a more formal education obviously did
I ; feel that it was different because they weren't
used to being asked their opinions, but I think that children who had been there for some time just thought that was the way school should be.‘ This is not necessarily to say that Culloden’s
method could be a panacea for all schools. ‘What we’re doing is showing how one school copes with children brought up on a multi-racial estate, and how they actually come to terms with all the
' . problems, positive and negative, which are
: brought to the school because ofthat. A lot of the ' staff have been there for a long time and they
hmvolved a way of operating in the school,
and that’s the way they cope with it. They do cope. Another school, I’m sure, would do it quite differently. We were trying to bring out what is happening in the place and not impose on it what we think should be happening.’
Diane Tammes’ enthusiasm for the school and the commitment of the staff is tempered by her feeling that its continuing success is under threat. ‘As resources shrink, and money becomes less and less, it‘s obviously harder to keep this kind of school going because part of what the school relies on is the staff staying, being happy, feeling they can work together. They're kept together by the ethos of the school. I think that, if anything. what we’re saying at the end of the series is, “How long can this school continue? How long
I will the teachers be able to stay and carry on ; working in the way they want to?” ’
Culloden: Tough Times is shown by BBC? on Tue 15, 9.50-10.30pm.
DEATHWATCH Double blow
to paraphrase some old lovey: ‘Loslng your tile in one major British soap opera could be said to be an accident, but dying in two smacks oi carelessness.‘
Alan Hothwell was the actor responsible lor the twin corpses. ln Coronation Street. in the clean-cut 60s, he played Ken Barlow’s happy-go-Iucky kid brother: a Beatles-loving,
GOThe List ll-24January 1991
motorbike-crazy proiessional lootballer who looked set to become Weatherlield's answerto Gena until his career was tragically cut short by a combination at a knee injury, marriage to Stan and Hilda Ogden’s daughter lrma, and a iatal car accident down
Two decades later, lollowlng a stint as presenter oi low-budget klddles' show Music Box (many a toddler was plagued by Mum’s gleelul cry ol 'lt's little Davie Barlowl’), Hothwell returned lrom the grave to star ln Brookside as Heather Haversham’s
new husband Hick Black, a quiet, chummy sort ol chap on the surlace, but by night a secret smack addict, constantly supplied by his sinister mate Fat Charlie. Nick was subsequently lound lrozen stitt in Seity Park, and Hothwell's agent raised his eyes to heaven and got back on the phone.
So, it you should happen to spot Hothwell reappearing as, say, the new barman in the Queen Vic, my advice is to get your bets on at Ladbrokes lor an early demise. The man’s lorm speaks lor ltsell. (Tom Lappin)