Do you ever find yourself flummoxed at how much schooling and education has changed over the years? Do you ever wonder exactly what your kids get up to during the school day? If so, a new TV series called Class of Mum and Dad may have some answers for you and I have been fortunate enough to have been given a sneak preview of the first episode.
The premise of the show, which has been produced by Firecracker Productions, is very simple. A group of intrepid mums and dads joined their own children and spent half a term at Blackrod Primary School near Bolton where they followed exactly the same curriculum as Year Six pupils. The parents were a diverse bunch with an average age of 40; train drivers, decorators, legal secretaries etc.
When I say exactly, I mean exactly. They had their own class, 6M, and their teacher was Mrs Mead, who has 15 years’ experience at the school. The 6M pupils wore the same school uniforms, ate the same food and even took part in sports day.
The headteacher, Mr Dryburgh, struck me as a very forward-looking character. He admitted at the beginning of the episode there was a chance some in the teaching world would take a dim view of Class of Mum and Dad. I warmed to him very quickly as his retort to this was to say: “If you don’t take risks, we’d still be in the cave.”
He also made a very good point for anyone who struggles with fronted adverbials, inverse mathematics and all the other modern teaching methods that are foreign to parents of my age. He said:
“Change is constant. If you’re a parent in your early thirties, your experience of primary school is already 20 years distant.”
School is such a formative part of everyone’s life that it’s easy to forget just how long ago you were in the classroom and how much education has changed. My eldest child, Helen, is in year Four and I will freely admit her homework sometimes leaves me stumped.
What of the pupils who made up the Class of Mum and Dad? How did they get on returning to the school environment?
Within moments of arriving Mrs Mead tells them they must remove their jewellery. They are also presented with a mathematics test that results in the most poignant moments of the first episode.
Julia is a legal secretary. The mathematics test is too much for her and she leaves the room and seeks sanctuary in the girl’s lavatory to cry.
Mrs Mead goes after her to check she’s okay. Julia explains to Mrs Mead that it brought back unpleasant memories of her school days. Julia had been bullied, referring to younger self as: “The little fat girl, not pretty, not academic.”
Mrs Mead said the experience with Julia made her reflective. In not so many words, she said she could see how important it was to be supportive of pupils, so they didn’t carry such bad memories into adulthood.
I won’t reveal too much more, suffice it to say that later on in the same episode Julia is teamed-up with 52-year-old Mark who has two sons at the school, both living with autism. Together Julia and Mark, who is a very warm character, work on a mathematics project. Things go much better when they work as a pair and you can see a real camaraderie between them.
There are also some very funny, lighter moments. Some of the parents get a message about the importance of regular exercise when they undertake their first PE lesson. One of the mums smuggles a fidget spinner into the playground and one of the dads asks if he can go for a cigarette during the lunch break. He tries and fails to persuade Mrs Mead that it’s addiction and he should therefore be allowed to smoke!
This and much more was all in the first episode. I am hooked, it has been filmed in a very sympathetic way and the show is interspersed with the kids passing comment on how they find school.
Episode one airs tomorrow night (Tuesday, April 10, 2018) at 8pm on Channel 4. I hope you’ll have the chance to watch it and enjoy it as much as I did.
Mrs Mead said early on in the first episode: “I don’t think a lot of parents understand what happens when that door closes at 9am.”
She says that most children, when asked what happened during their school day will say simply: “Nothing.” It’s a response I’m sure all parents of school-aged children have heard many a time.
This first episode introduces us to the school and to the characters that make up 6M. As the weeks go by I look forward to learning more about what genuinely goes on during the school day.