Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

A School of Hard Knocks - and Second Chances

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

A School of Hard Knocks - and Second Chances

Article excerpt

TV documentary examines life for pupils after exclusion

Jess is a screaming whirlwind of anger, frustration and aggression. Her arms fly. Her hair flies. "Let go of me! Let go of me!" she yells. "Permanently exclude me! I don't care!"

Jess is one of the students featured in Excluded: kicked out of school, a three-part documentary that begins on Tuesday. It is a fly-on-the-wall observation of a year inside Bridge AP Academy, an alternative-provision school in London for pupils who have been excluded from mainstream education.

Jess began acting up when her father moved out of the family home. Meanwhile, Millie - shown yelling "crustified monkey" at another pupil - was a prefect at primary school. Her problems began when her mother and her older sibling died within a year of each other.

Seamus Oates, executive headteacher of the network that runs the school, says such stories are not uncommon among the 4,500 pupils excluded from secondary school in England each year. "They're young, but they've experienced things that no young people should experience," he says. "Or that young people do experience, but with good support networks around them. Our learners are often facing this stuff on their own, and have faced it on their own for a long time."

Bridge AP Academy is the latest school to invite the cameras in, after the huge popularity of the likes of Educating Essex and Tough Young Teachers. Mr Oates was initially wary, however. "What I didn't want was a programme making entertainment out of naughty children," he says.

"But I wanted recognition of the work we do. A word I used a lot during filming was 'context'. Obviously, there was a lot of negative behaviour, but I wanted them to give it context: why the behaviour is taking place and the support around it."

Ellena Wood, the series director, hopes the BBC3 documentary will help viewers to see the human stories behind the misbehaviour. …

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