After his mission to eradicate Turkey Twizzlers from school menus, Jamie Oliver is now switching his attention to what children learn in the classroom.
Next week sees the start of Jamie’s Dream School, a seven-part Channel 4 series where the TV chef recruits a host of celebrities to teach 20 disillusioned teenagers who left school with few qualifications.
The science teacher is fertility expert Lord Winston (who’s already hit the headlines for getting the boys in the class to study their own sperm). History is taught by Dr David Starkey, politics by spin doctor Alastair Campbell, drama by Simon Callow, music by Jazzie B, art by Rolf Harris and maths by economist Alvin Hall. Other experts helping out include barrister Cherie Booth, sailor Ellen MacArthur, rapper Tinchy Stryder and former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion.
Over a period of two months the teachers attempt to inspire their students, all aged 16 to 18, and persuade them to return to education. But as the celebs soon discover, teaching is an awful lot harder than it looks. I’m speaking from experience. I tried my hand at teaching the same age group a few years ago and it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.
21st century students are very demanding pupils. Teachers can’t simply stand at the front and drone on – or they’ll bore the class to tears. They have to come up with attention-grabbing lessons, keep the students on track at all times and ensure they actually learn something along the way.
Looking back, I’m not sure I taught my lot very much at all. One girl fell asleep every lesson, a boy whizzed his skateboard along the classroom floor, others chatted and texted pals when I wasn’t looking and as for handing their work on time – sorry, it rarely happened.
Now Jamie has seen what life in the classroom is like too and he’s quick to praise the teachers who do it day in day out. “I have to say that I’ve never admired teachers more than I do now,” he says.
“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. 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.”
Jamie’s Dream School starts on March 2 on Channel 4. Viewers can see full-length YouTube videos of the teachers’ lessons at www.youtube.com/dreamschool and Jamie Oliver is also launching a search to find Britain’s most inspirational teachers. To find out more, go to www.youtube.com/dreamteachers.