How Firth Park is helping to paint a positive picture of modern teaching

For a whole term, students at Firth Park Academy on Fircroft Avenue Sheffield were under the watchful eyes of 36 tv cameras around the school grounds for the third series of the CBBC documentary 'Our School'.
For a whole term, students at Firth Park Academy on Fircroft Avenue Sheffield were under the watchful eyes of 36 tv cameras around the school grounds for the third series of the CBBC documentary 'Our School'.

How wonderful it has been over the last few weeks to see a Sheffield school celebrated on national television.

The third series of CBBC’s Our School has been filmed at Firth Park Academy and gives an entertaining insight into life at the school and what it’s like for youngsters making the difficult transition from Year 6 to Year 7.

The section when a child falls asleep in a talk about what happens if they get put on report was memorable

Getting involved in the programme was a forward-thinking move from the SLT at Firth Park – they get a chance to show the nation the great things that are taking place in lessons over at that side of the city.

But it was also a brave move. These fly-on- the-wall documentaries are all about the editing; the opinion the audience has of the place depends entirely on which footage is left in the editing room, which remains in the programme and the order it’s used in.

The school invited cameras in to film lessons through much of last year. There were cameras in the corridor, cameras in the classroom, cameras in the yard, cameras in the dining room – even cameras invited back to the home of teachers and pupils. Opening yourself up like that is a great leap of faith, but it’s one that was embraced by the headteacher. And Firth Park has come across brilliantly in the show so far.

The teachers who have been the main focus for the programme have been shown to be humorous, talented, innovative and inspiring people – have a look what goes on in Mrs Black’s history class and in geography with Mr Webb.

Obviously, there have been moments when people have been caught off-guard. The section when a child falls asleep in a talk about what happens if they get put on report was memorable, as was their thoughts about how boring the member of staff was after it. But it was soon overshadowed by explosions in science.

The two teachers running the show are both called Mr Jones. Both inspirational teachers, one of them narrates the programme really well and the other has been shown to be a very hands-on boss.

Balding headteacher Dean Jones was first spotted in a high-visibility vest greeting students as they arrived at school in the morning, directing children without a tie to go and get one of the school spares.

Filmed from afar, this was not for the cameras and it was genuinely great to see the headteacher getting involved and making himself very visible to the kids – quite literally.

Educators will feel their mouths drop when they learn that this Sheffield headteacher actually still teaches lessons as well. Too many headteachers are solely occupied with the running of the school, but at Firth Park the boss still rolls up his sleeves and delivers his aims and objectives for a few periods a week. As well as showing off the teaching talent in north Sheffield, Our School has a much more significant impact on those watching it.

What the kids and teachers at Firth Park have done – as well as having a lot of fun making a TV show – is provide a tool that eases Year 7 pupils into their new school.

Moving up to secondary can be a scary venture and it gives children a lot of unrest over the summer before it. But the warts-and- all documentary following year sevens at Firth Park lets thousands of 11-year-olds throughout the country know that they’re not alone.

The trials and tribulations they are facing in their new school are the same in others and this “we’re in it together” feeling can be reassuring to struggling youngsters when they stream it on iPlayer.

Episodes show the anxieties and worries of children preparing to start school and that life in Year 7 is not all milk and cookies, but there are plenty of upsides.

Overall the programme delivers a deservedly positive picture of teaching in 2017 and it’s extremely pleasing to see a Sheffield school at the heart of it. Of course, many kids watching it will conclude that their school isn’t as exciting as Firth Park. The whole place seems to buzzing and the teachers appear to be a talented bunch of award winners.

Naturally, when the cameras rolled in their classroom they will have put on a real show, pulling out all the stops and giving it their all. It will have been like OFSTED with frills.

But even when you take that into account, the way of life and environment at Firth Park has come across as massively positive, caring, inspirational – and fun.

It’s this last element – the fun – that is often forgotten in a world of spreadsheets, data collections and league tables. A school that doesn’t include fun is a school that has taken the first step on a slippery slope.

Well done to all involved in putting together Our School. You’re an inspiration to the nation.