First-day nerves

TV Times - - Real Life - Sarah Sel­wood

Head­teacher Tony Harpham on let­ting cam­eras cap­ture his pupils’ first days at his pri­mary school

Start­ing pri­mary school is a big step for ev­ery child – and their mum­mies and dad­dies. And with fourand five-year-olds across the UK be­gin­ning their ad­ven­ture this month, a one-off C5 doc­u­men­tary is tak­ing us be­hind the school gates to re­veal what life is re­ally like for lit­tle ones in re­cep­tion class.

Filmed over seven school days last year at Walton Pri­mary Acad­emy in Wake­field, West York­shire, First Day at Big School uses fixed and roam­ing cam­eras to cap­ture the tri­umphs, tears and tantrums as 44 wide-eyed boys and girls nav­i­gate their first week.

‘It was my first day at this school as well!’ laughs head­teacher Tony Harpham, 50, as he chats to TV Times. ‘I was work­ing at an English school in Kuwait when

I got the job in March last year. To­wards the end of the school year, my pre­de­ces­sor emailed, say­ing: “By the way, did we men­tion that we’ve agreed to do a TV pro­gramme?” I replied: “No, you didn’t!”

‘There have been other pro­grammes, like Ed­u­cat­ing

York­shire, but they’ve all been based in sec­ondary schools. The pri­mary school area is not some­thing I’ve seen much about. Ob­vi­ously there’s a bit of trep­i­da­tion about hav­ing TV cam­eras in the school, but I was game.

‘I don’t know how they chose us, but I’d say it’s a fairly typ­i­cal pri­mary school, so it gives a good snap­shot of what goes on in this area of learn­ing for this age. There’s no smoke or mir­rors, this pro­gramme is just a true re­flec­tion of what the cam­eras picked up – it makes you laugh, cry and smile.’

The hour-long doc­u­men­tary fo­cuses on the jour­neys of five pupils – con­fi­dent Os­car, shy Beth, in­de­pen­dent Fred­die, out­go­ing Layla and model pupil Emily. We see them flour­ish in dif­fer­ent ways as they learn to make friends and the rules of the class­room.

Is it re­ward­ing to see them grow in con­fi­dence in such a short time?

‘It is,’ an­swers Tony, who’s been in the teach­ing pro­fes­sion since 1999 and pro­gressed to lead­er­ship roles in 2007. ‘It can be the most sub­tle thing, too. For ex­am­ple, just get­ting a child to say “Good morn­ing” to you is a big thing for them and it’s a big thing for us as well. It’s im­por­tant to cel­e­brate the small steps to suc­cess, as the slight­est thing can make a big difference to a child’s ed­u­ca­tion.’

We chat to ded­i­cated Tony a week be­fore the start of this year’s au­tumn term – and he can’t wait to wel­come a brand new batch of chil­dren to the school.

‘I’m look­ing for­ward to it – it does feel like a long time since July,’ he says. ‘At the start of each term, I al­ways say to the chil­dren, “En­joy ev­ery day be­cause, be­fore you know it, it will be the end of the school year”. I’ve never worked in any other job where ev­ery day just goes in a flash!’

First Day at Big School sun­day / C5 / 7.00Pm

Tony aims to give pupils a head start

It was my first day at this school as well The kids soon learn how to be­have in a class­room

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