Council leader criticised for remarks over school documentary

December 19 2018

South Gloucestershire Council’s Conservative leader has come under fire for branding those who take a BBC Two documentary highlighting school pressures at face value “naive”.

Councillor Toby Savage said the London-based production company, faced with hundreds of hours of footage from across three schools, was “always likely to focus on the most controversial and provocative aspects that will earn them the most ratings”.

He was keen to challenge the “negative narrative” about education in the area but opposition members said School depicts the reality – and the “dire” situation had forced 58 headteachers to enter the debate on fair funding.

The six-part documentary was filmed at Marlwood School and Castle School, as well as Mangotsfield School, which are in the same multi-academy trust.

Cllr Savage said in a written statement to Wednesday’s full council meeting: “Funding is a significant challenge for schools in South Gloucestershire and the programme demonstrates this, but to take this TV series completely at face value is naïve.”

“When a production company has hundreds of hours of footage from across three schools, they are always likely to focus on the most controversial and provocative aspects that will earn them the most ratings.”

Labour’s Cllr Ian Boulton said the issues raised in the documentary had been verified by his constituents: “When in your answer you talk about people being naive thinking this isn’t an unfair reflection and it has been edited to be sensationalised – that’s not the perspective I get,” he said.  “I find it offensive you’re calling my residents naive.  Please don’t dismiss anyone who says this is their experience.”

Liberal Democrat Cllr Ian Blair had proposed a motion calling for the council to back the 58 headteachers who took “the unprecedented step of publicly entering the debate around fair funding”.