The head teacher of Thornhill Community Academy, currently featuring in TV show Educating Yorkshire, has said the response to the series has been “overwhelming”.
And the school is already reaping the rewards of nationwide fame, with pupils from Dewsbury and beyond transferring to the academy, which has been widely praised for the dedication of its staff and the way they support their pupils.
Mr Mitchell also said he was thrilled that the series was having an impact on the way teachers and education are viewed by the public. “I’ve had letters, phone calls and emails from people who said they used to think teachers were whingers, worked short hours and had lots of holidays,” he added. “But I think we’ve shown how much hard work goes into it.”
Last week, maths teacher Michael Steer’s dogged determination in the face of illness earned him huge praise on social networking sites. “He’s become a bit of a national hero,” Mr Mitchell said.
“If it’s done anything to make people aware of the day to day realities, then that’s a really positive thing. It’s come out of the realm of entertainment and it’s having an impact.”
Before the series began, Mr Mitchell said one of his main hopes was that the show would transform the way Dewsbury people see Thornhill Community Academy – the school is under-subscribed – and it seems it’s already working. Around 30 children from Dewsbury schools and the wider area have joined in the first half-term of school. The figure is normally around seven or eight.
An open day earlier this month also saw twice the number of parents and children attending than normal. “It’s good that people want to come and see us, but now we have the chance to really show them how good we are, how good the facilities and teaching are, and how much we care,” Mr Mitchell said.
Two jobs that have come up at the school, which were only advertised through Twitter, have also seen a big response from prospective teachers.
While Mr Mitchell said the vast majority of correspondence had been positive, earlier episodes, which featured incidents of bullying and racist name calling, had attracted some criticism. But he stressed that pupils who feature heavily in the series gave consent to appear and have support from the school, Channel 4 and a team of psychologists.
The final episode, which Mr Mitchell describes as a “tearjerker”, will air next Thursday.