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Excluded: How we made the BBC School Season drama

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Misha Manson-Smith | 16:18 UK time, Thursday, 16 September 2010

I'm the director of Excluded, a one-off drama and part of BBC Two's School Season.

It's set in the fictional The Lamont School, a struggling comprehensive in north London. Spanning the first few weeks of a new school year, the drama charts the intersecting stories of Amanda, an ambitious headmistress, Ian, an idealistic new maths teacher, and Mark, a troubled and disruptive pupil.

Mark, played by George Whitehead and Ian, played by Bryan Dick

The heart of the film is in Ian and Mark's fractious relationship, but it also engages with some of the key issues and dilemmas facing both staff and pupils around the country right now.

I first heard about the project through one of its executive producers, Eleanor Moran.

We'd worked together on BBC Three drama pilot, Stanley Park, which I directed, and were discussing what next.

I was keen to find a story that was immediate, real and relevant and when Eleanor told me about Excluded, a film she was producing in a unique collaboration with the BBC's factual department for the School Season, and written by Brian Fillis (Fear of Fanny, Curse of Steptoe), I was immediately interested.

When I then read the script, I was struck by the authenticity of the classroom scenes and how Brian had managed to distinguish this film from its many formidably excellent forebears (such as Good Will Hunting or The Class), but also by how much the classroom scenes are actually about the teaching of the subject (in this case maths), rather than being all about the digressions.

In case you're wondering how ready you are to sit down to an hour of algebra, I can honestly say those are some of the most compelling bits!

So, all very exciting. The only catch was that, because of its topicality, it had to be made incredibly fast. In fact we had just eight weeks to deliver the film - around half the time one might expect to spend on a drama like this.

If that wasn't already enough of a challenge, we also had to contend with new legislation coming through over the summer.

Undeterred, our brilliant producer Caroline Levy brought on board leading experts on both Academies and exclusions to consult throughout the production so that, come September, we were sure it would be as factually accurate and bang up to date as possible.

Next, Caroline and I set out to assemble a crack team who all proved themselves more than up for the challenge. The key word for every department was "authenticity" and never more so than in casting the 50 young actors who brought the classroom scenes to life.

Mark, played by George Whitehead

Our casting director Sarah Counsell had an amazing eye for completely raw talent and so when it came to casting Excluded, she eschewed theatre schools in favour of street casting and drama groups for kids who had themselves been excluded from school.

It was a major undertaking that involved workshopping literally hundreds of kids, but I hope you'll agree it was well worth the trouble, as their performances are effortlessly natural and bursting with wit and energy, despite the fact that none of them - including the lead George Whitehead - had performed in front of a camera before, let alone in a prime time BBC Two drama.

The classroom scenes were a combination of both the script and improvisation. A lot of my past work (such as La La Land, which aired on BBC Three earlier this year) has combined real life with improvisation and scripted elements and I've always been fascinated by that fault line between fact and fiction.

Improvisation often isn't appropriate, but I used it in Excluded as I felt it was essential the classroom scenes were as realistic as possible and that the way the rest of the class react and feed into the drama would be key to making those scenes convincing.

Once we had the scene working with the key cast (those with scripted lines), we'd then improvise around the scene, adding layers of reaction and asides from the rest of the class.

With the scene taking shape we'd then start shooting, but in an unconventional way - rather than working through the scene with one camera filming one actor at a time, we shot with two cameras and several microphones, so the young cast were free to speak out in a way that was natural and instinctive to them, rather than feeling they had to come in with a line at a certain point because it was written that way in the script.

We'd also improvise before and after the scene and avoid calling out loud "action" or "cut", as it all helped them relax into just being those characters, rather than switching on a performance for the camera.

The thing was, none of them had been on a film set before, they had no experience of what a "normal" shoot would be and so we took that opportunity to create a way of working that worked for them and worked for the film, rather than being bound by convention.

A lot of the credit for those scenes should also go to Bryan Dick (Ian) and Craig Parkinson (Gary) who are both brilliant and did a great job of leading the improvisations and bringing them back to the essence of Brian's vision for those scenes.

Ian, played by Bryan Dick

Once the decision was made to shoot the classroom scenes in this way, that in turn dictated where we shot the rest of the film and how it would look.

We had to be able to film with two cameras and follow unpredictable action, so I wanted to film on location at a real school, as on a set it's tough to look in more than one direction at the same time, and if an actor moves off their 'mark' you're likely to see the lights and crew in shot.

We shot for two weeks at The Grange School in Bristol, using parts of the building that had yet to be renovated and with many of their pupils appearing in the film as supporting cast.

I also decided to adopt a handheld, documentary-like style, partly to have that feeling of real life unfolding, but also because it made it acceptable for the lighting, framing and focus to be a little off, as it would have been a shame to lose great moments of performance just because they were less than perfect photographically.

Indeed, it's often those imperfect moments that make it feel real for me.

Excluded isn't a consummate drama with years of development and finessing behind it, but it is a great example of a film that is of its moment, written from the heart, and a story that speaks to the way we live now.

The Academies debate is changing by the week and had we made this film any less quickly, it risked feeling out of date by the time it hit the air.

It was a gamble, but with a great story and a dedicated and talented team both in front of and behind the camera, I think the result is a compelling drama that is fresh, vital and hopefully avoids hitting you over the head with its message.

Misha Manson-Smith is the director of Excluded.

Excluded is on BBC Two at 9pm and BBC HD at 10.30pm on Tuesday, 21 September.


  • Comment number 1.

    As an NQT I thought the programme was excellent. Illustrates the issues teachers are faced with. The managment of the behaviour was everything I have been told 'not' to do on my training. Great viewing.

  • Comment number 2.

    I stumbled upon excluded tonight whilst planning my lessons for tomorrow. As a new maths teacher in my first post, I was amazed at how realistic this program was to the perserpective of the new teacher and recognised some of the characters portrayed in my own school. Excellent emotional film making.

  • Comment number 3.

    this is a very accurate portrayal of exclusion at school

  • Comment number 4.

    This program was deeply moving for me. I felt so desperately sorry for Mark, and it makes me wonder just how many other teenagers out there are in similar situations? It was both saddening and inspiring.

  • Comment number 5.

    Must admit I enjoyed it.As a teacher it actually rang some bells. Not sure about the ´once you are an academy you can attract better staff` line. Then again it may actually be what many Heads at Academies actually think. As a teacher in a non academy school, not quite my or many of my collegues at other schools thought , as many of them are trying to steer a thousand miles away from Academies and everything they stand for.
    Mark was great, not grateful, loved it.

  • Comment number 6.

    Some really valid points raised about the impact of a child's homelife on their behaviour and attitude at school. Also i think it was useful to show that teachers do have different ways of dealing with disruption in their classroom- some rule by bullying (and then hide the way they wind up the student when it comes to reporting the facts), others by actually getting to know and understand the students, some don't manage to deal with it at all...

    I was concerned though by the way a new teacher in the classroom was portrayed on his first day. Having just come out of training he would have been well up tp speed with how to start a lesson- starter on the board, shared lesson objectives, resources etc...however the character was shown to have no real idea of how to start his lesson at all. This is how many of the public expect 'new' teachers to be, but this in fact is not the case for many. It would be great if the BBC could try and move away from the perceived idea of how a new teacher automatically struggles in a classroom and doesn't have a clue how to structure a lesson!

  • Comment number 7.

    just caught the last 10 minutes of tonight's programme .. good tv .. thank you.... as teachers we need to constantly change the way we communicate to help make learning enjoyable... every person learns differently and we need to recognise this.. more please..

  • Comment number 8.

    I'm a teacher, working with children who have behavioural issues and I loved this programme. It highlighted that many teachers disregard the effect of home-life on a child's performance in school. Many teachers have the view that they deserve respect, purely because they are teachers, and make no effort to respect the feelings and situations of the pupils themselves. Every behaviour has a root cause. Teaching styles and attitudes can have a huge effect on the self esteem of the children in class, and self esteem in turn can have a huge effect on both behaviour and achievement. I only hope that it made some teachers reflect honestly on their own attitudes. Well done.

  • Comment number 9.

    Really good film. Its easy to see these kids as wasters but the vast majority just need some stimulation in an unconventional way. I work with excluded kids on a daily basis and they can be so challenging, but they can be so rewarding as well. If they are allowed to achieve, they usually get really motivated. For a lot of them the only constant in their life is our centre. They have usually had fractious lives from a very early age with little value placed on education. They are not going to be model students in a conventional setting, but given a chance to shine, most of them will. Good film.

  • Comment number 10.

    Well - what did I expect? You tell the tale of a disruptive, insolent rude adolescent - and somehow I knew he was going to have an inadequate mother and a virtually absent father - because it's obviously not his fault he's an obnoxious toe-rag! Of course you have never had to deal, day in and day out, with rude and arrogant pupils. As a teacher who took early retirement, I did! You might be interested to know that some of the worst were the children of clergy - but you won't be showing that, will you!

  • Comment number 11.

    There are always shortcuts and dramatic devices that have to be employed in order distill real life and turn it into a drama for mass media popular consumption. Excluded was thankfully devoid of most of them. As a non-teacher working alongside teaching and support staff across the country I recognised the school, the young people, the staff and the situations.

    The debate about what we can do to deliver the best education to our young people probably belongs elsewhere, and I will continue to contribute, but I'd just offer my congratulations to all those involved in the production. Excellent TV.


  • Comment number 12.

    Hello, Im a student film maker and I was wondering whether you could tell me what sort of editing programs you used for 'Excluded'. Also what cameras did you use during the filming for this project and whether they're accessible to amateurs like myself , (in terms of price) thank you!

  • Comment number 13.

    As a former maths teacher who has taught similar classes in similar schools, I was struck by how real the production is. It was amazing and I found I empathised completely with Ian. I had superiors who were not keen on any innovation but I still get stopped by former pupils who thank me for helping them to "understand" the maths and find its relevance in daily life. I also came across many children like Mark and in some cases managed to help them to make better use of their time in school. I had just as many, probably more, that I could not connect with and feel sad that I let them down. Ian is a good teacher. We need more like him. I hope that this film is shown again and helps to stimulate a worthy debate on what we need to help those who do not rate schooling as worthwhile to become competitive in what is becoming an increasingly knowledge based society.

  • Comment number 14.

    I work as a non teaching member of staff in a secondary school in Scotland and can completely relate to this dramatisation. A minority of our pupils come from 'deprived' backgrounds and have appalling family lives which often, I'm know contributes to their 'bad behaviour'. Some members of staff have the ability and patience to 'deal with' these pupils and the one thing which I witness is the overwhelming tact which often is successful is consistency. The young person needs to know exactly where they stand and what the limits are. Unfortunately, we have far too many staff who threaten continually but never carry through. No matter what the pupil does, they know there will be no consequences. In fact, they are more often than not actually rewarded for their bad behaviour. I honestly do not believe that we are doing any favours to these 'disturbed' young adolescents. Yes, we need to try to help them but not by giving in to them at every turn in the hope that they will suddenly behave well. I've witnessed over a period of 10 years that this categorically does not happen. Secondary schools have the added problem that pupils have several different teachers in one school day. It's never going to be possible for everyone to 'hit it off' with everyone else.

  • Comment number 15.

    it sucks to be that kid i know from personal experience

  • Comment number 16.

    I enjoyed this program very much,it just goes to show how misunderstood children can be really.I felt my adrenaline pumping for poor Mark,I wanted to stand up and shout for him.Great acting.brilliant eye opener.WELL DONE!

  • Comment number 17.

    Thankyou for a well observed, textured obs of our young people, their experience, complex and oft misunderstood... All behaviour is a form of communication and as such open to what we choose to see. At times I found my self tearful... Not in an easily perjorative 'liberal softy' put down kind of way, a common retort from colleagues. More a reflection of my experience of working with young people, making sure that they get a fair shake of the tail.

    Robb in Glasgow

  • Comment number 18.

    Firstly, cogratulations on an excellent drama. I currently run a project that works with young people at risk of exclusion. I founf your film captured the difficulties faced by the both the young person and the teaching staff. I have to admit, I understood Ian's frustration, as I frequently, if not consistantly, manage to bring the best out of my young people, only to see it shattered when they return back to school.

    It was great to see the the pastoral care team being highlighted, a group of unsung heroes in many cases.

    The story surrounding Mark's homelife felt genuine, and demonstrated the difficulties faced by our young people outside of school. I can honestly say that 99% of my referrals have issues at home ranging from missing parents to domestic violence to parental drug addiction. The film captured how thjis can be easily overlooked by the school, and in nearly all cases are the cause of the challenging behaviour.

    I can go on for hours with the many stories and experiences I have had.

    But for now, thank you for showing this excellent film and for giving the british public a glance at the difficulties that out young people face today.

    Well done

  • Comment number 19.

    I work in a PRU. We have a boy who is from a broken home, can't see his dad and is really angry. His anger overrides everything. He has been through 2 secondary schools and is on to his 3rd. We don't have the facilities or staff or expertise to deal with the problem we just deal with the symptoms, which is the bad behaviour. He is a bright boys and we are expected to persuade him to put his head down and get some GCSEs without offering him some real help. How can he when all he cares about is his broken life? He is only one of many kids who don't manage to concentrate on study when their lives and their hormones are in complete turmoil. Exclusion isn't the answer. It just gives them a reputation they take to the next school. Deal properly with the real problem (usually anger) and they can get their lives back. GCSEs can wait till they are ready for them. Their emotional lives are far more important and impact far more on their future. We all have a second chance to pass exams.

  • Comment number 20.

    We can't underestimate the impact troubled family life has on children. I can't believe schools exclude children - we need to really listen to them and do everything we can to surround them with understanding and people who can make a difference to their lives.

  • Comment number 21.

    Really enjoyed the drama. I run a children's unit and education is a massive area that accommodated young people struggle with. A large number of them end up attending alternative resources that don't match mainstream schools academically, the main reason being because of their behaviour. Some of them end up with no education at all. I believe that more attention needs to be paid to looking beyond the behaviour to tackle the real issues for a young person. I also believe that teachers should receive more input at the training stage about dealing with behavioural issues and the root cause of them. In my own experience accommodated young people get sent home and/or excluded with much more ease than young people who live within a family unit. Perhaps this is because a children's unit always has staff around to deal with this unlike parents who might be at work. More partnership working is essential in the future to improve the educational outcomes for all young people. Well done to the drama for showing both sides of the story. It highlighted the stresses that teachers face every day in the classroom, the different approaches to challenging behaviour and their effectiveness and the decisions that need to be made at management level. It also did well to show everything from Mark's perspective, clearly defining the connection between his behaviour and his life experiences both past and present. Mark's home life is a mild example of what is just the tip of the iceberg for many children and young people.

  • Comment number 22.

    I really wanted to see this drama - my teenager (not with his mother who was unable to care for him) had similar problems and was excluded several times - quite a few of us (teachers and me) worked hard to prevent permanent exclusion. It did feel authentic & brought back lots of feelings about how important those years are for a young person and how much help & love they really do need.

  • Comment number 23.

    Really important students are not excluded from school. As an experienced JP on youth panel, when engaging with defendants they are 90% excluded from school or on some referral programme. East Yorkshire spends £78,000.00 per annum on taxis taking students to other schools, where they only attend for a short time as they are bullied because they have and different post code. These big comps. should have time out centres or mentors to find out the students problem. There is always a problem...........children want to achieve, they want praise. There has to be a problem as we saw this evening, but on one wanted to find out the porblem.

  • Comment number 24.

    Absolutely the best programme or drama I have ever seen on this challenging subject.

  • Comment number 25.

    What a refreshing change to see a boy with ADHD being portrayed in a sympathetic light! As a mum with a 17 year old with this condition, I am part of a team working with students who have ADHD (at a local college). They can be demanding to manage but getting to know them and understanding how they 'tick' is crucial to building a trusting relationship and helping them overcome the difficulties they and others face because of their condition. As a complex neurobiological disorder, ADHD is challenging and more so because it's a hidden condition. Teachers must take their share of responsibility and deliver engaging lessons. Boredom is akin to physical pain for some ADHDers! It's critical to have firm but fair boundaries, to be able to listen, offer unconditional positive regard and recognise they do deserve the best we can give them.

  • Comment number 26.

    A very honest display of the problems schools are facing these days, either in the Netherlands or in Britain.

  • Comment number 27.

    saw this by chance and really enjoyed it... i was a student who did very well in maths and few other subjects, i find it funny how when you watch this you see why mark has respect for his maths teacher and none for the rest, why is this we may ask, i think it is because of compassion given to him and talking to him like a human and not a number..
    hopefully this will teach a few teachers to open there minds to how to maintain a better relationship between teacher and student..
    look forward to next one!!

  • Comment number 28.

    This was a brilliant British drama & I hope to see the BBC continue its support to the British industry.

    That aside this drama reaffirms why I want to teach, why we need to invest in good teachers; and why we need to believe in young people.

    Young people are our most vital resource, every child matters.

  • Comment number 29.

    Yet another "idealist" teacher "saves" a troubled pupil. An entertaining enough drama but I am growing very tired of this formula. Any chance there will be a programme about a teacher who cannot save the "troubled" child? The reality is that for some children life is far more complicated and cannot be "cured" by the limited influence of the school or indeed a lone gun teacher.

  • Comment number 30.

    Im an Education worker with a fostering agency so i deal most weeks with exclusions. If i thought there were teachers operating like the ones trying to exclude Mark i would be furious.
    I know how most teachers work hard to help these young people but they dont have the specialised skills that are needed to help these young people.
    I genuinly believe that in most cases it is adults who let down most young people and in most cases its the so called families, who for some reason blame other people for their failure as parents and expect every body else to sort out their mess.

  • Comment number 31.

    In addition to the key theme of this play, I really liked the other storyline about the desire to become an academy from the head teacher but wanting to stick to her principals and be aware of the community the school serves. It's a very current theme with some schools becoming academies that then fail the community they are in due to hefty exclusion policies to raise exam results etc. It was a bit 'wrapped up nicely in an hour' but I thought it raised some pertinent and interesting questions about the nature of education, teaching and learning.

  • Comment number 32.

    just watched excluded, but so much time and effort was spent on one child. I as a mother want my child to have the best education possible why should the children that want to learn be disadvantaged by those with problems. They should be excluded

  • Comment number 33.

    Brilliant.What an accurate portrayal of school life....and what an inspiring headteacher.She made precisely the right decision.I was sorry the programme ended at 10 o'clock.

  • Comment number 34.

    I thought that this new series was very well thought out, this first episode was very real and reminded me of disruptive times in the classroom when I was young, also with regards to the boy who was excluded for a week, this kind of thing actually has been a wake up call to many disruptive children that I knew back in school days and funnily enough these children to whom this had happened were really brainy children who were going through some difficulties at home and unfortunately some teachers do become antagonistic and angry towards what they would call a problem child, who actually just needs a little bit of conversation and guidance from an open minded teacher, don't get me wrong sometimes it can be really hard, but sometimes patience and an ear to hear can make the biggest difference. Well done to all who worked so hard on this production and I look forward to watching more episodes of hope in school childrens welfare and education.

  • Comment number 35.

    I watch this programme with interest although this was happening in secondary school, both of my sons have been excluded from school, my youngest son was barely 4years 10mths and clearly was having problems settling into school although he had attended nursery, all of which resulting moving my child from the school and him attending a school who had more understanding of the difficulties he was having, he is now has statement of special needs ( and waiting to have referral to assess for Autism) and my other son seemed to be labelled along with his brother, and guess what im a single parent ! but father does have regular contact. Im afraid to say I think a lot of the difficulties boiled down to very poor teaching and a very ambitious Head Teacher , the poor teaching practices where picked up in the ofsted report for that school

  • Comment number 36.

    Thought this was a brilliant programme. Authentic and well thought out exploration of issues. Well Done.

  • Comment number 37.

    I am a teacher who teaches excluded children, including young offenders.Some of these children should be in mainstream school with pastoral care and a homework club. The academic stress should be relieved by massive suppport within school, because they CANNOT study at home. I have also fostered some hard to place teenagers. The scene when Mark picks up a chair was TRUE to life. One of our foster sons did this. If I told you the full story of how hard we battled with the school to support this very needy child, you would be shocked. Or maybe not. Thanks for highlighting the problems of distressed children in school.

  • Comment number 38.

    Great cast, pertinent issues and well paced.

    I agree with the rekw2000 that all the worst classroom management mistakes were featured. For me this meant that Ian and the art teacher were caricatures not characters. Felt like their 'bad teaching' scenes were photcopied from an Ofsted 'top ten worst mistakes' training DVD.

    Ineffective teaching often features promising facets - a much more complex and interesting state of affairs - which would have served as the basis for a more insightful, thought-provoking drama.

  • Comment number 39.

    Great drama but a pity it re-inforced the stereotype of disruptive kids coming from broken and dysfunctional homes instead of looking more closely at the main reason for his problems which was only briefly mentioned - ADHD. My son's behaviour was very similar to Mark's in so many ways yet he comes from a home which is the antithesis of Mark's. He too was excluded (permanently) from a previous (independent) school but with the patience of good teachers; an understanding of ADHD and its ramifications; and a supportive regime throughout his new school; along with maturity which is coming with age, his behaviour has improved immeasurably.
    To the teachers who posted blogs on this site, I would ask that you learn more about ADHD and don't write off these kids. Like Mark and my son, they have many good qualities. It just take a bit more understanding and patience to find them.

  • Comment number 40.

    This drama was so real to life, not only was the acting outstanding but the story highlights how easily teenagers accept a negative label leading to self-fulfilling prophecy. My son is currently facing being put on a psp (pastoral support programme) because he has behavoural problems in the class room and I believe it's because the teachers nowadays are under too much pressure to meet targets and so dont put enough effort into caring for the profession. Schools have become a business in competition with each other for pupils (pupils=money) so instead of working for the children, engaging with them for them to reach their highest potential they are sifting through them excluding those that wont do the school any favours.

  • Comment number 41.

    I watched Excluded with interest. It was like looking at our son who was permanently excluded from school in February. Towards the end of his time at the school we banged our heads against many brick walls, although from the beginning we were extremely supportive of the school and worked with them with strategies to solve his problems with school, it was when we started to question their ways the problems really began. He was just like the teenager in the drama, when cornered he would start to shout and try to walk out of the room, he was often stopped from doing this and on the last occassion followed by the teacher (deputy head) as she continued to shout and scream at him. He, like mark had some very successful lessons, and like the headteacher pointed out, maybe the teaching was in question some of the time. Fortunately for our son we appealed his exclusion and this was overturned with the LEA questioning the treatment of our son.

    Luckily for him the school he now attends have done so much for him, he is now beginning to enjoy school again and his behaviour and grades have improved so much, he is now predicted A-C grades. (The school he is now attending is rated lower by ofsted than his previous).

  • Comment number 42.

    As an addition to my previous post 30 of my colleagues who work with young people in schools in pastoral settings such as learning support, behavioural support, student welfare etc were made redundant yesterday due to the government spending cuts. False economy?

  • Comment number 43.

    Mark? ADHD? Mark referred to it but I do not think he behaved that way. Interested to know how many other viewers thought Mark fitted such a diagnosis.

  • Comment number 44.

    I'm curious as to why you used a school in Bristol and yet based the story in north London. there didn't seem to be any good reason why the story needed to be based in London. By your own admission you used pupils from The Grange School in the production. Why could the story not have been based where you filmed it?

  • Comment number 45.

    A very good drama. Brilliant acting by the kids and that guy playing the teacher Gary was superb. Tindella (posted 10.14pm and one of the few negative comments on here) raises a very important point though. Speaking from experience, some the most difficult kids are not from broken homes. Quite the contrary, they're extremely sure of themselves. You can tell their parents (yes, two parents!!) worship them and they aren't poor. These are the kids who will never get excluded because their parents would go ape if the school tries to take action. They're popular because they're cocky and cheeky etc which also makes them very disruptive as they can set the tone of a class. Pupils like Mark need help for sure but often they are not the truly disruptive ones; they're more likely to be introverted and in their own little worlds, and in need of some counselling. Another point - following on from last night's John Humprys docu on what the middle classes will do to ensure their kids fully benefit from the privileges of being members of that class - all this "don't exclude kids" I'm reading here is all very well, but would you really want your son or daughter's education being damaged because the school has an "inclusive" policy? Or would you make sure your child wouldn't be at a school where there's likely to be excluded pupils in the first place?

  • Comment number 46.

    That's a shame, when a plug was given for the blog i was hoping for a discussion to continue with the subject of the film rather than the technical aspects. Does the writer have a blog?

    I found it insightful the way Mark was shown unable to explain his apathy to school; a relative insignificance compared to the other thing happening in his life, and a touch of class to have him say what the trouble really was "i'm from a broken home" in a way that showed up how a true cliché can be a victim of how common it is and belittled by that, is it now so common it doesn't deserve serious consideration? Are there so many reasonably well adjusted kids from broken homes they are all expected to just get on with life with the same enthusiasm as those kids with a mum and dad and a feeling that "everything is mostly ok" rather than mostly on the brink of disintegration (my parents shouted at each other constantly and threatened to split but i never did get that watershed and i still never can be sure if it would have been better if they had). I was a bit sceptical that he would suddenly get interested in Maths, Mark was the best portrayal of me i've seen and speaking from experience he would have already known he could do it, he just didn't care enough to bother, maybe he got a kick out of other peoples surprise that he could and that spurred him on to try, it could happen. I remember i did have one or two subjects where i wasn't disruptive and it was definitely more to do with the teacher than the subject but not in the way this film portrayed. It wasn't just the effect of a new idealistic un-jaded teacher, one with enough fight left in him to keep trying with every pupil, i think it was something deeper i could see in the teachers, the ones with some sadness of their own perhaps, the superficial "keep it bubbly" ones brought the worst out of me if i remember right but even so i might have got the correlation wrong. Even having been there i couldn't begin to know how to approach this problem as a teacher, how do you tell someone that it really matters what they do at school when their mind is on something else and your subject doesn't have any discernible relevance to their life? The one possible thing i've sometimes thought might have encouraged me and never was tried was sitting me down and spelling out that to try now would enable me to make money and travel the world, if i worked i could get the money to take a flight out of there. Might be worth a shot.

    I left school with 1 GCSE in Maths (others were mostly Xs as no coursework submitted) i worked dead end jobs and travelled before doing an access course as a mature student (24) and getting a place on a medical course at UCL giving me a career i love that suits me to the ground, so don't panic too much for the ones who leave school with nothing achieved, if they have the potential they can still do it when they get things sorted in their life. If they have the potential they will find nothing less than that fulfilling and that will be enough for them to find a way.

  • Comment number 47.

    Just finished watching excluded. The acting, young people and adults was outstanding. Back in 1978 I became obsessed with a certain science fiction story to the point were I woke up every morning not seeing the bedroom carpet but a spacecraft interior. Believe me, it is an experience I would pay ten million quid to live again. The baddies in this voluntary insanity were the schoolteachers. To this day I am still hostile to the British education system. I was on Marks side and i didn't even like the maths teacher who befriended him, because that teacher couldn't even comprehend that it might be the education system itself that could be wrong. Namely he was pro spoonfeed (or impart) education and anti self discovery, anti freedom. To my mind even a child from the most unbroken of homes can question the education system. There seems to be an assumption that any disruptive child must be automatically wrong, (how could they possibly not be?), have some excuse, and once it is all sorted and understood, the child will "come around" to the adults one and only correct way of thinking, soviet style. The idea that there could be any valid alternative education system is a totally alien concept to most people, especially almost all teachers. I would encourage people to read "Why children fail" by John Holt.

  • Comment number 48.

    Exllent job. Well done. After 34 years enjoying the classroom hugely and being rather a cynic about the many many bright educationalists in this country who prefer to tell others how to teach rather than do it themselves, I applaud the sentiments.You touch on many important issues not least the difference between education and qualification which Blair and Brown between them either didn't understand or rather did but for political reasons ignored.You touch upon the importance of adding value.You highlight the importance of educating rather than enabling children to pass exams and so on.You highlight the importance of the needs of children who wish to learn but who are hampered by the selfishness of others and of course, you look at the influence of fecklessness on children's progress. I would have wished to see more done to cast an eye or two in the direction of greed driven profit obsessed businesses and how they constantly vie with teachers for the souls of our children but perhaps that is another drama for the future.Waterloo Street this definitely wasn't and because of that alone a breath of fresh air it certainly was

  • Comment number 49.

    Didn't Mark make a joke about being ADHD and that he, in fact, wasn't. It seems that any disengaged kid is labelled as adhd. I did laugh a lot at the continual use of engage in the script. 'If you could just engage' 'Why can't you engage' 'You're just not engaging enough'

    As someone who works with 'disengaged' young people thought the over-use of the word was actually quite powerful. As adults being able to disengage can be seen as a positive thing. Not so for young people it would seem.

  • Comment number 50.

    Interesting to hear people projecting their experience of ADHD affected children onto Mark, and how their ADHD children are from good happy homes. Perhaps that's the difference between 2 extremes, the angry ambivalence (if that's not an oxymoron) of children with real things in their life to worry about, overruling the more abstract academic study; verses the ADHD children with nothing to worry about yet are bored senseless by school. Personally i fear the brightly coloured instantly rewarding noisy toys people give my 2 year old and i'll worry even more when they have something of the intensity of a x-box all evening before being told to sit quietly in a class room for 6-7 hours the next day. Complex neuro-biological condition? No, that'll be the description of those unable or unwilling to see the most obvious correlation of our time, impossible to prove definitively but obvious nevertheless. Just because no one can perform the scientific study does not mean it cannot be reasoned to an accurate enough understanding without one. Do not have your hands tied by the current obsession with the very limited "evidence based" practice. Some things will never be proved and logic should not be discounted in it's place.

  • Comment number 51.

    I saw the last 30 minutes - Excellent programme.

    I have worked for 16 years as a teacher, but not in a secondary school. I work with sensory impaired young people.

    It upsets me to see teachers not interested in their subject and students. The art and history teacher fitted this category. The history teacher seemed to be the school bully and general hard man and the art teacher appeared not to see the childrens as learners any longer, but items on a production line with all of them having to do exactly the same task whatever their own aptitudes and interests. The maths teacher only had to do a reasonable job, take some interest in his pupils and his subject to appear to stand out. I would not call him inspirational for example.

    I think most of you and nearly all the staff in the school seemed to be have missed the point of the title : excluded

    The pupil, Mark was already excluded by most of his teachers through their lack of decent teaching or been given the time and resources to teach properly. He reacted in part to this and problems in his home life by lashing out and not communicating his true feelings. What amazed me was none of the professionals in the drama could see it. Even the maths teacher won him over by chance almost.

    A decent education system does not need an army of pastorial support workers, understanding teaching staff and parents can do most of the job if they are given a decent chance.

    I was also interested in the scene where the mother was trying to get incapacity benefit for depression. I work with disabled people who struggle to get it at times, her major problem seemed to be her husband left her and she would have to work.

    The same with Mark his learning difficulties seemed relatively slight to me, if anything I would label him bright. Too many people look for labels too easily nowadays.

    My educational establishment is more poorly resources that the school in the drama - interesting it wea ssupposed to be a run down school in the drama.

  • Comment number 52.

    As head teacher of a school very (too) similar to the one in the programme I am wondering if the producer of this programme has spent some time secretly filming in my own school. We are constantly faced with the dilemma of 'inclusion v exclusion' and seem to be in a constant battle with the dfe and our county council over their results driven agendas. This programme was superbly well made, it took me back to my days as a maths teacher trying to teach linear equations, which I am pleased to note was taught to try and gain understanding rather than just being able to do it! I look forward to other programmes similar to this appearing on our screens. Excluded was superb, well done to all involved.

  • Comment number 53.

    Saw your drama on inner city schools for me it didn't delve deeply enough into the disruptive pupils background for your viewers to see the root problem.(bit of a Donny Darko perhaps) I work with disaffected young people. The final message in the drama however I do agree that some teachers are better at creating an interesting environment to teach young people, more training on long holidays perhaps? I also admire the 'stayability' in the teaching profession which seems very stressful at times

  • Comment number 54.

    I can see many people have written blogs about various issues in schools and the welfare and education of our children wrapped up in hidden agendas and propaganda, I guess what I am saying is, what can we do together to make a stand and correct this dispicable cycle of wheeling out children with little or no understanding of why they were at school in the first place. What can the bbc do to actively participate in helping the children of this country and shred the red tape so that teachers can do exactly just that, all this paperwork is making us blind.

    I am a single parent, currently in my final year of university and my child is 5, he does homework on alternate days, which consist of cooking, baking, art, science, maths and english, he is a very bright boy. When he gets older, will he face the same problems, where the teachers may only have time to worry about statistics due to pressure from above, because I believe our children mean a hell of a lot more than this and one child is more important than propa-bloody-ganda and a few heart felt words from the government, we need to do better than this if our children are to stand any chance.

    We have posted our comments, but what will come of them...

  • Comment number 55.

    I loved last nights programme and just want to congratulate all those involved. Really great TV. A would ask for further additions to this episode but as we already have a school drama on the BBC in Waterloo Road don't think that is likely is it???

  • Comment number 56.

    now is the time to do a programme on a PUPIL REFERRAL UNIT. my husband worked in a bad one. Your programme was good but needs a follow on. show kids and parent[s] what to expect. don't let this subject drop too quick. PRU's [most] are just a place to send them, away from school, get rid.
    let me know if you need info.

  • Comment number 57.

    I watched this & whilst I found the story line very interesting, the acting & casting was appalling & I think the producers/directors need to take a few tips from Waterloo Road which is far more realistic & adult & until the current headteacher, had very palausible actors in the roles of teachers. Its as if Excluded was made on a very tight budget with some of the 'teachers' being chosen with cost overriding ability. These bad actors spoilt it for me & I hope others in the series are better.

  • Comment number 58.

    Really enjoyed the programme; it was like a harking back to the great single drama of the past for me, such as "Play for Today" etc. Fabulous performances. Well done.
    In the exclusion meeting, the pastoral carer was agreeing that "everything had been done" for the disruptive pupil. I'm wondering why, according to the "professionals", in this situation, psychotherapy or counselling were not considered?
    Individual or family therapy for the boy would have been a valuable approach. I also think there is some call for experiential therapeutic groups for teachers working with vulnerable children.

  • Comment number 59.

    Good drama,but bit of a cliche that Mark liked math,althought i think he just responded to the teacher when he talked about Star Wars.
    As other posters have mentioned,pity none of the teachers considered the whole system at fault - why in this media age do we still need a separate teacher for each subject ?

    Perhaps we could do a follow drama,where he leaves school with a handfull of qualifications,but despite being told by the teachers they are valuable,finds out that employers consider them worthless.

    Do alot of pupils know this already,so do not see the point of jumping through hoops just to further their teacher's career ?

  • Comment number 60.

    Excluded was compulsive viewing.My grandson was permanently excluded.He came to live with us to escape an awful childhood ( he had many similarities to Mark ).We sat in many school meetings thanking them politely for what they were doing for him ( which was virtually nothing )as we didn't want to upset them,and we were made to feel wholly responsible "well he should just learn to behave." If there was any kind of disturbance in a lesson ,particularly if the teacher's back was turned, he would get thrown out as "it was bound to have been you - you always cause problems". All they seemed to do was throw him out,send him home "and don't send him back for a few days","don't send him tomorrow as we are having a fun day and he doesn't deserve it" ,put him on half day timetable for nearly a year until eventually he was permanently excluded. If we had kept him away from school as much as they appeared to be allowed to do we would have been prosecuted.He was made to feel completely worthless by his teachers and would describe himself as rubbish.He went on to a PRU where their way of dealing with him was to let him attend for 1 hour a day after school when the other pupils had gone home,however if the cleaner needed to vacuum,there was a staff meeting or there weren't enough resources to re-create the science experiment for him they would tell him not to bother.It is about time that people knew just what happens to these young people who get quietly swept under the carpet.There is no magic safety net that catches them. How does it help someone who has great difficulty being a part of something fit in by shutting them out of it? Most children don't choose to be different to their peers.I would like to hope that some good may come out of this excellent and thought provoking drama. Well done BBC 2.

  • Comment number 61.

    Great programme, very sensitive issues, well handled even if it was cliched as some suggest. But it was subtle - I liked it. As an ex-teacher and home educator it really moved me. It had most of the reasons we home educated in it. I'll leave you to guess what they were!

  • Comment number 62.

    A romanticised and unrealistic program aimed at making the wider public believe that the already mollycoddled teenage generation has the right to be disruptive and behave in an appalling manner in school just because their dad has moved to another town and mum has finally been caught out as a benefit fraudster.
    Btw. Interesting debate going on about the programme in the TES staffroom: http://community.tes.co.uk/forums/t/438608.aspx?PageIndex=1 (Community-> Opinion)

  • Comment number 63.

    do a programme on a PRU.
    show what happens.

  • Comment number 64.

    pru , show a real one

  • Comment number 65.


  • Comment number 66.

    want help, e mail me

  • Comment number 67.

    My adopted son has an attachment disorder caused by his birth parents because he was a baby p that survived.

    Despite our knowing about the sort of dificulties he may face in the future, we did not think that he would need to have fixed term exclusions one after the other at the age of 8, before the powers that be in the LA sat up and took notice.

    This was a very well produced drama and I am a bit saddened by some of the comments in this blog from people who think that these children are all a lost cause. from our perspective, as parents, trying to work within a system that really does not give the same value to a child, like Mark, who has lived with domestic violence for goodness knows how long, is so difficult. There really is a body of research now that shows the extent of the problems a child or young person has to live with when they live with neglect, abuse ,domestic violence etc Many have to live with a different brain, especially if these things have happened as within the first 2 years of life - teachers need to be aware of developmental trauma, so do Pru's and special schools.

    Hope to see more of these types of drama's. Sometimes I feel they reach more people and get people talking more easily than documentaries.

    I want to finish off my very first 'blog' by agreeing with those who have said how realistic and topical the programme and thus this blog has been. BUT, I do feel for every child in this country who has any sort of emotional social or behavioural difficulty - as one blogger has alrady said, the sort of support staff who help these children and the staff in mainstream schools could see the vital work they do being brushed aside - a false economy ? - most certainly.

  • Comment number 68.

    This was a well acted and clearly thought provoking programme for many. My take on it was one of a little disappointment that there was a lot of stereotypical ideas of how teachers behave. As a former teacher this was more akin to when I was teaching in the 80s rather than now. A new teacher would not have been left to fend for himself and would be monitored to within an inch of hs life for a start - I think somebody else made this point.
    The bullying tatcics of his seeming mentor teacher would have been flagged up long ago - this kind of teaching is archaic; the disaffected guy in glasses is actually closer to the mark. They needed to be there for the drama I guess and to contrast with the main character who actually cares about the kids. But talk in staffrooms does not consist of teachers not caring, the role of a teacher is being defined further and further and in fact the thing which is strangling the teaching profession in my opinion is the lack of creativity in teaching. Throw out text book teaching and do something wild to 'engage' youngsters!
    There were several potential wonderful threads in this, but they got skipped over. Somebody here thought it was a series of programmes, perhaps that would allow issues to be explored in a more salient way.
    I thought the two Heads represented were not very convincing really - and I was mightily relieved that the female Head actually supported the character of Mark.
    This nearly worked, but then fell very short of the mark in reality..too many non authentic portrayals fo teahcing staff - having said that - I think anybody from the 80s who is still teaching may well behave in that 'Gene Hunt' kind of way - but they will have a harder and harder time of it these days.

  • Comment number 69.

    I am a newly qualified teacher and I enjoyed every second of 'Excluded' - you have created an accurate portrayal of my teaching career so far. Brilliant.

  • Comment number 70.

    This was very good, very well acted and directed. But I didn't think Mark came across as having ADHD. And if he has been diagnosed with it then it would surely have been mentioned at the exclusion meeting.

  • Comment number 71.

    This was an excellent drama, very well acted and directed. But I didn't think that Mark came across as having ADHD. And if he had been diagnosed with it surely it would have been at least mentioned in the exclusion meeting.

  • Comment number 72.

    My son recommended that I watch "Excluded". We are both teachers in 'tough' secondary schools in different parts of the country. We both thought it was excellent and very true to life. However I noticed that a number of people on here seem to think that Mark was ADHD, because he had said so, but in fact when Ian asked him if that were true he said no. I would like this to be concluded in a further programme to see how Ian's handling of Mark impacts on the rest of his schooling.

  • Comment number 73.

    New teachers - don't worry that that you haven't a clue how to start a lesson even though you've been "trained". Don't think that you will "save" kids. Don't patronize them by imaging it only takes a bit of chat about Dr Who to "fix" them. Don't think that you need only get them through exams.

    Programme makers - there are children with far worse home situations than you make out. Teachers know more and do more than you make out. Some teachers who have been teaching for years care more and understand more than you make out. Being a new teacher does not automatically make you a good teacher. Being an experienced teacher does not automatically make you cynical and crap.

    Stop taking shortcuts!


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