Monday, April 25, 2005
'I wasn't teaching - my role was just one of crowd control. I felt useless'
The Observer: "Sylvia Thomas taught in many rough schools throughout the Seventies without ever needing to raise her voice to keep control.

....But then, last autumn, she returned to education as a supply teacher. She was so shocked by what she saw that she joined forces with the award-winning veteran documentary maker, Roger Graef, to expose it. 'Most people are talking about low-level disruption in schools but very few get to see it,' she said. 'In only two schools out of the 18 at which I taught was there anything even resembling the acceptable level of disruption a supply teacher would expect. Every other school I taught at reduced me to tears,' she added. 'I would be hoarse with shouting and desperate not to go back the next day.'

Thomas spent six months recording the chaos of classrooms in state schools across the country using hidden cameras without the knowledge of the schools, parents or students involved. The result, Classroom Chaos, will be shown on Channel Five on Wednesday. The channel will tell the schools they have appeared in the controversial programme the day after it is screened.

Graef, whose 1982 documentary, Police, transformed the way in which rape cases were investigated by capturing a complainant being bullied and intimidated by male officers on film, believes Classroom Chaos is one of the most powerful films he has made. 'There are very few programmes that really change things but this is one of the few that really could - and should,' he said.

'One of the most important things about Classroom Chaos is that the schools were chosen randomly by Thomas's supply teacher agencies, and most had been identified by Ofsted as being average or better than average.

'The situation was so constant that we can confidently say anti-social behaviour is an everyday reality in classrooms across Britain,' he added. 'It is an appaling situation and one which must not be allowed to continue: education is being strangled.'"

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