Channel 4 film Extraordinary Teens: School of Life and Deaf, aired on Thursday 14th December at 10pm.
The film, made by Camilla Arnold of Flashing Lights Media was shot over three terms at the school. A great number of pupils and staff were involved. The crew filmed from early in the morning in the boarding houses to late at night. They became a fixture of the school as everyone got to know them well.
The film shows what it is like to grow up as a deaf teenager. It features many pupils but the main ones are Lewis, 15, and at the time, a Year 10 pupil who is preparing to be fitted with a cochlear implant that he hopes will help him hear his name for the first time. Fae and her twin Mae face their own individual challenges as they prepare to leave the school to enter University and to be apart for the first time. Finally we see Andrew, another Year 13 pupil who applies for the role of Head Boy in a bid to fit in with his peers more. Andrew also has the ambition of becoming the first deaf Prime Minister!
The film tracks the ups and downs of each of these pupils and their wider peer groups. We see Andrew giving his speech in the hustings for Head Boy, Fae making a trip to town on her own to buy makeup for the prom and Lewis in his 'switch on' in London. The fillm also shows how these and indeed all of the pupils are supported by a vast range of staff in their individual journeys.
Peter Gale, Principal, commented, 'it is great to be able to show our school and our amazing pupils to a national audience. I hope if viewers take one thing away from the programme, it will be that deafness is not a learning difficulty and there is very little that deaf people can't do.'
There was much publicity around the documentary including a lovely slot on BBC Breakfast on the Thursday morning where Lewis, Camilla and Fae were interviewed by Naga and Charlie on the famous red sofa, lots of coverage in various local press and on social media and a post film write up in the Times and the Telegraph. The Telegraph wrote, 'It gave a profound sense of the physical and emotional complexities of growing up deaf but never sentimentalised its subjects. Lewis was a typically sulky teen, Fae was nervously giggly, Andrew was desperate to fit in. All of them were just normal teenagers. There were no manufactured happy endings here. Instead we left our three protagonists making new beginnings. As they headed into the future with optimism and courage, viewers will have been wishing them well.'
The day after the film the school was also visited by BBC Radio Berkshire to feature a series of interviews on the Andrew Peach breakfast show. The reporter visited many areas in the school and spoke to various people live on radio including a group of 6th Formers, (Bella, Maddie, Frank, George and Claudia), a few teachers, (Ms Walsh and Mr Roberts), Mr Gale, the Principal, some Care Staff, (Grant and Hollie), and Viv Ogg, Head of Audiology and Katherine Clements Head of Speech and Language.
For all at the school the film portrays typical days at the school whilst for many viewers it gave them an insight into the world of deaf education, the world of a deaf teenager and the amazing nurturing environment that a specialist school like Mary Hare can offer deaf pupils.