H is for Harry
FULL DISCLOUSER: I work for the MP that screened this film a day before release; grew up in Feltham (where the film is based) and teach in a school around the corner. I also wrote a piece last week about the ‘left behind’ kids. This is an issue that I deeply care about. But, not an issue I want to focus on in this piece. I want this piece to focus on the documentary because it articulates the story behind the statistics in a way that my words simply cannot.
The guardian claim H is for Harry is a“heartbreaking documentary charts the struggles of a year-seven pupil from a disadvantaged background – and offers no easy answers”;the film is a coming of age story about Harry, a charismatic 11-year old boy, who arrives at secondary school in suburban London unable to read or write. With the help of Sophie, his extremely dedicated teacher, the film asks, can he overcome the illiteracy ingrained across generations of his family?
Against the backdrop of a Britain riven with debates around class, identity and social mobility, the film follows Harry over two years as he fights not only to improve academically but also to believe in a different future for himself.
What makes H is for Harry stand independently from other education documentaries is its perspective; it does not follow the teacher, or the school. It the follows the child and the parent. There is a certain pessimism that comes with this; I don’t want to give the impression teaching is like the dead poet’s society, but ultimately, behind every good teacher is belief in their ability and in their students’ ability. Harry, however, does not have this – when asked what he wants to be when he’s older he shrugs; “I don’t want to be living on the streets poncing money” he mutters. That’s the reality this documentary uncovers. 4.1 Million British children live in poverty; 1 in 8 disadvantaged children in the UK don’t own a single bookand1 in 5 children in England cannot read well by the age of 11.
So, when I wrote that my school was starvingI was right. It is starving because its students’ parents can’t afford food; it was starving because it endemically underfunded and its kids were starved of optimism.
Currently, all I have; all any teacher has, when they stand in front of kids from Harry’s background is a whiteboard pen and hope. That’s not enough. Help H is for Harry make a difference. Find out how to here.