School Life

This is the sort of documentary that could have easily been chopped up and giving a voice over and packaged for Channel 4, but instead directors Neasa Ní Chianáin, David Rane give it the respect it deserves and have made a charming, sweet and uplifting documentary about John and Amanda Leyden, teachers for forty five years at the Headfort school in Ireland.

Headfort school is a boarding school unlike most and so are John and Amanda. The boarding school takes a more libertarian approach than most schools, were children are not exactly discouraged from rebellion but very much encouraged in the field of arts, with John teaching music and art and Amanda literature and theatre. The documentary covers the whole school year and focuses upon several standout pupils who show personal growth. As a fly on the wall, the film does not set out to necessarily make a point or suggest a debate regarding teaching methods. It’s interesting to see Amanda’s passion and John’s deadpan approach, treating kids like adults, or teachers discussing morality and religion which may seem at odds with most curriculums, yet yield positive results. But it would make it a completely different film, as a portrait, it’s a bit more open for interpretation and it has been skilfully made by the creators, with some lovely D.O.P. work and a score to match, which makes you want to reimagine your own days at school in a romantic gleeful light. Like John and Amanda, they’re not looking to be celebrated, but there is something about them and School Life (In Loco Parentis) that should be.


Chris Aitken

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