He was the deputy head master who became a household name after becoming the surprise star of TV documentary Educating Essex
Now he is the star of his own spin-off show – but Stephen Drew admitted his recent fame has come as “a surreal surprise”, though he insisted it had not changed the way he teaches..
“Essentially I am the same person,” says Mr Drew. “I still care passionately about teaching and education.”
It was three years ago when the Channel 4 documentary was first aired, offering the nation a shocking glimpse into life in Britain’s classrooms.
It was such a success it spawned spin-off shows, including Mr Drew’s School for Boys.
Aired earlier this year, the show saw Mr Drew presiding over a summer school for 11 unruly, pre-teen pupils and their parents.
Mr Drew, who became the standout star of Educating Essex for his relaxed yet steely approach to teaching, proved once again that he was not fazed by the swearing, brawling and bin-throwing pupils.
Mr Drew, who is part of a panel of experts discussing education at Birmingham City University on November 13 explained: “Military-style discipline is an incredibly simplistic solution to the problem of bad behaviour in children.
“I think it’s a short-term approach and it totally misses the point about the way that children work.
“What do we want to bring children up to do? Do we want to bring children up just to be unthinking, unquestioning automatons who just say ‘Yes sir, no sir’ to everything?
“Or do we want children who have open minds, who develop new ideas, improve our society and make things better?”
And the 41-year-old says society is often too quick to give up on so-called “helpless” children.
“In Mr Drew’s School for Boys we were dealing with some very difficult youngsters with hugely complex problems,” he said. “But they were just little lost boys aged as young as nine or 10.
“As a society we are guilty of looking at boys like that and just saying ‘you’re too difficult, we give up on you’.
“But how can you give up on a nine-year-old boy? What hope would there be for them then?”
Mr Drew said the parents of some of the children in the show had become “lost” in their bid to tackle their wayward children, often compounding the problem by allowing them to stay up late, drink fizzy beverages and play 18-rated video games.
“They were in denial about the impact their behaviour was having on their children,” he added.
“I have a ban on energy drinks at school but there are kids who use these things to get through the day. Now that’s not schools, it’s parents. And it’s parents from every social class.
“There are some parents who think it’s their job to be their child’s best friend.
“But it’s not our job to criticise them, it is to try and help them.”
And Mr Drew, who was the deputy head of Passmores Academy in Harlow when he starred in the show, is continuing to educate Essex after clinching a new role as headmaster of Brentwood County High.
“When I went for the interview the TV show was like an elephant in the room,” he said. “Nobody mentioned it but you couldn’t avoid it. I couldn’t pretend to be anything other than I was in the show, but I was so pleased with how it was produced.
“The media is often criticised for the way it portrays people, but the production company we worked with really wanted to give an honest portrayal of what life is like in classrooms today.
“I think it was really reflective of that, it showed the good and the bad and the everyday challenges.
“I trusted them and I think it worked.”
* Stephen Drew will be at the City Talk at BCU’s Parkside Building from 6.30pm to 8pm on Thursday, November 13.