Blood and guts history defended

Broadcasting pressure group fears videos' gory details will give pupils nightmares. Mike Shaw reports

GRUESOME "video nasties" featuring blood, guts, and plague-ridden bodies are being offered to teachers to liven up history lessons.

Educational television company TV Choice says it deliberately decided to make its new series of films on medieval life as gory as possible to grab pupils' attention.

But the key stage 3 history videos have come under fire from television viewers pressure group, who fear that the grislier moments are unsuitable for 11 to 14-year-olds.

Producer Norman Thomas insists the shock tactics are justified on educational grounds.

Amid talks from historians are stomach-churning, documentary-style depictions of people dying from the Black Death, suffering trial by ordeal and enduring 14th-century contraception.

"It is a huge challenge to grip the students' interest - and the more gory, the more gripping," he said. "We were cautious about how explicit the films should be, but the teachers we consulted encouraged us not to be squeamish."

Mr Thomas said the company was inspired to make the videos after producing a business studies video containing gritty depictions of workplace bullying.

"We had letters from teachers saying that they hated those scenes, but the pupils loved them. We think the same will happen with the medieval videos as well."

But broadcasting pressure group Mediawatch-UK urged schools to let parents watch the unrated videos before showing them to pupils.

John Beyer, the director of Mediawatch-UK, said: "It strikes me that this type of material is not suitable for the age group, and if schools are going to use this they should hold a parental showing first so that the parents can decide.

"If children get nightmares - or even psychological problems - it will be the parents who are left to pick up the pieces."

History teachers have long used gruesome details from the past to hold pupils' interest, and the best-selling "Horrible Histories" books have proved that young readers have an appetite for the funny and macabre.

But Ben Walsh of the Historical Association said there was a difference between describing and recreating such grisly details, and felt the videos over-emphasised aspects of medieval life which were uncommon, such as trial by ordeal.

"I wonder if they would give the same treatment to a part of history that isn't at such a safe distance, like the Holocaust or the Irish famine."

The Medieval Life series can be ordered from TV Choice on 01843 604 633

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