A lucky escape from the past

20th August 2004 at 01:00
Channel 4's That'll Teach 'Em, which began its second series on Tuesday, is based on the premise that a dose of traditional education is more than today's mollycoddled youngsters can cope with.

The last series saw 30 GCSE high flyers flunking a 1950s grammar school syllabus. The new series sees a group of children predicted to get Cs or below in their GCSEs take on a 1960s secondary modern schooling, featuring bricklaying for the boys and parenting for the girls. Again, much of the appeal of the programme is seeing how modern pupils survive without their thongs and iPods and with a traditional, no-nonsense curriculum.

But how will a traditional education cope with them? Gail Goodman, head of Breadsall Church of England primary in Derbyshire, was one of a number of teachers auditioned to take part in the series and is counting her lucky stars that she didn't make it.

She says the pupils are "a very different bunch" from the swots of the last series. Her audition was "presided over" by two pupils, Anna and Dee. "They came leap-frogging into the room, in a flurry of chewing gum and laughter that froze my heart! My carefully constructed English lesson comparing three different pieces of Dickens' work on childhood soon fluttered, literally, to the ground.

"The girls chatted, attempted to demolish the whole proceedings, studied their nails and hair and all my years of special education teaching slowly dripped away as the camera quietly rolled. Upon reflection, I actually enjoyed the whole experience I in a masochistic way."

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