Channel 4 Programme
That'll Teach 'Em Boys Versus Girls
Tuesday April the 4th 2006 on Channel 4 at 9pm.
This spring the school gates open again for the
third series of the BAFTA-nominated history series That'll Teach 'Em ,
and this time it's boys versus girls. Thirty bright children who, like most
pupils in the UK, attend co-ed schools, are transported back in time to a 1950s
grammar school and divided into single sex classes to see whether this method of
teaching improves their grades.
Britain's boys are failing at school. They lag behind the girls in their GCSEs
by up to 10%, and the gap is getting bigger. Could a dose of traditional single
sex education be the key to bucking the trend?
Nowhere is the current crisis for boys more apparent than in science,
historically their domain. Radical changes to the curriculum and a combining of
the three sciences have seen the smells and bangs of practical experimentation
increasingly replaced by computers and coursework.
The girls may have embraced a new feminised curriculum of virtual dissection and
online experimentation; but the boys have been left longing for days of chemical
hazards and test tube explosions. For them, the once-trusted haven for fun that
was the science lab has become, quite simply, boring.
Half as many boys now study sciences at 'A' level causing university departments
to close down. For this reason, That'll Teach 'Em: Boys Versus Girls puts
the emphasis on the practical and will teach chemistry, biology and physics
separately to see if some old-style teaching can reignite a passion for the
sciences in our students. The 1950s were a golden age for UK science with the
discovery of DNA and eight Nobel Prize nominations - so our pupils have a lot to
live up to.
Thrown in at the deep end, lessons begin immediately, and it's not just the
1950s teaching methods and curriculum that are a shock to the system! Finding
themselves separated by a vigorously enforced 'six inch' rule, the boys and
girls discover they must eat at separate tables and attend separate classes.
Matron oversees the removal of all contraband, twenty years of experience
enabling her to sniff out even the most ingenious of hiding places. Despite
their protestations, all sweets are confiscated and modern toiletries, including
deodorant, forbidden. The girls' faces are scrubbed with carbolic soap to remove
any traces of make up, and all jewellery, fake nails and other remnants of their
21st-century lives is peeled away. The boys receive the regulation 1950s short
back and sides haircut and standard navy blue uniforms, complete with tie and
braces. They are not impressed. "I look like such a failure," says
one, echoing the sentiments of his classmates.
As well as receiving an average of 40 hours of lessons a week, as opposed to the
28 they are accustomed to, the pupils have to contend with 1950s-style
punishments and traditional school dinners, partake in debating societies and
treat their teachers with an unaccustomed level of respect. Insolent behaviour
was not tolerated in the 1950s and any acts of disobedience see our students
immediately packed off to the headmaster's office.