Back in Time for School – 13 October 2021 – BBC Two
Series 1 Episode 2 of 8 – The time-travelling pupils and teachers prepare to enter the interwar years. Starting in 1918, their lessons begin with the language of peace, Esperanto. As the pupils grapple with strange new words, the teacher struggles to master the latest teaching resource – a wind-up gramophone. In 1920, the pupils line up for a bizarre school medical, having their lung capacity and even head circumference measured as a sign of their intelligence, before receiving a healthy but very unwelcome dose of cod liver oil. The classroom moves outdoors as the pupils have their first taste of experimental teaching. Our class takes a spelling test al-fresco, followed by a silver-service lunch of boiled mutton, potatoes and bean stew. Finally, the headmaster announces a surprising treat – it is time for the class to take their compulsory nap!
There is a mutiny in the classroom as it is announced boys will learn science and make a model zeppelin, while the girls tend to dolls and fold nappies. And it is not just the pupils who are feeling the gender divides in this era – female teacher Sue is sent packing as marriage bars come into force. As she leaves the school, a new male teacher arrives to take her place.
The pupils test out the latest craze of the Pogo stick before Sara arrives in 1927 to take the class for a special lesson with another gadget – the brand new wireless. Together, they try to master the art of speaking ‘the King’s English’ – the accent of the upper classes. For our Midlands pupils, it doesn’t come easy, and they have certainly never learnt a lesson via radio before! In 1929, the Charleston has swept across the Atlantic and into staff rooms and as our teachers test out their best moves, our very 21st-century children prepare to learn the more traditional pastime of English country dancing. Their parents and friends arrive to witness them performing a ‘strip the willow’.
It is out with the old traditions and in with the new as the pupils leave the classroom and head into the woods to experience the freedom of ‘the forest school’. Whittling wood, making rope swings and building tents, the students are left to their own devices, which is exactly how they like it. The boys have a surprise in store when they start their PE lesson in 1937, with a routine inspired by the Hitler Youth. Military training in schools signals an impending war, and so the boys take part in a patriotic march. As the era draws to an end, our modern day pupils are shocked to be taught how to use gas masks, and the school holds a Dig For Victory party to encourage students, friends and family to support the war effort. Finally, the kids collect their suitcases and gas masks and leave and experience what it might have been like for the 70,000 children evacuated from Birmingham schools in 1939.
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About Back in Time for School
Fifteen pupils and their teachers embark on an extraordinary time-travelling adventure as they fast-forward through more than 100 years of school life.
This show is broadcast on BBC Two, also known as the British Broadcasting Corporation.
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