Back in Time for School – 14 October 2021 – BBC Two

Series 1 Episode 3 of 8In this episode, their time-travels begin in 1945. The Second World War has ended, and a revolution in education has begun. Our class are now the pupils of a postwar grammar and make up some of the top 25% of children who passed the 11+. The first lesson begins with English for the girls, and while they might consider themselves lucky to finally be taught an academic subject, learning by rote and writing at speed leaves a bitter taste for some. The boys, meanwhile, have been enlisted for the School Harvest Scheme, taking them out of the classroom and into the fields. Picking berries, the boys are put through their paces, supporting food rations in the aftermath of war. But being at one with nature is a tall order for some of our very 21st-century pupils!

A head boy and head girl have been appointed in keeping with the establishment of strict public school values in this school, but they may not enjoy the same level of respect from their modern peers as they would have in the 40s, despite trying hard to satisfy the demands of their new roles. The class are given free school milk as part of a government health drive, a bit of light relief ahead of their next subject. History sees them learning ancient dates and historical events by heart, and makes the more experimental lessons of the past seem like a distant memory. Despite more high-brow learning, the girls find they are still being educated in more delicate subjects of the curriculum, without the boys. Taking part in a deportment and etiquette lesson, practising balancing books on their heads and enunciating social behaviours may not seem useful to them now, but their next lesson of 1950s style sex-ed is an eye-opener, and not in ways they might expect!

After school, the pupils take to the playground by pedal as they enjoy the cycling proficiency club, before the boys suffer the indignity of the timeless school cross-country, especially important at a time when athletic superiority was prized highly. School lunch is a formal affair, with a nutritional dish of liver, onions and mash and a pudding of fruit sponge and custard. The pupils grudgingly stock up before their next lesson – the art of debate, with a special guest, Dame Joan Bakewell. In 1953, as Queen Elizabeth II is crowned, celebration breaks out across the nation and arrives in this school by way of commemorative pencils. There is even a special tuck shop, and the pupils rejoice in eating their first chocolate bars for 50 years.

As the decade progresses, social lives for young people really take off, and our class head out in their best outfits to a local Milk Bar to embrace Teddy Boy and Rock & Roll culture, where it is all fashion, food, milkshakes and music. Finally, with their new dance moves practised, the pupils, friends and families join the teachers in the school hall for an end of term tea dance, complete with live band, poodle skirts and coifed hair – it’s nearly time for the birth of the 1960s!

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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