ILX is being as useless as the woman on the Orange Film Commission, so I’ll have to pose my thorny problem here. That’ll Teach Them – the overlooked* third of the current British television triumvirate of teacher based shows finished last night. Did it succeed is its stated, and rather Daily Mail-esque – aim of proving that O-Level’s were a lot harder than GCSE? Or that 1950’s boarding shcools were hell-holes of seemingly arbritary discipline, a bullies charter as our news media today would put it. Or did it show that smart kids are generally cocky cunts?

The premise was simple. Take a bunch of schoolkids who have just finished their GCSE’s (year 16 mandatory national tests Johnny Foreigner), and place them in a school run along the lines of a 1950’s one. Teach them the way that kids were taught then for about two months, and then make them sit the same O Levels. Of course follow them incessantly with cameras and tease a few reality TV friendly stories out of the kids too. It is the 1940’s House but with school.

If the program had stuck to the compare and contrast mode of living then this would have been a rather jolly piece of social history. However, as its position after the watershed suggested, it was a lot more interested in its thesis that young people today are thick and have no discipline, proving this with all the basics of reality TV and docusoap trickery. By rollerskating near the edge of the serious debates about educational standards and what education is for, and being much more interesting in the fat kid that smuggled in some Rolo’s it was unclear how the program wanted to display its protagonists. Sixteen year olds are awkward at the best of time.

The program was not quite thought through – else it would have been called That’ll Learn ‘Em. Which brings us to the main flaw of the film. As this was a test to see how the cream of todays students deal with 1950’s style exams, these were all the bright kids. The swots. Not your run of the mill schoolkid. The worst the boys got were a bit sarky (Richard Miles, arch prankster and repeatedly punished was just a bored sixteen year old, who incidentally did almost the best in the exams). The girls, well the girls were as nasty to each other as girls always are, because deliquency and school performance are not mutually exclusive in most comprehensives. The discipline therefore was wasted on this bunch who would not have been punished if they had also had bogey flicking dropouts sniggering in the back row.

The social history aspect was much more interesting in the end than the trials and tribulations of these half formed adults. There were some nice human stories (it was reality TV after all) but if you got anything out of it, there was an insight into teachers mentalities. Some are just bullies. Some really do not understand children. And as was seen here, with Mr Vince, an inspirational teacher does not change no matter what system he is using.

*By Do You See that is, not by viewers – see Emma’s post above.