34 Years On: 'A Very English Education' Finds Out What Those Cheeky Radley Schoolboys Got Up To

BBC2 last night broadcast A Very English Education; a revisit to the 1979 series Public School which followed the antics of a group of young boys at an all-male boarding school, Radley College. The hour-long programme acted as a sequel by catching up with some of the schoolchildren to see what kind of adults they have become.

A Very English Education
Radley College's Top Scholar Donald Remembers His School Days.

Sculptors, aristocrats, theatre directors, best-selling authors and shipping company directors: a large swathe of Radley College's former pupils have certainly carved themselves successful careers. But how do they view their seventies schooldays?

"You actually become quite defensive. You can't show weaknesses," says Tim Huxley, a vicar's son who got into the school through a scholarship. "And you do shut down certain aspects of your emotions and feelings. You're less open. You don't show emotion. I don't show emotion. People still criticise me for that to this day."

Though the school is portrayed in the documentary as archaic and stuffy, with a posh headmaster who instructs the boys to acquire what he describes as "the right habits for life," Tim - now a shipping boss - reveals that he'd happily send his own children somewhere similar, believing schools like Radley provide "a template for you to build on."

However, the programme makes sure to underline the fact that Tim doesn't actually have children, an aspect of his life that could be linked to his purported emotion deficit. He says "When I came to Hong Kong I was 28 years old and I remember then starting to put away money for school fees - specifically for school fees," adding "Well, I never got married - so that hasn't been spent."

Meanwhile, once top scholar Donald recalls his school days success in sport and academia, and his dreams of becoming an athlete which turned into a job as a paediatrician in Australia. However, he had some kind of breakdown which still fills him with emotion in front of the camera. The cocky Paige is back - the one who said "Everybody w---s here" - but he's holding down a job as a theatre director (also in Australia) and is still cocky but a good father nonetheless.

The Telegraph finds a lot to love with the BBC's revisit, saying "Director Hannah Berryman struck a perfect balance between archive and new footage, developing the boys' stories with a skilful sense of narrative."

However, The Guardian asks the vital question attached to the programme: "if you don't succeed somewhere like that, then you fail dramatically, right?" though "a brilliant film."

A Very English Education will chime differently with all who watch it: is it a blistering critique of the archaic and elitist public school system in the UK and a vote for its abolition, or is it an homage to tradition and a vote in favour of the success, connections and life skills such an education entails.


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