My Life: the Most Famous School, CBBC - TV review


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The Independent Culture

There's no sign of any food shortage at Eton where a strict five-meal-a-day regime has helped produce 19 British prime ministers and countless other pillars of the wealthy elite.

My Life: the Most Famous School in the World was on at 5.30pm last night, well before most grown-ups get home from work, but if you're interested in the formative experiences of Britain's powerful, this boy's-eye view is well worth catching on iPlayer.

The two-part special of this CBBC documentary series followed three boys, James, Fara and Theo, as they negotiated their first term at the exclusive boys' boarding school. As beneficiaries of the New Foundation Scholarship, awarded to boys who have attended state school for at least the last three years of their education, none of them were typical Etonians. "If I didn't take the scholarship, I'd be in a financial crisis!" announced precocious James, the most charmingly untypical of all. His parents run a Chinese takeaway in Leigh-on-Sea and he still has his Essex accent – though not for long, presumably.

The boys quickly picked up the school lingo ("Beak" = teacher, "DIVS" = lessons, chambers = mid-morning snack) . It was also obvious from a hundred unremarked details – small class size, abundant extra-curricular activities, on-site swimming pool – what an incredible educational opportunity this was. Yet, for anyone who's seen the seminal documentary series Seven Up!, or the excellent A Very English Education on BBC2 last year, watching these boys unwittingly ascend the first rung on the class ladder elicits mixed emotions. Would they become gradually alienated from their friends and family back home? And what about all the other deserving children they'd left behind?