Many boys are not fulfilling their potential at school and, like others across Britain, lagged behind their female peers in literacy. The result is Gareth Malone's Extraordinary School For Boys – a three-part series for BBC Two that forms part of the channel's School Season (a range of programming encompassing documentary, drama and debate, focusing on schools, the tough choices parents have to make and exploring innovations in teaching).
With the head teacher's full consent and involvement, Gareth was challenged to "show there has been an improvement with the majority of boys, increasing their reading age by six months in just eight weeks". The reading ages of the boys were assessed both before and after he spent time at the school so there was a clear way to assess whether his efforts had been successful.
Gareth's approach focused on three key main elements: competition, immediacy and managed risk. His "lessons" – which were held over three days a week while the boys continued their normal curricular studies on the remaining two days – took place predominately outside the classroom. And, naturally, the head teacher Chris Thurgood had the right to veto any of his ideas if she didn't feel comfortable with them.