The award winning EastEnders online spin off E20 returns later this month with some hard-hitting storylines designed to get the nation’s teenagers talking.
The series will tackle a number of challenging and sensitive issues aimed at supporting the PSHE curriculum and has been written by a team of young writers including EastEnders cast members themselves. Himesh Patel (Tamwar), Charlie G Hawkins (Darren), Arinze Kene (Conor) and Emer Kenny (Zsa Zsa) have all written episodes alongside other 16-22-year-olds.
The show has been commissioned by BBC Learning this time around and has been developed following extensive consultation with the PSHE Association and teachers. The subjects addressed such as family breakdown, bullying and teenage sex were ones highlighted by teachers during discussions with the BBC.
Starting online on Tuesday 20 September and broadcast on BBC Three on Fridays at 8.30pm, E20 will be accompanied by online resources for PSHE teachers to help them use the storylines to stimulate discussion in the classroom for pupils aged 14 and above.
Teachers will be able to use the series episode by episode – 15×10 minute episodes available at bbc.co.uk/eastenders/e20 – in groups of programmes using the weekly omnibus on BBC Three, by theme using extracts from the series or by extracting clips for their own priorities.
In addition to the 2.5 hours of drama produced, BBC Learning has also commissioned 18 character monologues designed to complement teaching around key moments in the plot. These monologues see the characters reflecting on their choices, decisions and actions, the consequences of which are then played out in the main drama.
Suggested key curricular discussion points around each episode will also be made available along with the monologues via BBC Learning at bbc.co.uk/schools/psheandcitizenship (E20 resources available from 20 September 2011) as well as fuller lesson plans for the five key themes of sex and relationships; stereotypes; aspirations; family and bullying.
Real life stories from young people affected by some of the issues raised in the programme will also be available online. 21CC – which helps people of all ages to develop skills in film, radio and animation – worked with teenagers from across the UK to transform their stories into a series of compelling animations.
In addition to the EastEnders cast other writers were selected following a recruitment campaign and a four week long summer school led by E20 producer Deborah Sathe and E20 script producer and EastEnders writer, Peter Mattessi.
E20 prides itself on training new talent across every level, from actors to writers to production crew. During filming of the series trainees were employed for the first time in every aspect of production giving them the opportunity to develop their skills in camera, lighting sound and post-production editing.
BBC Learning Executive Producer, Sarah Miller, says: “By using a much loved and well-known brand such as EastEnders: E20, BBC Learning is looking to engage and interest teenagers to talk about difficult but important subjects within the classroom.
“The series addresses a number of topical issues and real-life social and personal dilemmas, including sexual consent and gang bullying, which teachers told us are difficult subjects to tackle but which affect many teenagers. E20 allows these themes to be explored in context in a safe and measured way. Led by teachers, students will be able reflect on the issues in relation to their own lives but the use of drama also enables them to depersonalize discussions.”
BBC Learning is also taking E20 on the road to schools across the UK. Modupe Adeyeye, who plays Faith Olubumni, and writer Wemmy Ogunyankin will take part in scriptwriting sessions with pupils in Year 10 and above.
Led by Peter Mattessi and Deborah Sathe with the support of 21CC, the pupils will write short scenes based on given scenarios. These will be performed, filmed and edited by pupils with Modupe helping to act out the scenes. The pupils will then have a screening of their work followed by a question and answer session.
The tour will visit various places including Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham, Belfast and Glasgow.
Executive Producer of E20, Deborah Sathe, said: “We wanted storylines that would make an impact both on screen and in the classroom because the reality is that many teenagers are affected on a daily basis by the issues we cover. We felt it was important to reflect their lives in a way that would then provoke further discussion in the classroom.”