BFI logo











Screenonline banner
KS3 Geography: Housing Problems (1935)

Exploring issues of slum housing with a classic film documentary

Main image of KS3 Geography: Housing Problems (1935)
AuthorRebecca Cramer
TopicHousing, inner city slums, regeneration
Show full lesson spec

The Problem of the Slum and Rehousing , two clips taken from the groundbreaking documentary Housing Problems (1935), show the shift from old slums to new housing estates and shed a positive light over the new housing. 40 years on and Who Cares (1971) shows a contrasting negative view of high rise housing.

These two clips provide a very useful contrast and demonstrate a clear shift from the interwar to the postwar period and the deterioration of inner city high-rise housing.

This lesson idea uses the films as a useful illustration of the issues behind slum clearance as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the 'solutions'. This lesson can be used as part of a GCSE or A-level unit on housing or urban regeneration and would most likely follow a lesson on what factors influence quality of life and standard or living. Students will need to be aware of urban landuse models. This lesson would work well before introducing a case study example of modern urban regeneration.

Lesson Objective

  • To understand why slum clearance occurred
  • To consider the benefits and longer-term problems caused by high-rise housing blocks


Play The Problem of the Slum to pupils with the screen covered so that they only hear the sound. Ask them to jot down what they think the houses in the clip will look like.

Pupils can compare their ideas when they re-watch the clip (with image), this time noting down all the problems of the slum housing that they can see or infer e.g. no water, sagging roofs etc. This could lead to a teacher to lead discussion about why these houses were built in the first place and why they are so cramped and in such poor condition.


Main Attraction

Begin with a brainstorming exercise (pupils working in groups) about the problems associated with inner city housing in the present day. (A case study e.g. Bradford, may be useful to bring in here).

Before playing the next clip, ask pupils to write a short answer to the following question: Why do you think the government felt it necessary to clear the inner city slums of the interwar period? Once they have shared their response with the person next to them, play Rehousing asking pupils to note down the key points.

Afterwards discuss whether the woman's quality of life and standard of living have improved since the slum clearance. Ask pupils to list the positive effects of slum clearance, using the information from the film as well as their own knowledge.

Now, play the third clip from Who Cares, entitled Life on the new estates with pupils listing the possible negative effects of slum clearance as they watch.


End Credits

Discuss, as a class, how useful the clips are as a means of exploring the issues surrounding slum clearance. Is there any evidence of bias, for example, in Who Cares? (think about the title and the style of filming) and how does this limit the usefulness of the film as a piece of evidence.

At the end of the lesson pupils should be in a position to construct a detailed response to the following question: Why were slums cleared and what were the initial benefits and later problems of the new forms of housing?


External Links

Video Clips
1. The problem of the slum (1:44)
3. Life on the new estates (2:29)
4. Rehousing (1:18)
Downloadable Teaching Resources

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of Housing Problems (1935)Housing Problems (1935)

Read more about this film

Thumbnail image of Who Cares (1971)Who Cares (1971)

Read more about this film

See also

Thumbnail image of KS3/4 Geography: Housing Problems (1935)KS3/4 Geography: Housing Problems (1935)

Exploring residents' perceptions of slums and re-development plans in London

Thumbnail image of The Promised Land?: Housing Problems (1935)The Promised Land?: Housing Problems (1935)

Material to accompany the BFI Mediatheque 'The Promised Land?' DVD