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KS3/4 Citizenship: Think of England (1999)

Is there a north/south divide?

Main image of KS3/4 Citizenship: Think of England (1999)
Author Poppy Simpson, BFI
TopicNorth/South divide
Key Words Identity, region, conflict
Show full lesson spec

Photographer Martin Parr travels across England to discover what it means to be 'English'.

This extract from the full length television programme Think of England might be on the short side, but it touches on a number of issues, including the concept of fighting for your country as well as the north/south divide.

In this lesson students are encouraged to think about the importance of place in defining identity, research into the north/south divide, generate their own opinions about the issue and imagine, think about and express views that are not their own.

Lesson Objective

  • To reflect on the importance of regions and local communities in defining identity and take part in a debate about the north/south divide, expressing opinions that may or may not be their own.


As the title suggests, Think of England (1999) deals exclusively with the 'English'. What do students think the differences between 'English' and 'British' are? What do they associate with the two different words? (For a full lesson suggestion looking at the relationship between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, see I'm British But...).

I certainly wouldn't go and fight for England as such. I mean, I know my father did - most of the lads' fathers did, you know. In the first and second world wars they came back to a country supposedly fit for the heroes. Is it? To be patriotic, you've got to feel part of the country you are in and I certainly don't feel part of England. Even though I live here and I'm from here, I still don't feel part of it.

Read students the quote (taken from the clip) or provide them with a written copy. Lead a brief class discussion around the question: What reasons might the person have for not feeling 'English'? Prompt questions might include: What factors can influence a person's sense of national identity or patriotism? What other identities might compete with a national identity (religion, region, class etc.)?


Main Attraction

Watch extract two. Please note:

  • Eddie George was the Governor of the Bank of England in 1998 (the year before this programme was made). He provoked a lot of criticism in the north after allegedly telling regional newspaper executives that unemployment in the north was a price worth paying to help the south (where inflation was rising).
  • It might be worth providing students with a basic definition of 'devolution'- ie. the process of handing power from central government to local or regional government. There is a Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly and each institution has limited powers to govern and pass laws.

It is clear that the two Liverpudlians in the pub feel a stronger attachment to their home-town and to the 'north' than to England. Ask students to write a brief answer the question - What role does the city, town, village or area you live in play in defining your sense of identity?

Lead a quick discussion based on students' answers, introducing the idea of the north-south divide: Have students ever heard of the north-south divide? What do they associate with 'the north' or 'the south' (you will need to talk through any prejudices, stereotypes etc. that may emerge during this conversation)? What kinds of things make regional differences noticeable? Why do they think that certain groups of northerners and southerners distrust each other?

Challenge students to prepare for a radio debate on the north-south divide. The radio show takes the form of a phone in with a group of young people in the studio talking about the issue, then listening and responding to the audience's viewpoints. This week the main talking point is the broadcast of 'Think of England' and, in particular, the extract in which the interviewee says: "I think we in the North have got a lot more to offer, culturally, entertainment wise, sportswise. I think, as a race, we in the North are far more superior to the English we see in the South".

Divide students into groups of about four or five. One group will need to prepare for its role in the studio. This will involve some general research about the north-south divide as well as some discussion about the implications of the quote (ie. the danger of using the word 'race') so that they are capable of discussing it from a number of different angles.

The other groups should be given a 'personality' - a character that they will need to flesh out, based on their research. It is important to highlight to students that their 'character's' shouldn't take a simple north vs south stance - it is a complex issue and people have a lot of different opinions about it. Perhaps the best way to emphasise the complexity would be for the teacher to model a phone-in, 'in character'.

Suggested characters (although students might prefer to base their characters around their research):

  • A Mancunian who has moved to London/ Mother of a family from the south who have moved to a village in Yorkshire/ A reporter on a regional newspaper in Leicester/ A footballer for Harrogate city/ A southern born MP representing a northern constituency/ Boss of a successful northern or southern based company/ A dockworker from Liverpool/TV presenter for London news/ A doctor from Surrey/ A student at Exeter University/ A graphic designer in London/ A postman from Plymouth/ A small business owner in Peterborough/ A vicar from Kent.

The website links below are a good place to start researching. Local tourist websites and newspapers online are also be a good source of information.

Once students have done sufficient research, hold the radio show!


End Credits

What can we learn from the final part of the clip (story about Hemel Hempstead Hockey club)? Why do students think that the filmmaker included this 'admission' when he was editing the programme?


External Links
A vision of Britain Compare and contrast Britain's different areas.
Useful articles about the north/south divide.
Back up your argument with some national statistics

Video Clips
Downloadable Teaching Resources

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of Think of England (1999)Think of England (1999)

Read more about this programme

See also

Thumbnail image of Essentially British? White Tribe (2000)Essentially British? White Tribe (2000)

Material to accompany the BFI Mediatheque 'Essentially British' DVD.

Thumbnail image of Essentially British?: I'm British But... (1989)Essentially British?: I'm British But... (1989)

Material to accompany the BFI Mediatheque 'Essentially British' DVD.

Thumbnail image of Essentially British?: Think of England (1999)Essentially British?: Think of England (1999)

Material to accompany the BFI Mediatheque 'Essentially British' DVD.