Beat the Teacher

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Beat the Teacher
Format Game show
Created by Clive Doig
Presented by Howard Stableford (1984)
Paul Jones (1985–1986)
Bruno Brookes (1987–1988)
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 5
No. of episodes 164
Running time 30 minutes
Original channel BBC1
Original run 24 September 1984 (1984-09-24) – 27 October 1988 (1988-10-27)

Beat the Teacher was a British game show devised by Clive Doig, made by BBC Television and shown as part of Children's BBC on weekdays at teatimes.

Show format[edit]

Each edition featured two contestants; one a school student and the other a teacher. Both were tested on general knowledge questions and logic puzzles.

Correct answers won the contestant moves on a giant Noughts and Crosses board made from rotating cubes. Questions awarded one, two or three moves of the board, based upon their difficulty. Control of the board was determined by the use of buzzers. After answering the question correctly, the contestant was given the choice of which blocks on the board to turn over.

For example, if a square displayed a "nought", one rotation would see the square turn blank; two would see it replaced with a "cross", three with another blank and on the fourth turn it would revert to a "nought".

Tactical play would lead to the contestant building up lines of noughts or crosses, for which points were awarded (10 points per horizontal, vertical or diagonal line).

A special "joker card" could be played once in each game by either contestant, reversing each square on the board so that all crosses became noughts and vice versa. A bonus was awarded for a full board of noughts or crosses, after which each square on the board would be randomised.

Question styles generally included puzzles, "true or false," or "identify the picture". The last round of the show before the winner was declared was a special "wrong answer round" in which aim was for the contestants to give as many incorrect answers as they could within 60 seconds. Each "wrong" answer would earn the contestant a move on the board, while if they gave answered a question correctly then they would lose one move per "correct" answer; in order to avoid deliberate tactical play, a twist was added so that if the contestant said "pass" instead of attempting to answer the question, then they would immediately lose all of their moves gained up to that point and have to start again from "zero" with any time remaining.

The player with the highest score at the end would be crowned champion and participate in the "final" round. The board was cleared, and the winning contestant had to try to fill all nine squares up by answering nine questions correctly within 60 seconds. If they accomplished this, they would win a prize. Whether they won or not they were invited to come back again the next episode. A "Beat the Teacher" Failure Mug was the consolation prize awarded to a majority of the shows unsuccessful contestants.

Once a contestant won five games in a row, they would "retire" undefeated (although this rule was waived for the final series, which saw one contestant win thirteen episodes in a row before being defeated). The best four students and the best four teachers from each series in terms of total number of wins and then total scores achieved in their episodes (excluding the final round) would return for the quarter finals at the end of the series

Two "Champion of Champions" special episodes were staged, in 1986 and in 1988, featuring contestants and schools from previous series.


Beat the Teacher had three different hosts over its airtime, Howard Stableford (1984), Paul Jones (1985-6) and BBC Radio 1 DJ Bruno Brookes, who took over in 1987 until the series ended the following year.

The theme tune was written by Mike Batt, although this was replaced in the 1988 series by a new theme by Martin Cook.


Launched in 1984 with the intent of eventually replacing the BBC's flagship children's quiz series Screen Test, which was dropped later that year, Beat the Teacher - to all effects a very simplistic series - was not quite as popular as Screen Test, but did nevertheless gain reasonably high viewing figures at its peak; it was believed by Clive Doig that this was largely due not to the questions or the board tactics, but rather because many children were in fact tuning in because they enjoyed watching a young contestant get the better of an adult[citation needed]. Overall, the students actually did come out on top more often than not, although when a teacher won an episode, it was normally by a much wider margin[citation needed].

The series was cancelled in 1989 even though the 1988 series had the highest viewing figures in the series' history. The BBC never gave any explanation for this[citation needed].


Series Start date End date Episodes
1 24 September 1984 9 November 1984 28
2 9 September 1985 8 November 1985 36
3 8 September 1986 7 November 1986 36
4 14 September 1987 12 November 1987 36
5 12 September 1988 27 October 1988 28

External links[edit]