BBC Three to work with young people on sitcom about pupil referral units

Exclusive: Scripted comedy PRU will ‘look past the stereotypes of kids who can’t behave’

They’re the last option for many vulnerable and struggling pupils – but is there also potential for laughs in the world of pupil referral units? The BBC are set to produce a scripted comedy based around one such facility, partnering with a production company which specialises in helping young people enter the TV and film industry.

The pilot, titled PRU, is a collaboration between the corporation’s online-only channel BBC Three, targeted at 16- to 34-year-olds, and the youth-led production company Fully Focused. Aiming to “authentically capture the unpredictable nature of PRU life, a world seldom seen by the public”, it will follow four “complex but seemingly self-destructive kids who say the unsayable and do the undoable”.

Director Teddy Nygh and writers Alex Tenenbaum and Nathaniel Stevens have experience working with young people, including those in referral units, while Fully Focused helps young people from underrepresented backgrounds enter the creative industries.

Executive producer Leah Henry of Fully Focused says the show will “look past the stereotypes of kids who can’t behave and [showcase] the wit, charm, frenetic energy and beautiful chaos of young people from all walks of life”. The programme, she said, is developed with people aged 18-25 and will provide paid training for young people during production.

The young people Fully Focused works with have “‘lived experience’ of the issues we portray in our drama, comedy and documentaries”, Henry said. “This includes young people who’ve attended PRUs, have experience of the youth justice system and are known to borough youth offending teams.” As well as providing support and mentoring, Fully Focused allows young people to use their own experiences to inform their work with the organisation.

Shane Allen, the BBC’s head of comedy commissioning, described the script as crackling with “terrific dialogue from sharply drawn characters in a world we haven’t seen before in sitcoms – all imbued with truth, heart and hilarity. Fully Focused bring their ethos and emphasis on authenticity and representation of young voices both on and off camera.”

Previous BBC Three pilots or Comedy Slices include People Just Do Nothing and Liam Williams’ Ladhood.

Founded in 2010, Fully Focused channels its profits into training programmes, and runs a YouTube channel, Million Youth Media, showcasing short films made by the young people it works with. PRU’s four teenage leads will be found via an open casting call, which launches online today.


Hannah J Davies

The GuardianTramp

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