This fascinating observational documentary takes us inside the world of ten four-year-olds as they meet in a nursery. With their parents watching everything close by on monitors, the ten children encounter one another for the first time in October and they meet again in May. Overseeing all the action are two leading scientists, Educational Neuroscientist Dr Paul Howard-Jones (Bristol University) and Developmental Psychologist Dr Sam Wass (MCR Cognition & Brain Unit, Cambridge). As the children meet for the very first time, the film documents burgeoning friendships, battles for resources and a face-off between Chaim and Christian, the two alpha boys, as they struggle to establish a pecking order. When the children meet again six months later much has changed, namely their ability to articulate their needs and desires. This fascinating observational documentary takes viewers inside the world of ten four-year-olds as they meet in a nursery.
Cuba lives on a houseboat with his mum Heidi, an artist and his dad Baz, who works in specialist thermal road markings and is also a boxing trainer. Cuba had very much wanted the role of Joseph, and was disappointed to get the donkey instead. Shakir lives in Middlesex with his mum Sonya, a project manager and his dad, Taqi who is the CEO of a tour operator. Shakir has recently started to learn to play the trumpet which has been tough on the family! He started an unlikely friendship with Cuba, a friendship which the scientists found to be beneficial for both.
Jayda lives in London with her dad Jules, a location manager in film and her mum Paweena, who is currently a full time mum. Her parents say she is really sociable and has lots of friends at school, and always wants to help her friends out. During the week she showed great strength of character, she was not afraid to share her opinions. Jessica lives with her mum Natalie, a domestic cleaner and dad Steve, a paint sprayer, and brother Jake who’s 10. However, she was still nervous in auditions, and took a while to gain the confidence to get up on stage and sing.
In the nativity, she was chosen to play the sought after part of Mary, despite some tough competition. Skyla is an only child and lives with her mum and dad, Frank and Natasha, in South East London. When we met her in the first programme she pushed Jessica away when Jessica wanted to be her friend but two years later, when they were reunited for the nativity, the two quickly bonded and became close friends. Skyla was not happy about her allocated role of a Wise Man – she desperately wanted to be the Angel. Christian lives in South East London with mum Annette, a company director in the beauty industry and IT consultant dad, Trevor and his two sisters. Christian's favourite subject is science and his mum thinks he will grow up to be an engineer. Ever popular in the group, Christian is cast in the role of the Angel Gabriel (or Angel 'Nigel' as he was called in the children's version of the Nativity). Oliver has a younger sister Miya, who is four and they live with their parents Deborah and Gareth in South East London. Jasmin is a confident girl, who wanted to play the sought after role of Mary, but to her disappointment got the role of Shepherd alongside Luke. Luke originally wanted to play Jesus in the nativity though this part wasn’t up for grabs, and alongside Jasmin, he played a shepherd. In the nativity, Caitlyn was very confident at establishing herself within the new group, and was quick to stand up to the original pilot children calling them ‘the new girls’! In the summer, Elvin emerged as a considered and natural leader, commanding respect from his peers. He auditioned with a special dance and received the coveted role of narrator, which he shared with Jayda.
Elouisa lives in North London with her mum Anneliese, her Pastor dad, Ashley and her younger brothers; 5 year old Sebastian and 1 year old Leonardo. Elouisa has a happy, outgoing and quirky personality and was popular with both the boys and the girls, and showed lots of imagination. She provided lots of laughter, imagination and kindness over the summer, and made friends with everyone there. Alfie is the oldest of two and lives in Somerset with Mum, Zoë, Dad, Kev and baby sister Daisy.
During filming in the Summer, he impressed the scientists with his creativity and humour, finding it easy to make friends with both boys and girls.
Alfie was absolutely delighted to be reunited with his friend Emily and together they were allocated roles as sheep in the play. Tia lives in Kent with her mum Cheryl, a manager of a bookmakers, and dad Glenn who works in waste management. She has amazing social skills and a very strong sense of morality and justice, and expressed her ideas on this and other topics very clearly. Theo is an only child who lives in Surrey with New Zealander parents Lisa and Freddie and is Steiner educated. Theo is thoughtful and imaginative, and develops strong and special friendships at the play centre, with both boys and girls. For the nativity he was allocated the dual role of an Angel and North Star and enjoyed both roles. Taylor lives in Manchester with his PE Coach Mum Katie and his Dad, Dave, who runs a bouncy castle business. During the summer, Taylor was the social glue in the group - but showed distinctly more interest in spending time with the girls.
Damage to Bobby Dudani's Computer Exchange shops in the 2011 riots cost him hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Celebrity agent Carol Hayes travels to an East Glasgow estate where life expectancy can be as low as 54, and helps charities for local kids and people with early stage dementia.
Restaurateur Arfan Razak goes undercover in Oxford, where a quarter of the population suffer significant financial hardship. Self-made millionaire Mike Holland goes undercover in Grimsby, where the organisations he works with help him deal with tragedy from his own family past. Charles Allen has been Chief Executive of ITV and Chair of EMI; he's on the board of Tesco and Virgin Media, and the Olympic Committee for 2012. Mike Greene is a self-made millionaire who attributes his success to starting work at the age of seven.
Dr Chai Patel used to own the Priory Clinic, the centre often associated with celebrity rehab. Lee Stafford, one of Britain's most successful celebrity hairdressers, goes undercover in Salford, where his experiences help him come to terms with his mother's cancer and his brother's brain damage. Inventor Edward Douglas-Miller had a privileged start in life but suffered tragedy when one of his daughters died at two days old. When Ivan Massow started work as a 17-year-old insurance clerk, he spotted a gap in the gay market. Celebrity hairdresser Adee Phelan, who has an exclusive salon in Covent Garden, meets the residents of Brooklands in Jaywick, on the Essex coast, one of the most deprived areas in the UK. Computing entrepreneur Aria Taheri came to England from Iran when he was 17, leaving his family behind. Millionaire Lyn Cecil goes undercover to find people she can help in Islington, where, like in so many other parts of London, the super-rich and the desperately poor live side by side.
Simrin Choudhrie, who's seven months pregnant, descended from Indian royalty and the heiress to a multi-million pound fortune, goes undercover in Burngreave in Sheffield to find people she can help.


IT recruitment entrepreneur Sean Gallagher travels to Middlesbrough to find people he can help, including a charity that assists people with a medical condition that has personal significance for him. Dawn Gibbins returns to inner-city Bristol a year after she went undercover as a Secret Millionaire. Paul Ragan fulfils his promise to return to Derby in order to look for new way to make a difference in the community he originally visited as a secret millionaire. Sixty-year-old dotcom millionaire Marcelle Speller made her fortune relatively late in life. Iranian-born Jahan Abedi, who considers himself Welsh through and through, has made millions from property.
Scrap metal tycoon Gary Eastwood returns to Blackpool to see if the A?50,000 he donated eight months earlier is creating change.
Charlie Mullins has worked his way to a multi-million-pound fortune as the boss of a plumbing empire.
Millionaire Liz Jackson lost her sight 10 years ago, but is determined that this does not define who she is. Rob Calcraft, a flamboyant beauty industry magnate, lives undercover in in Barrow-in-Furness looking to share a little of his wealth with the local people who he's come to know and respect.
Jennifer Cheyne leaves her luxury lifestyle behind and goes undercover in Aberfan, a place that still suffers the after-effects of the closure of the coal-mining industry. The former MD of Rover, 57-year-old entrepeneur Kevin Morley, is determined to venture out of his comfort zone. UK's richest people have taken on huge challenges in order to give something back to the community. In order to deliver a personalised, responsive service and to improve the site, we remember and store information about how you use it. But this nursery is rigged with cameras to capture every glance, ever whisper, every tussle, and all the raw emotion as these children take their first tentative steps towards independence in a world without parents – providing a unique insight into this pivotal stage of childhood. This close observation of children in a nursery setting mirrors the way that scientists work.
It actually has been a fantastic revelation,” says Educational Neuroscientist Dr Paul Howard-Jones. Through these glimpses of their future selves it is easy to identify and recognise our own character traits in these four year-olds.
But this nursery is rigged with cameras to capture every glance, ever whisper, every tussle, and all the raw emotion as these children take their first tentative steps towards independence in a world without parents, providing a unique insight into this pivotal stage of childhood. He and his family are Muslim and he has recently started to learn to pray and goes to the mosque. She loves to sing and was often keen to demonstrate her vocal skills to the rest of the group. Although in the original Secret Life of 4 Year Olds Jessica was very shy and struggled to win Skyla as a friend, they have since become great friends and their relationship became more balanced. When she did, her choice of song came as some surprise to the other children and teacher Kate. At first Christian felt uncomfortable about this and asked if he would have to wear a dress. Her parents are separated and she lives in London with her Online Developer mum, Kylie and her brothers Eoghan (9 years old) and Malachy (4 years old).
He has a very strong sense of morals and justice and impressed the scientists both during the summer and nativity with his sense of compassion and creative imagination. She possesses good communication skills and demonstrated a greater social competence when dealing with her peers than might be expected from a child of her age. Emily’s sense of humour and nurturing personality made her a popular member of the group. So far we’ve seen schools, hotels, hospitals and even toilets come under the microscope and now we have a behind-the-scenes look at life at Leicester University. He goes undercover in Bradford where he faces up to the impact of his career on his life and family. He goes undercover in Swansea, where there's been a 55% increase in the number of children taken into care in 10 years. He leaves his showbiz lifestyle to go undercover in Leeds, looking for people he may be able to help. Chai goes undercover as a doctor in Sheffield, to help people at the opposite end of society.
She has made her money as a confidence coach and now she's going under cover to look for people who need help.
He goes undercover in a prison for young offenders, but can direct personal help to a prisoner ever be right? He leaves his home in the Wirral to go undercover in Bootle, one of the most deprived areas of Britain. She visits Plymouth, where 25% of the population live in deprivation, to find people to help.
He goes undercover to find people who might need his help in Doncaster, reassessing his opinions about unemployment along the way. He goes undercover in Newcastle's Westside, where he looks for and is introduced to people who may need his help.
He attempts to help some of the people who are trying to provide an alternative to crime and gangs. He leaves it behind to adopt a secret identity in Liverpool, but struggles with the realities of life on Anfield's tough streets.
He goes undercover in Barnstaple, a pretty market town that is also one of the most deprived areas in rural England. For nine days, Rob leaves the property game behind to go undercover in the protestant Shankill Road in Belfast. His parents say he has a great imagination and at the moment he is interested in earthquakes and natural history. However, having been fitted with a state of the art pair of wings, he embraced the role in commanding fashion and performed beautifully. He is a bright and chatty boy who is obsessed with trains and buses- and has visited the London transport museum eight times. However, she had a particularly strong friendship with Alfie, based on their quirky imaginations and games.
In addition to an angel, Tia was also a cow and was excited by both roles, and in particular being the first on stage. He’s also a loyal boy, and makes a beeline for Tyler early on, and he won’t rest until their friendship is cemented! But instead of setting up cameras in the lecture theatres and halls of residence, The Secret Life of Students focuses on the social media interactions of various fresher students. Ask them what they want to be and they’ll probably reply, “famous” or “rich.” I mean, really… what do they aspire to? These cookies are completely safe and secure and will never contain any sensitive information. Alfie even told Emily he loved her, and they missed each other hugely during their break from the play centre.
The result is a voyeuristic look at the first months away from home for various teenagers and the problems they face settling in to university life.My first issue with the programme was the emphasis that was put on social media as a way of garnering popularity.
For example the loutish Aidan was presented as the most outgoing of tonight’s trio as he had 2,160 friends on Facebook and was always gaining followers on Twitter.
In fact plenty of facts about all of the students were given via the information on their Facebook wall from the pictures they posted to their various interests. These are simple text files which sit on your computer, and are only used by us and our trusted partners.


The programme observes the action minutely as the children make and break friendships, struggle to share and to stand up for themselves, and ultimately find their place in this new social group.
This to me screamed of lazy researching as the team behind The Secret Life of Students hardly had to do any work apart from searching a couple of social media profiles. Overseeing all the action are two leading scientists, educational neuroscientist Dr Paul Howard-Jones (Bristol University) and developmental psychologist Dr Sam Wass (MCR Cognition & Brain Unit, Cambridge). To be fair they presented a pretty accurate depiction of the three students from the fact that Aiden was always trying to impress his online following to the exploration of history student Lauren’s fascination with Anne Frank. Living in the same block, Aiden and Lauren couldn’t be more different as he was always at the centre of the action whilst she was trying to hide in the background. Drawing on this model, these experts have the opportunity to eavesdrop on the children's play on monitors, but also to suggest some interventions to explore the children's various stages of development. Non-drinker Lauren tried to fit but struggled when she went on a night out with her housemates and ended up crying her way back to halls. Channel 4’s series focusing on 4, 5 and 6 year olds is therefore fascinating, as its group of subjects get older and older.
Lauren also found it hard to take a group picture when some of the more loutish members of the group decide to play a distasteful drinking game based on the Nazi party. The Secret Life of 6 Year Olds continues the show’s winning blend of cute antics, surprisingly honest observations and amusing conversations. For now though, she and her band of knee-high humans are too busy restoring my faith in humanity.
Josie did the cliched student thing of taking a gap year trip round Asia before starting at Leicester University. The Secret Life of 5 Year Olds isn’t a startlingly new concept, it’s basically Big Brother [4], only populated by people who are acting like a bunch of kids precisely because they are a bunch of kids.
When the group is asked to vote for the best, he starts to understand why the girl he painted is upset.
Josie has 1,247 friends on Facebook whilst she also has exchanged over 50,000 messages with her best friends Donia and Freia. Throughout the course of the programme, Josie is presented as somebody with severe confidence issues and she feels inferior to her new flatmate Mads. Unsurprisingly, Josie’s issues make her an easy target for lads on the pull and she soon embarks on several one night stands. After some joyous reunions, they got down to the business of serious play.The play in question was all focused around finding your place within a social group, and understanding that the needs of others matter.
This is, of course, a key life skill – unless you aspire to be on the Tory front bench or a Daily Mail columnist, in which case any comprehension of compassion would prove a terrible and insurmountable burden.These are tricky concepts for young minds to grasp, and occasionally they simply didn’t bother. After Alfie’s unwittingly aggressive pursuit of potential playmate Amelia, he locked horns with amiable Essex boy George, using all the negotiating skill of a despot annexing Eastern Europe. One boy, who grew up wearing shiny shirts on stage, testifies loudly to a crowd, while his dad tries to sell DVDs in the car park outside.
It wasn’t long before Josie and Aiden came into contact with one another and had a rather uncomfortable night together. This is all to do with the different rates at which we develop empathy (or “Theory of Mind” as the doctors called it). Once the two finally met up, they shared several conversations which beneficial to their survival at the institution. But, rather predictably, as the term progressed their relationship started to become more one-sided as Daniel texts became sporadic at best. Later, when the children brought in food for a lunchtime sharing menu, none of them wanted to try his “Essex Noodles”. Obscenely rich people, who pay through the nose for outrageous (and outrageously expensive) food. Of the three characters, Lauren was the only who I had any time for but her stalker-like pursuit of Daniel really put me off her.
It’s hard to know whether the programme is meant to be celebrating the audacious cuisine or laughing at the swine on screen.
The collapse of her friendship with Daniel saw Lauren launch into a deep depression however joining the university’s Labour Society really gave her a new-found confidence. But with Tracy-Ann Oberman’s narration over the top, the parade of excess becomes wonderfully grotesque.
I was happy that Lauren found a place where she could finally fit in and to an extent I think she was the character that most could identify with.
At least I think that’s what he said ­– I was in streams of tears myself at this point so my recall isn’t what it might be. I was also overjoyed when Aiden finally got his comeuppance after learning that he had contracted a STD from all of his nights of unprotected sex. Watching him take control of the group in a football-themed task later in the show was one of the most genuinely feelgood moments of factual TV I’ve seen all year.For the rest of the show, I was reduced to a ludicrous, heaving, blubbing mess.
However I wasn’t a fan of the scenes in which we followed Aiden to the clinic where he was both tested and given the medication for his new disease.
When a painting exercise designed specifically to test the children’s social skills and understanding of each other ended in tears, I was with him all the way. As Arthur and Sienna declared, “We’re wedding people,” and played out the early stages of their relationship to a soundtrack of Emily stumbling around, shouting, “I’ve gone blind, I can’t see!” I was crying with laughter. Later, when Alfie and Emily (pictured above) declared their love for each other and said they’d be friends forever, tears streamed down my face like an Oscar [5]-winner peeling onions. Even though the programme-makers tried to get us to like both of these girls, I found their confidence issues to be grating rather than endearing. Other programmes, like the Educating series and most BBC3 documentaries, have found likeable young characters to front their series but The Secret Life of Students struggled to do this.
We’ve learned that traits such as selfishness and solipsism are often necessary emotional starting points.
Why the detestable Aiden was chosen as a subject for this programme remains a mystery and his presence on screen continued to frustrate me. Aiden is everything that is wrong with the growing use of social media and his participation in the dreadful neknominations demonstrated this perfectly. The real success of The Secret Life… however, is to show us that childhood hasn’t really changed that much. Aside from the lack of likeable participants, The Secret Life of Students didn’t have anything new to say about university life.
Our subjects were nervous about their first days, had confidence issues throughout, drunk a lot and did plenty of bed-hopping.
Furthermore, the lack of research that went into the programme made this feel like a lazily put together programme that was conceived to fill up the summer schedules.Ultimately, I struggled to find anything of merit in The Secret Life of Students which is a shame as I was rather looking forward to it.
Instead of being another fly-on-the-wall show this was a portrait of three generic characters who I found it hard to care for. However, this is an independent publication: we take care not to let commercial relationships dictate the editorial stance of content or the writing staff.
The Secret Life of Students felt like a lazy concept that was poorly executed and came off as a rare misstep for Channel 4 who usually provide strong factual programming.What did you think of The Secret Life of Students? Sign up to the UK's only VOD newsletterNever miss a Netflix release: keep up-to-date with the latest news, reviews and what's coming soon.Never display this againSign me up!



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