The impact of Dr Who on student attainment


Watching Dr Who last night and my 10 year old daughter was fascinated – not by The Doctors, nor the story line, nor even the deeper revelations of Whovian lore. No, my 10 year old was fascinated by “how exactly did the inhaler work" (BBC – missed story line there, surely you where setting us up for a use of the inhaler as a plot device?) – Nevertheless, my daughter was fuelled to actually look up on Google “How inhalers work".

This got me thinking about the impact of Dr Who on learner attainment….. a quick search on the Internet led to figures for Dr Who viewing and examination results:



The Dr Who viewing figures seem to suggest a peak engagement with The Doctor during the late 1970′s and early 1980′s – and anecdotally this would tally with my peak interest in the Doctor. Then as the 1980′s developed, Dr Who entered a rapid decline in UK the percentage of UK population who watched the exploits of our favourite Time Lord.



As a teacher, I knew in my heart that since the introduction of GCSEs that the number of learners achieving 5 C+ grades had increased rapidly. It was only when I plotted this graph that the stark differentiation between O-Level and GCSE became apparent, spewing the inevitable debate on “Have standards of Education really improved that much over 20 years?" (As a teacher, I feel I can ask that question without getting flamed).

So, what if we look at Dr Who viewing and Attainment:


  • Looking at the O-Level years, it is clear that Dr Who viewing has no clear impact (positive or negative) on the attainment of the Nation. Indeed during this period Dr Who viewing spans 5% to 11% of the population with attainment constant.

  • During the GCSE Years the picture is radically different. As Dr Who viewing increases, so does the percentage of learners who achieve 5 A*-Grades. In short, Dr Who makes you smarter.

Implications to Education:
  • Establish Dr Who PLC’s within your schools to investigate the best way to roll out enforced episodes
  • Map your curricular to Dr Who Episodes
  • Nominate a departmental Whovian to be responsible for “putting The Doctor at the heart(s) of education"
  • Dig deeper into the data to ensure that their isn’t a Dr Who Gender Gap in your school.
Call to action:
  • As always, correlation isn’t causation.
  • What correlations have you been forced to act upon recently?

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