Inbetweeners should really get out more

VIEWERS of the Inbetweeners may find it surprising to learn that adolescent exploration of the great outdoors need not involve getting hopelessly drunk and throwing up inside a tent.

Similarly, frustrated teenage boys do not have to spend geography field trips searching for a sexual encounter with an older woman in order to develop a life-long love affair with the countryside.

Despite alcohol and hormone-fuelled disaster befalling Will, Simon, Jay and Neil whenever they went to the country, the producer of the hit comedy series has revealed that he is a passionate believer in the benefits of an outdoor education.

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Thankfully, Christopher Young’s vision of extra-curricular outward bound activity is somewhat heartier and healthier than the sex and booze-crazed escapades undertaken by the fictional adolescents he brought to the screen.

The 52-year-old film-maker, who lives on Skye, believes today’s teenagers should be given the sort of outdoor education that he benefited from when he was growing up.

His love of the countryside survived his own Inbetweenerish phase that saw his father drag a reluctant and surly youth up hills when he would have rather been downing an under-age drink.

“It is that classic thing and I do remember rebelling against it at the time,” Mr Young told The Scotsman.

“When I was 14 or 15, I wanted to be in smokey bars, not outside in the great outdoors walking, because that was a very uncool thing to be doing.

“I was very keen on playing snooker and getting drunk and all that stuff – to the despair of my father, obviously.”

The despair must have been keenly felt, given that his father was the Edinburgh headmaster Sir Roger Young, whose innovative approach to schooling pioneered ambitious trips into the countryside for teenagers.

Almost exactly 50 years ago, his father introduced so-called S3 Projects to George Watson’s, a scheme that exists to this day, and made two weeks of residential outdoor education available to all pupils.

The film-maker was unable to take part in the courses himself, because he went to Daniel Stewart’s College. But Sir Roger’s love of the outdoors carried through to family life and Mr Young believes that he owes his keenness for climbing the Cuillin mountains that loom over his house to his father.

“In truth, I really rediscovered my love of climbing in my late 20s and I think I then recognised an immense debt to my father, because I realised if you had a taste of that when you are much younger it will come through later on,” Mr Young said.

He added: “I really think Scottish schools should do more to get kids outside. To me, education, as far as my children are concerned, is a social experience as much as anything. The academic thing is overrated, frankly.”

It was not just the man behind the Inbetweeners who benefited from Sir Roger’s enthusiasm for the great outdoors. Countless Watson’s pupils remember their fortnight in the country as a defining moment of their school days.

Among them was Liz Smith, the Conservative MSP who last week climbed her 283rd and final Munro. “It was really my school days that gave me my interest in climbing and I think it is sad that a lot of children in school today do not get that sort of opportunity,” said Ms Smith.

Sir Roger, 88, who retired to Bath 27 years ago, said he was “gratified” his S3 Projects initiative was still going strong.