Each series follows around 30 teenage students as they are taken back to a 1950s style British boarding school. The show sets out to analyse whether the standards that were integral to the school life of the time helped to produce better exam results, to the current GCSE results and to compare certain contemporary educational methods with modern ones (e.g. vocational vs. academic focus for the less 'gifted').
As part of the experience, the participants are expected to board at a traditional school house, abiding by strict discipline, adopting to 1950s diet and following a strict uniform dress code.
After four weeks, the students then take their final exams, produced to the same standard as contemporary GCE O Levels.
There have been three series of the show, the first airing in 2003 (recreating a 1950s grammar school and featuring academically high-achieving pupils), the second in 2004 (a secondary modern and the academically average or poor) and the third and probably final series in 2006 (a grammar school again, this time focusing on science and with single-sex classes).
For the third series, a spin-off series, That'll Test 'Em, aired on More4 after the main programme. That'll Test 'Em invites pupils and their parents which have featured in the That'll Teach 'Em episode which has just aired to be quizzed on topics that they should know well after their time in 1950s education. The show is essentially a ‘parents versus children’ scenario.