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Funny side of the Street's Mr Barlow

"Do you still love Deirdre?" asked a teacher from the back. "Oh, yes!" sighed Ken Barlow, with feeling. And he confessed he hadn't seen the twins in years.

William Roache, the longest-serving actor in the 37-year-old soap, Coronation Street, and the nation's best-known teacher, was launching the latest product to emanate from the Street - a national curriculum workbook.

Mr Roache belied his gloomy TV alter ego. He bounced on stage and announced: "I've had 23 girlfriends and three wives, so you'll forgive me for looking a little tired. I enjoy my scenes in the classroom. Mind you, I think Ken made a bad career move when he had an affair with the headmistress . . . or maybe not."

He told the launch seminar of 400 teachers held at Granada's studios in Manchester last Saturday that his educational experience was confined to boarding school from seven to 18 and instructing his troops in general knowledge when he was a second lieutenant in the Army.

Research for his classroom performance is done by the writers, he said. "I feel comfortable in the role. But I wouldn't have the patience to do it on a daily basis."

As reported in The TES last month, Granada and the Oldham Compact collaborated to produce the workbook designed to bring a little fun into learning all the national curriculum subjects up to key stage 3 with the help of the world-famous street. Learning arithmetic in Maureen's Mini Market, for example, or geography with a map of Weatherfield.

Cath Wallace, assistant manager of the Oldham Compact and chief instigator of the project, is overwhelmed by the response. With her collaborator Eileen Allen, head of educational development at Granada, she had planned a seminar for 200. The numbers have doubled and there will be another session tomorrow.

Never has the national curriculum been so much in demand. Or was the real attraction the lure of a soap star, coupled with a free tour of the Street set and a free lunch?

Coronation Street was an ideal vehicle for teaching as it covered every aspect of life, Mr Roache said. And he thought it was a "moral show" as anyone who misbehaved had to pay the price.

He concluded: "There's no harm in making teaching fun as long as it's properly handled. If you give the kids Coronation Street as homework you're going to be popular." Pause for thought. "On the other hand, there's a danger that will put them off. We could lose viewers."

Coronation Street and the National Curriculum, from Oldham Compact, Education Offices, Old Town Hall, Middleton Road, Chadderton, Oldham. Price Pounds 10, or free to teachers who take school parties on the Granada Studio tour.

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