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Learning with Auntie Beeb

A major series of television shows was launched this week to get thousands of people off the sofa and into college.

The BBC's late night and lunchtime programmes will lead directly to qualifications for viewers. Some 170 colleges have signed up to offer credits towards a host of awards for people who are inspired by the television to send off for educational packs or go off on specially-designed courses.

The first part of the project, aimed at people who have been out of education for years, will run later this month with a string of late-night programmes.

A series of hour-long lunchtime shows will follow on BBC2 in the autumn with programmes running every weekday and covering a different theme each month.

The shows will be advertised in prime time, and viewers can find out more by sending off for a pack, or going to a local college.

Jenny Hunt, learning support commissioner at the BBC, who was behind the Summer Nights promotion which will launch the project, said: "We are very conscious that people at home are interested in learning more. When we produce a fact sheet or information there's a very good response. We thought we would try to take them a bit further."

The BBC will also offer its own educational packs to accompany the programmes, providing work which can also be accredited by colleges, giving people credits which may go towards gaining a qualification.

Peter Wilson, director of the Open College Network, which is co-ordinating the colleges' work with the BBC, said: "It's important that the link between the OCN and the BBC is long-term and builds up over time.

"We are certainly interested in things like natural history programmes and similar things which could form the basis of further educational material. "

Alan Tuckett, director of the National Institute for Adult Continuing Education, welcomed the moves, but called for the BBC to commit itself to a full-blown education channel. Digital television, he argued, would provide the opportunities to expand educational broadcasting.

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