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The really useful teacher channel

As a panel of teachers gets a preview of Teachers' TV we ask is it worth getting digital telly for? Michael Shaw reports

After a long day in the classroom who would want to watch a television channel about teaching?

It is a question that will be going through the heads of 1,100 teachers today as they unwrap the first of six DVDs containing pilot programmes from Teachers' TV.

The Government-funded channel will begin digital broadcasts at the end of the year - at an annual cost of up to pound;20 million - but only if the trial shows prove a hit.

To gauge the first reactions, The TES held a sneak preview for a small group of primary and secondary teachers, who were fuelled with wine, beer and nibbles.

Joining them was Benedict Arora, project leader for Teachers' TV at the Department for Education and Skills.

The opening programme, Ease the Load, elicited giggles when it suggested that staff should treat their feet to reflexology ("It's not just for the girlies!" exclaimed chirpy presenter Gigi Morley).

But the programme which sparked the loudest laughs was Behaving with Bayley, in which an unfortunate new teacher at Bexleyheath school in south London had a lesson filmed and then analysed by behaviour consultant John Bayley.

The focus group cackled evilly when the newly-qualified teacher's bored pupils were shown on screen and Mr Bayley warned the teacher he "may have been boring for England".

After 90 minutes of non-stop Teachers' TV there were a few yawns and glances at watches.

However, the unanimous verdict was that the programmes had been a pleasant surprise and that all the group were keen to watch the channel again.

Perhaps unexpectedly, the most popular programme was Teachers' TV news. The 15-minute bulletin, hosted by Mary Nightingale, explored problems with criminal checks on school staff and the capping of upper pay scales.

Sanobar Vir, who is teaching at Langley Park girls' school in Beckenham, Kent, while completing a postgraduate certificate in education, said she would consider buying a digital decoder to watch the channel.

"I was a bit sceptical, because I've seen training videos that the DfES has made and they were awful," she said. "The problem I'd have with Teachers'

TV is persuading my housemates to let me switch over to watch it - I'd end up seeing it at 3am."

For Russell Watson, a Year 6 teacher at St Andrew's Church of England primary in Stockwell, a highlight was Resource Review, a Watchdog-style programme rating resources on a scale from gold star to "see me later".

"I thought it was going to be like the QVC shopping channel, but it looked really useful," he said.

Meanwhile, Neil Moorcroft, a reception class teacher at Herbert Morrison primary in Lambeth, was enthusiastic about Pushing and Pulling, which explored setting up a science day for primary pupils - a job he has to do later this term.

However, he will not be buying a pound;80 digital decoder because he cannot afford it. The concern was noted by the DfES representative, who revealed that the Government is considering setting up a scheme to enable schools to receive a free decoder while teachers could buy them at a discount.

And Mr Arora said pound;20 million was a reasonable amount for the Government to consider spending a year on Teachers' TV. It worked out at pound;20 a year or pound;1.60 for each of the million people working in England as teachers or governors.

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