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Robin Buss previews secondary programmes for the new term

There is a strong line-up of secondary programmes this autumn, especially for English, history, science and music.

Term starts next week with Channel Four's off-beat Bollywood Star (September 20-23, repeated November 29-December 2), the account of an open audition for an actor from the British Asian community to take part in a Bombay film.

C4 is repeating all three parts of the poetry anthology Arrows of Desire (from September 20) and a number of its programmes combining English with film studies. Its main offering for the term is The Story of the Novel (October 4-7), four programmes tracing the development of prose fiction in English from Robinson Crusoe to Jane Austen and beyond, with the help of later practitioners who include AS Byatt and Claire Tomalin. For Scottish schools, the BBC is broadcasting adaptations and analysis of six Scottish Short Stories (November 18), while earlier on BBC2 (November 4), Blast crosses the curriculum from English to expressive arts and PSHE with two hours of films made by young people in a variety of genres. The website is at

Old enough to be history, recent enough to have been recorded on celluloid, the First World War remains a favourite topic for schools' TV. The BBC gets through it in five 25-minute programmes (October 21), then carries on through the last century's ideological upheavals with Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and the Cold War (October 21-22). C4 takes a closer look at The First World War in a sweeping new 10-part documentary (September 27 to October 8) which raises questions about the origins of the conflict, how it was fought and its repercussions. Looking at the more immediate past, That'll Teach 'Em (C4, September 27 to October 1) puts a group of pupils through a reconstruction of the old secondary modern system to see how it will affect their GCSE results. Practical skills are also valued over academic ones in Men of Iron (C4, November 18-22), the story of the great Victorian engineers. Practical skills are foremost, too, in two new C4 series for design and technology: No Problem (November 15-19) and The Building Project (November 26 to December 3).

In science, The Theory of Everything (C4, November 15-17) gets behind the big questions - which don't include Do Fish Fart? (the answer is to be found in C4's science quiz (November 5)). A new Science in Focus programme on music and technology crosses the border between science and the expressive arts (C4, November 16). There are also new music programmes from the BBC - Diverse Music (October 27) and New Musical Traditions (November 9-30). The titles are interchangeable: the first is about traditions of non-Western classical music and the second about the diverse musical heritage of Northern Ireland. Finally, C4 explores the motives for "anti-social" behaviour, in Rude Britannia (October 18 to December 3), while on BBC2 Child (November 5) contrasts the lives of young people with AIDS in Rwanda and Britain. More about all of these from next week onwards.

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