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Schools television


The Vampire Hunter ITV October 28, 10.35pm

"The leeches were long and stringy when they started," Nigel Marven tells us, in a hushed voiceover. "Now they're fat and engorged with blood - and it's my blood!" While there is no shortage of special effects in this offbeat wildlife film, the blood is real, and most of it does, indeed, belong to the presenter. When not offering himself up as dinner for lampreys, vampires, leeches and mosquitoes, Marven draws on his liking for Hammer Horror films to compile an anthology of the genre's favourite accessories: dark castles, windy nights, eerie noises, dry ice, fangs and all that.

Ah, but is it science? Maybe not science as we know it, though it will surely leave its viewers understanding more about bloodsuckers, and not likely to forget what they have learned. A good biology lesson perhaps, for a dark December afternoon, close to the Christmas holidays.

Superhuman BBC1 Sundays, 9.10-10pm

Professor Robert Winston continues his journey around the frontiers of medicine and biology with an investigation of the remarkable powers of regeneration in the human body.

The body is constantly repairing the damage done by exertion, sunlight and the various forms of abuse inflicted on it by its owner; the younger the body, the more its capacity for self-repair. It is possible that in the near future we will be able to reverse damage to the spinal cord, offering hope to paraplegics. Broken spinal columns of mice have already been mended by the scientific team that managed to grow an ear on the back of a living mouse.

This is not viewing for the faint-hearted: anyone who dislikes the sight of blood will probably have switched channels early in the first programme. Professor Winston seems to revel in it, as he does in curious facts. He will tell you, for example, that new skin for skin grafts can be grown by the mete from the foreskins of new-born babies, a single cutting providing enough skin to cover six football pitches: at such times one cannot be sure if he is inviting us to wonder at the ingenuity of modern science, making an argument for circumcision or suggesting an alternative for Astroturf.


Have Your Say BBC Radio 3 November 2, 4.20-4.40am

The current series of Have Your Say, from BBC Schools' Radio, is designed to link closely with the new citizenship curriculum and encourage classroom discussion. It is aimed at nine to 11-year-olds.

In each programme, children give their views, which are amplified and illustrated in a dramatisation, and then debated in a wider context. For example, in programme one, three children playing together find that they need rules to govern the game and that they have to decide how the rules are to be enforced. This leads to an explanation of how Parliament makes laws and how our lawmakers are elected.

Teachers are invited to stop the tape at different points and throw the question open to the class. The material deals with complex issues in simple language.

REST OF RADIO Life Before Birth BBC Radio 4 October 31, 9-9.30pm

Connie St Louis concludes the story of the nine months from conception to birth. Last week, she showed how a pregnant woman's state of mind could affect her unborn baby, and asked whether a foetus can feel pain; this week she takes the story up to labour.

Research has shown that it is the foetus, rather than the mother's hormones, that decides when birth takes place - and the foetus quite often gets it wrong. Premature birth, which involves one baby in 10, brings increased risks of a whole range of problems from paralysis to cerebral palsy. It doesn't stop there: premature babies are more likely, later in life, to suffer from behavioural and educational problems.

Robin Buss

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