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Teachers get TV channel

Classroom makeovers and fly-on-the-wall documentaries will feature on Europe's first TV channel to be targeted at a profession.

Teachers' TV aims to entertain staff as well as help them further their careers. Education Digital, the consortium in charge of the project, promises celebrity appearances and says that although the channel will report on successful staff and schools it will be a smug-free zone.

It will be searching for England's funniest teacher and plans a series containing sports-style commentaries on lessons, including slow-motion action replays.

Education Digital comprises documentary production company Brook Lapping, Carlton Communications and London University's Institute of Education. It will be working with the National College for School Leadership to allow teachers to gain professional accreditation if they watch groups of programmes then complete work online.

It will test out its ideas by sending 1,000 selected teachers a DVD of typical programmes every week from February 9. If the pilot is successful, Teachers' TV will begin broadcasting 18 hours a day next autumn on Freeview, Sky, and NTL and Telewest digital cable.

The channel hopes to involve as many school staff as possible in writing and presenting programmes. Programmes will be divided into three zones - primary, secondary and general - which will be repeated regularly. The general zone will contain series for all teachers as well as shows for school managers and governors.

Only 11 hours of material each week will be new and just 15 per cent of the programming will be aimed at pupils. The vast majority focuses on teachers' development.

Andrew Bethell, Education Digital's director of programmes, worked as a teacher for 15 years in London, before producing controversial documentaries such as The House, on the Royal Opera House, and Culloden, about an inner-London school.

"We are not going to be competing with Friends or EastEnders," he said.

"There won't be a random grab for the audience. We want teachers to make an appointment to watch the programmes that are directly relevant to them.

"If a teacher watched the channel for more than three hours a week it would be beyond my wildest dreams.

"We want teachers to use the channel to improve their career prospects and move up the salary scale," he said.

Teachers' TV will be editorially independent of the Government. However, the Department for Education and Skills will set educational objectives which the channel must reflect in its programming. It will also provide nearly all of Teachers' TV's funding, although some companies may be allowed to sponsor programmes and advertise.

The DfES is spending pound;1.2 million on the trial, but says it does not know yet how much it will spend on the station if it begins broadcasts - although estimates have been as high as pound;20m a year.

Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said questions still remained over whether teachers would have time to watch it. But he said that the channel could be a boost to the profession if its programmes were of high quality.

A 70 per cent stake in Education Digital will be held by Brook Lapping, a subsidiary of the media business Ten Alps, which was co-founded by Bob Geldof, the singer and Live Aid organiser.

Leader 22, matt buck 31


Ease the load - magazine programme with tips to help teachers ease their workload and reduce stress. The first show will look at ways teachers can care for their feet.

All change - a classroom makeover programme, in the style of "Changing Rooms". Pupils are filmed by a fly-on-the-wall camera during lessons on Friday. Over the weekend their classroom is transformed by experts in interior design and education. The pupils are then filmed on Monday to see their surprise and whether they behave differently.

Against the odds - documentaries about schools which have faced tough challenges then overcome them. Producers of Teachers' TV compare it to the emergency services' series 999.

Resource check - a consumer programme which looks at different educational resources from computer equipment to books.

Career stories - teachers explain how they got where they are today. Pilot episodes include a report on a teacher who moved from primary to special education.

Teachers' TV News - A weekly round-up of educational news.

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