There is now a solution to your problem. It's not cheap and you have to be a Sky satellite customer, but a magic silver box called Sky+ means you will never have to miss a programme again.
Recording a programme is as simple as clicking on, say, Maths Mansion in the electronic programme guide for Tuesday morning and pressing the button marked with a red R. Users can set the box to record programmes up to seven days in advance and a clever Series Link feature means every episode of a series can be taped without having to set it each week. Many teachers and librarians will find this invaluable.
Programmes are recorded onto a hard drive that holds up to 20 hours of material. The recordings can then be archived on video, in real-time. The system also makes it easy to record radio programmes. Anyone familiar with Sky will find it a breeze and it won't take non-users long to master.
Sky has been trialling the technology in 16 secondary schools in south-east England with a package of channels relevant to education, including free-to-air channels, BBC 1, Channel 4, specialist documentary and arts channels, and the French language service TV5.
Teachers in the pilot have found the ability to pause a live programme very useful, and many have singled out being able to easily toggle between different parts of a recorded programme by inserting up to 20 bookmarks.
Whether Sky decides to offer a dedicated school service remains to be seen, but for home use Sky+ costs pound;199 plus installation, as well as pound;10 a month on top of the pound;18.50 for the family viewing package that includes everything but the sport and film channels.
That's a lot of money to spend every month on watching television, but it may be well spent if you are a big user of educational programmes.
Sky+ is one of the cleverest pieces of technology I have seen. It may be little more than a glorified video recorder, but it works so well and is very, very easy to use.
www.sky.comskyplusProgramme previews will return in September