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The term ahead

There is plenty of new material on both BBC2 and Channel 4 for the autumn term, especially in English and history for secondary schools. There are also exciting new resources at both primary and secondary levels, with an emphasis on cross-curricular applications and culturaldiversity.

It is interesting to note how popular animation has become as a medium for education, both for story-telling to younger children and for making classic texts more accessible to older ones. Channel 4's Book Box, for seven to 11-year-olds, opens its series of Animated Tales of the World on September 18 with a story about a poor Chinese boy who acquires a magic paintbrush and uses it to challenge a wicked emperor. This is followed in subsequent weeks by stories made by animators from different countries in a variety of techniques and styles.

Puppet animation is also used in the films for Wagner's Ring (C4, from November 30), which introduces key stage 2 children to the music and stories of Wagner's Ring of the Nibelungs.

Poetry by Numbers (C4, from October 19) has five poets, including Michael Rosen and Carol Ann Duffy, writing 20 poems each, inspired by the numbers from one to one hundred. The results should get the audience of seven to 14-year-olds making similar poems of their own.

This term also sees the start of Star Maths (C4, from September 18), a two-year project to encourage positive attitudes to numeracy in seven and eight-year-olds.

Beeban Kidron's live action film of Cinderella will appeal to teenagers with its strong cast including Kathleen Turner, Jane Birkin, Leslie Phillips and Katrin Cartlidge. It was first shown on the evening of New Year's Day, but for those who didn't get up in time, it is opening C4's Middle English series for 11 to 14-year-olds on November 2. An animated Attila the Hen is showing in the same strand later in the term.

Ten poems from the Northern Examinations and Assessment Board revised anthology feature in Poems from Other Cultures (BBC2, September 19), read by the poets and interpreted through commentary and film.

On October 24 and 25, also for pupils up to GCSE, Shakespeare Shorts and Macbeth Shorts (BBC2) use popular actors and television presenters to give a novel perspective on the plays; they are followed by Miller Shorts (October 26), which looks at Arthur Miller's best-known works and includes an interview with the dramatist.

Classic Short Prose (C4), for 14 to 16-year-olds, starts on September 20 with Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" and continues with stories by Sylvia Plath and Mich le Roberts read by actors. It includes some background on the writers' lives.

In Context (BBC2, September 20) looks at introducing the same age group to "classic" texts such as George Orwell's Animal Farm and J B Priestley's An Inspector Calls by situating them in their cultural and historical contexts.

For secondary science, Science in Action (BBC2, September 25-28) puts emphasis on the application of scientific theory to everyday life, while a new unit on time and place in the communication age for Science in Focus (C4, November 21 and 28) shows how modern technology allows us to measure not only time, but also distance, position and speed, with applications from navigation at sea to ultrasound scanning in medicine. In maths, Maths for Real (C4, from September 19) uses a variety of techniques to encourage a discovery approach.

There are several new resources for history and geography in secondary schools, including the key stage 3 series Britain 1500-1750 and Britain 1750-1900 (BBC2, November 21 and 22), which focus on developing skills of historical enquiry and a deeper understanding of historical events.

World 2000 (October 17-19) and Japan 2000 (October 19), both on BBC2, look at a variety of geographical questions, the first examining global problems and hoping to make 14 to 16-year-olds feel a sense of responsibility for solving them, and the second exploring lifestyles in Japan and the reasons for the country's economic success.

Finally, transmitted throughout the year, a new Channel 4 series called My Brilliant Career (from November 28) advises older pupils on choosing what to do once they leave school and, in the style of a television commercial, suggests some of the possibilities on offer.

All the programmes in this and other new series have back-up resources, usually in the form of net notes, a website and booklets - though printed materials, often the most convenient for teachers to use, are tending increasingly to be replaced by on-line net notes.

Robin Buss Schools TV listings return next week

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