Even Ken Barlow is interesting at key stage 2

10th October 1997 at 01:00
A group of Oldham teachers have anticipated the Government's well-publicised interest in soaps.

Even before the news that Liverpool-based Brookside had been enlisted by the Government to promote reading, children in the North-west had been invited to join a new national curriculum venture with the nation's most venerable soap, Coronation Street.

Shopping in Maureen's minimarket, puzzling over a bill from Kevin's garage or following in Nicky's footsteps on his paper round are now on the timetable for pupils up to 14.

Cath Wallace is the chief instigator of the project which will be launched nationwide next month at Manchester's Granada Studios, home of Corrie's set. She admits that she is resigned to scorn being poured on her efforts, but adds: "I am desperately serious. If you can harness what children are interested in to their learning it makes education real and pertinent to them."

Ms Wallace, an assistant manager for the Oldham Compact which works to enhance the national curriculum with business links, collaborated with Eileen Allen, education liaison manager at Granada and a team of teachers to produce a work book, Coronation Street and the national curriculum".

At first the idea was to link the Street to a social history project on the North-west, but Ms Wallace's team became so carried away by the idea that they included all nine curriculum subjects. "You can ask a child to add up a shopping list, but if you set up a corner shop like Maureen's it adds a new dimension," she said.

Key stage 1 maths could be enlivened by delivering papers for Rita: numbering houses, putting papers in the right order, delivering them to the right house.

Older children could develop a new story line or write an article for the Weatherfield Gazette in key stage 2 English; or study building materials used in the houses for design and technology at key stage 3.

Although a visit to Granada is not essential, it brings the project to life, said Ms Allen, "It's a brilliant way of supporting education."

As fans of the Street know well, the plot and characters move on. The resource book will do so too as Ms Wallace and her team plan to update it next year. Given the lack of high-flyers in Weatherfield, it seems unlikely that careers education will ever gain a high profile in the project - unless murderous taxi-drivers, morose mechanics or grasping factory-owners become role models under New Labour's Age of Giving.

A spokeswoman for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority said:"If the material is well done - we haven't seen it yet, so we don't know - it can't be a harmful thing to do. The very fact that politicians recognise the influence soap has on children means that this kind of thing should be welcomed."

Coronation Street and the national curriculum, from Oldham Compact,Education Offices, Old Town Hall, Middleton Road, Chadderton, Oldham. Price Pounds 10, or free for the first 50 TES readers who send us a postcard or for teachers who take school parties round the Granada Studio tours or work in Oldham.

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