Schools television

15th January 1999 at 00:00

It's a fair sized leap from Never Mind the Buzzcocks to literacy but it's one that comedian Sean Hughes makes with some panache for The Write Stuff, a series of three new programmes for Channel 4's Middle English strand.

Produced by Rapido, the company that brought us the Bafta-award-winning Channel Hopping - a saucy and irreverent French series for schools, with Antoine de Caunes and Eddie Izzard - The Write Stuff aims to offer "a radical third way" to teaching English grammar. It is aided in this respect by poet John Hegley, and Sinbad and Jacqui Dixon from Brookside.

With such impeccably cool credentials, the presenters then have their work cut out trying to make the subject matter - writing, spelling and punctuation - similarly alluring.

It's not an easy task, but the programmes zip along in an engaging and spirited way and often give old dogma a new spin - "the apostrophe is a sticky customer who kills off unwanted letters". Every so often they pull off a masterstroke, like the film clip of former vice-president Dan Quayle instructing an American school child to correct his spelling of the word "potato" by adding an "e" to the end. Oops.

Hughes's laconic and humorous delivery suits the job in hand. Here is Everyman struggling with some of the more mystifying absurdities of the English language, which should offer encouragement tothose who are similarlypuzzled.

Middle English: The Write Stuff Channel 4, Thursdays, January 14, 21 and 28, 10-10.20am


Whatever happened to school radio? There is still such a thing but it goes out at a time when no one is at school, or even awake, to hear it. Thankfully, you can buy the entire output direct from BBC Education. Among this term's stars are two new units in the Music Box strand for four to five-year-olds. These aim to get children singing their socks off and contain a range of well-chosen songs which employ melodic and rhythmic techniques as well as being easy to learn and sing. Not only that, but there are stories to follow and actions and sounds to embellish the songs.

The teacher's guide (essential) costs pound;3; audio tapes pound;2; activity book pound;10.99, all available from BBC Education, tel: 01937 541001.

Music Box

Radio 3, Tuesdays, 3-3.15am


As part of Radio 3's series Sounding the Century, Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney disputes W H Auden's assertion that "poetry makes nothinghappen". It does, he argues, and he goes on to show why with a lecture peppered with contributions from a diverse range of poets including Ted Hughes, Dylan Thomas and W B Yeats.

Characteristically impassioned, Heaney finishes with a thumping rendition of one of his own, which should leave listeners in no doubt about the power the poem.

Sounding the Century: Seamus Heaney Radio 3, Sunday, January 17 5.45-6.30pm

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