Schools television

24th September 1999 at 01:00
* Pick of the week

Even the most dedicated teachers must sometimes stop and wonder if they ticked the wrong box when asked: "What do you want to do with your life?" Producers on BBC Radio 4 were so curious about why people stuck at what is obviously - to outsiders at least - such a thankless job that they placed a piece in The TES asking why you do it. They were astonished by the response - masses of you wrote in, and a new series, Chalkface Lovesongs, is the distilled result.

Three teachers, one from a large school outside Manchester, another from a Northumbrian high school and the third from an Oxfordshire comprehensive, deliver paeons to their profession - not in a romantic, Mr Chipsy kind of way, but each teacher picks out a defining moment in his or her career which restored commitment and enthusiasm. In the case of one, it occurred after a six-month lay-off through work-related stress. It may be just what you need if you are starting to wonder what else you could do for a living.

Chalkface Lovesongs, Radio 4, From Sunday, September 26, 5.40-6.00pm.


Edward Lear's poetry can baffle at the best of times, but harness it to the requirements of the national literacy hour and pitch both at profoundly deaf children and you could be faced with blank looks. A batch of programmes for Hands Up!, BBC Schools' series for deaf children, introduces stories and poems that have been translated into British Sign Language and which aim to teach deaf children about phonics, rhyme and rhythm in works such as "The Owl and the Pussycat", "The Fish who could Wish" and "This is the Bear and the Scary Night".

Each programme uses visual ways of introducing phonics, such as animation, film clips and magnetic boards to help children develop literacy skills. Big books are also available to support the series.

Hands Up! Signed Words and Pictures, BBC2, Tuesdays, 9.15-9.30am


Tony Robinson has become synonomous with historical reconstruction, whether as the scrofulous Baldrick from Blackadder, or, more seriously, as the frontman for Channel 4's Time Team. He's back in action, this time behind the scenes, to add historical gravitas to a new and slightly different series of Eureka!

Flying Through History is not your average school programme, but then it has been funded by Marks and Spencer and filmed entirely from a helicopter. It is a sumptious aerial banquet, featuring the choicest national landmarks, from castles and monasteries to standing stones, burial mounds and Roman ruins.

Some nifty manoevering allows us to peer into the past from a spectacularly elevated vantage point - close enough for intimacy and far enough to allow a proper perspective. In the case of the Uffington White Horse, you can really only appreciate the design and the way it is shaped by the contours of the land from the air. Now why was that do you suppose? No answers but the excellent teacher's notes give plenty of material for further investigation.

Eureka! Flying Through History, Channel 4, Fridays, 22.30-12 to November 5. The series will be repeated next year.

Janette Wolf

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