Television - The Twilight Zone

18th December 2009 at 00:00
It's that time of year, when TV companies give over their festive schedules to educationally themed entertainment. The TESS has gained exclusive access, so settle back for a night of pedagogical programmes

5.30pm: Location, Location, Location

A special edition of the property programme from East Renfrewshire, as Kirstie and Phil advise parents to buy a new house in the Glasgow council area if they want to get into a popular local school - and then find the goalposts have been moved, and their children can't get in after all. "Have you thought about consulting a priest?" they ask the puzzled parents.

6.00: Relocation, Relocation

Straight from St Andrew's House. Presented by Mike Russell and Fiona Hyslop.

6.30: Survival

A breathtaking programme from the BBC's natural history unit about a dying wildlife breed: the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland. As directorate posts - and departments - are lost or merged, and non- educationists take over education departments, presenter Mike Russell tracks down the "last remaining dozen" of this elusive breed as they gather in a jungle clearing just outside Cumbernauld. In a moving scene, he moves in to cuddle ADES president Leslie Manson and past president David Cameron. "I want to make education departments strong again," he says, "and a breeding programme developed from selected ADES members before they die out is the place to start." John Wilson features as an alpha male.

7.00: Twilight

An educational version of the popular vampire film, Twilight, looks at the latest means of providing Curriculum for Excellence in-service on the cheap, by delivering it during twilight sessions at teachers' own schools, thus avoiding the need to hire expensive hotels for whole-day events. Cosla chief executive Rory Mair plays star vampire Edward Cullen as blood is sucked from every education department in the land. (NB Aberdeenshire region has an opt-out from the programme as it broadcasts highlights from its 2009 extravaganza Spend! Spend! Spend! The Biggest In-Service Course in the World! for 3,000 teachers.)

8.30: Breaking Dawn

Another Stephanie Mayer spin-off, as teachers continue to receive CfE training - and come to the breaking dawn of realisation that Building the Curriculum 4 is every bit as platitudinous and lacking in assessment details as BtC3.

9.00: Bernard's Work-Out Programme

Sports enthusiast Bernard McLeary offers his five-point fitness plan for the profession. "We want to get teachers fit again," he says, "and that's why Learning and Teaching Scotland has sent all teachers a huge folder of CfE materials. After the introductory `Five Step-ladder' exercise (to put the posters on the walls), our health and well-being team has developed a weightlifting regime involving teachers picking up the folder and trying to carry it out to their cars. We recommend a five-minute recovery period."

9.15: Drama - The No 1 Parents' Teaching Authority

In an educational reworking of the Alexander McCall Smith stories, the focus moves to East Renfrewshire, where investigator Precious Ramotswe focuses on another question to which everyone knows the answer: how is it possible for one authority to have such consistently wonderful results? Is it anything to do with the schools being situated in affluent catchment areas with an astonishingly-high proportion of ABC1 parents? "Just possibly," Precious chortles quietly to herself as she solves yet another pointless mystery.

9.45: Top Gear

A special edition from the Westerwood Hotel, Cumbernauld, presented by Fiona Hyslop in a festive review of the cars that no self-respecting head should be seen with. (Ed: don't you mean without?) Top-of-the-range BMWs and Volvos face the challenge of Vauxhall Corsas and Fiat Puntos as the mode of transport favoured for school leaders by the former Cabinet Secretary for Education, who makes her choices clear: "I'm sorry they've stopped making the Reliant Robin, which I think would have been the vehicle most suited to headteachers - anyway, excuse me: my chauffeur's waiting outside."

10.15: Film: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Headteacher

A reworking of the 1960s classic which reveals the isolation of life at the top in a typical Scottish school. Ken Cunningham of School Leaders Scotland outlines the startling decline in applications for headteacher posts, and the life of lonely misery that awaits successful applicants. "It's no joke being a head in education today. Nobody likes us. Everybody hates us. Think we'll go and eat worms ."

11.30: That Was Then, This Is Now

Mike Russell reworks the SE Hinton screenplay in the same way the Government has reworked its pledge on free school meals. "It's simple," he says: "we made an impossible pre-election promise - that was then. And we're trying to wriggle out of it - this is now. It's what we politicians do."

12.15am: Late Night Film: Lucky Number Slevin

A hugely complicated plot reveals a horror story that had the Scottish Executive recruiting frantically for new teachers in 2006 - but now finds that only one in five of them is likely to find a job in the next four years!

2am: Appeal (on behalf of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland)

Greg Dempster of AHDS with some late-night thoughts. "It's not very easy having an acronym that's one consonant away from a behaviour disorder," he bemoans, "and a lot of heads still get confused about which union they should be in. So let me make it quite clear. We need your money, and we'll do a better job for you than SLS, EIS and the SSTA put together! Send me your money now. But make sure you get the acronym right on the cheque."

If you find yourself affected by any of the issues in these programmes, contact Learning and Teaching Scotland, where trained advisers will deal with any educationally induced trauma.

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