TV listings - Remote controls at the ready

24th December 2010 at 00:00
Sit back and mark up your choice of seasonal viewing in our annual TESS educational TV schedules .

5pm: Countryfile

An outside education special, including farm visits, badger-watching and orienteering challenges for inner-city pupils never exposed to the countryside. Unfortunately, the local council steps in at the last minute with a health and safety risk assessment that sends all participants back to school to watch a Bill Oddie DVD instead.

5.30: Grand Designs

Kevin McCloud introduces an educational episode of the home-building programme that documents the struggles of ordinary people trying to build enormous structures. This week, two DIY experts - Bernard from Glasgow and Bill from Livingston - take up a "double challenge" in a project designed to convert two rambling structures into a sparkling new edifice fit for delivering - and inspecting - the 21st-century curriculum. But will SQIAR Hall be ready in time? Or might planning consent be withdrawn after the Scottish elections? Kevin is particularly fascinated by the innovative use of Chinese walls within the building's interior.

6.15: Have I Got Cuts for You?

John Swinney is tonight's celebrity host as he invites teams drawn from Glasgow and Edinburgh councils to justify their block grants and challenges them to decimate their education budgets without blaming the concordat or drawing unwelcome press attention to school closures.

6.45: Come Dine With Me

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon asks four school meals supervisors to invite pupils from each other's establishments to sample their school dinners in a competition to find the healthiest school in Scotland. Unfortunately, everyone chooses to buy lunch from the burger vans outside, and the competition has to be abandoned.

7.15: Time Team

Glasgow councillor Gordon Matheson unearths fascinating archaeological evidence, including some old council employment contracts from the 1960s, and discovers that teachers used to spend all their time teaching. He asks: "Do teachers really need all that non-contact and management time? Just think of the money we'd save if teachers were in the classroom all day." A debate follows between Matheson and EIS boss Ronnie Smith.

7.45: Top Gear

Mike Russell presents the popular motoring programme, with a special feature on three-point turns. "Generally speaking," he explains, "these are much easier to perform than many people imagine. First, you make an improbable promise in a policy statement, then a few months later you go into reverse to point out that these policies are actually much harder to implement than you thought they would be, after which you engage first gear again to conclude the turn by announcing you won't implement them after all. Class sizes? Teacher numbers? Free school meals? PE lessons? We've executed perfect three-point turns on every single one of them." Video footage shows Russell performing a startlingly dangerous "handbrake turn" manoeuvre, when he manages an astonishing U-turn on early exam presentations. Don't try this at home.

8.15: Deal or No Deal

Noel Edmonds has fun with 16 probationers who thought they had a job agreement with their local council. Suddenly they've discovered all deals are off, and they're going to be replaced with another set of probationers next year. Tension-filled excitement ensues, as contestants use all the skill and strategy for which the programme is renowned - and discover which one has the random lucky box that keeps them in a job for another 12 months.

8.55: Festive Commercial Break for Ferrero Rocher, the "cluster chocolates" (sponsored by East Lothian Council)

9.00: Celebrity Coach Trip

Twelve educationists go on a coach trip of Britain, stopping at famous sites - and at every stop, one passenger is voted off by the others. First to go is Lindsay Paterson, roundly condemned for sticking his nose in where it's not wanted. Who will be next? David Cameron, former ADES president, features as the coach driver without portfolio.

9.30: Antiques Roadshow

A special edition from the idyllic grounds of Clerwood House, as the roadshow team visits GTCS headquarters where a large gathering of principal teachers on expensive salaries is being offloaded to make way for younger - and cheaper - employees. The experts examine their pension pots - and some of them are in for a nasty surprise when they discover just how little their private AVCs are worth after 20 years of extra payments.

10.00: Feature Film: the Matrix

The parent teacher council at Banchory Academy tries to get inside - and destroy - the timetable matrix for pupils who are going to do three years of CfE and then sit National Exams in S4. They can't understand why their children can only take five subjects instead of eight, one of which has to be health and well-being. Fantastic special effects ensue, including double and triple somersaults from Bernard McLeary and Janet Brown, who lead a stellar cast from the combined ranks of SQALTS in fighting off the subsequent attack on reality. "These people aren't living in the real world," says the educational team. "The CfENational 45 crossover means that education is about so much more than academic examinations."

12.15am: Closedown Thoughts: 1984 - Have We Got There Already?

Mike Russell reflects on how the warnings outlined in Orwell's novel - where truth can so easily be distorted - need to be heeded today. "For example," he explains, "The Pisa study of attainment shows we are falling behind, whereas the truth is that we've stabilised the position and are set to improve. Or look at class sizes - some statistics say that smaller class sizes are good. But we have decided that class sizes don't really matter and it's the quality of teacher that counts. And job contracts? People used to say that long-term job contracts were good. But we are not so sure, because experience of different schools can be a good thing in a teacher's developmental career. So we say: `Long-term contracts good. Short-term job contracts better!'"

Alex Salmond concludes with a prayer.

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