Robin Buss's pick of the week
School Matters: Black Boys
Teachers' TV, Wednesday, April 5, 12.40-1pm
Boys of African and Afro-Caribbean descent start at the same level as other pupils when they first go to school, then fall progressively behind.
This film looks at the measures taken by three schools in London to deal with this failure. The emphasis in all three projects is on instilling confidence and helping each pupil to find his own vision for the future.
This means teaching behavioural skills, offering good role models and correcting the idea that it is "uncool" to study. One school puts the emphasis on getting parents involved and using a high proportion of black staff, another on separating all the black boys from their peers for one lesson a week. This is a short film, but one with lots of ideas and a belief that the problem can be overcome.
The Teaching Challenge
Teachers' TV, Tuesday, April 4, 8.40-9am
Punctuation guru Lynne Truss takes up the challenge at a girls' school in Worthing, and admits to being "terrified of classrooms". She manages to keep an intelligent English group entertained with the help of an old-fashioned overhead projector and some choice examples of the ambiguities that can result from a missed comma. Then they head to the streets of Worthing to take the apostrophes out of "cream tea's" and put them back into "todays menu". The form teacher, who watches from afar, feels the girls responded well and enjoyed the lesson, but doubts whether actual learning took place: "It seems to me more like an informal chat." A pertinent comment or sour grapes? Also this week, Prunella Scales and Timothy West accept the challenge to give a day-long drama class at Pimlico School (April 5, 6.40-7am). On the whole, a series to cheer up teachers.
BBC2, Tuesday, April 4, 1-2am
L8r (say "Later") is a series of interactive, 10-minute dramas for 14 to 16-year-olds, in which a cast of teenagers face up to dilemmas in their lives - drugs and sex feature prominently. The aim is to get students involved in the fate of the characters, so the episodes end with questions (such as should he report his friend for dealing in drugs?), which are intended to provoke discussion. Good material for PSHE and English.
Britain 1906-1918 Britain 1500-1750 Britain 1750-1900: 20th Century Wrap (Britain 1900-1909)
BBC2, Tuesday, April 4, 2-6am
Even at this early hour of the morning you will realise that there is something slightly wrong with the chronology here. Don't worry, you won't have to show the programmes in this order, because the first three are all available on video or DVD (tel: 08701 272 272). Between them, they more or less tie up British history for 11 to 14-year-olds, with an emphasis on politics in the period 1500-1750, and social conditions in 1750-1900. Add a Nazi or two and a pinch of post-war Britain to make one GCSE.