HALF an hour to kill before EastEnders? Why not tune into a professional development programme for teachers beamed free into your front room courtesy of the Government?
A new multi-million pound satellite and cable channel, funded by the Department for Education and Skills, and dedicated to school staff could be broadcasting by the end of the year.
Teachers' TV, on air from 7am to midnight, would offer programmes on training, "warts and all" advice and best practice from schools, and reviews of education materials by "real" teachers.
While teachers could tune in at school, the intention is that they should also watch in the evening.
Civil servants say the schedule will take into account existing viewing habits, by timetabling "programmes of broad interest at around 6pm but recognising that EastEnders will remove the audience by 7.30".
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "It's an exciting idea providing the DfES doesn't expect teachers to be glued to their TV when they should be out achieving the work-life balance ministers have signed up for."
John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said:
"Whoever conceived this seems unaware of the 54 hours-plus a week teachers already work. Teachers have a right to a life."
However, a DfES feasibility survey suggests that just under 70 per cent of heads and teachers were interested in their own channel, said a spokesman.
About 50 per cent of teachers have access to digital TV, compared to 40 per cent of the general population. Initially the channel could reach 250,000 teachers.
"Teachers' TV would be a service for teachers by teachers. Best practice doesn't have to be dull, it can be very exciting and easy to consume," the spokesman added.
Education Secretary Charles Clarke will decide shortly whether to put the project out for tender. Channel 4 is interested, but not the BBC. Initial funding would come from the DfES, although advertising could contributed to costs - estimated by industry sources at pound;10 million a year or more.