Watch with Big Brother

14th March 2003 at 00:00
When I read that the Department for Education and Skills was going to spend pound;10 million a year setting up a teachers' television channel it was hard to know whether to laugh or cry.

A channel dedicated to education might be handy, if it offers interesting programmes about teaching and learning, but it could be an unmitigated disaster.

There is some stunning visual material for education and, if the channel captured the best programmes, it could offer a very valuable service to schools. The question really is, however, whether this sort of teaching aid is better provided through such media as the DVD-Rom nowadays, rather than a conventional TV channel.

A brilliant BBC science programme about floating and sinking, which I have sometimes used, showed a camera on board a lifeboat as it rotated 360 degrees. It offered a crisp, beautifully illustrated explanation in just a few seconds. This is the kind of phenomenon that film can portray superbly.

It is very hard for any teacher to match top-quality television with normal, cheap classroom resources.

I hope the DfES will resist the temptation to have any kind of input to the actual programmes, despite providing the capital for them. With the best will in the world an "official" channel would be a total turn-off.

At its very worst just imagine a channel that bombarded teachers 24 hours a day with propaganda about government initiatives, schemes of work and messages about the latest official targets. There could be giant screens in every playground with teachers chanting in unison: "We will meet our targets".

That nightmare scenario would be like George Orwell's 1984 and the Ministry of Truth. The consolation is that rebels could chant "Hate, hate, hate!"

and throw out-of-date textbooks at the screen.

Fortunately, I have managed to get hold of the schedules for this new teachers' channel, so here is an exclusive preview of a typical day's programmes.

Teachers' Channel Programme Schedule

1.00 One Foot In The Grave Richard Wilson visits another staffroom.

1.30 Robot Wars The DfES standards and effectiveness unit takes on the Number 10 policy unit.

2.00 Only Fools And Horses Recruiting film for the teaching profession.

2.15 Star Trek Government policy-makers beam down from Starship Enterprise with new initiatives from the planet Zarg.

3.30 University Challenge Teams of academics compete to see who can charge the highest top-up fees.

4.00 Wish You Were Here ? An early-retired teacher sits on a Greek island and waves two fingers at the camera.

4.30 Full Circle With Michael Palin Old ideas that have resurfaced. The intrepid explorer shows how 1970s Educational Priority Areas became 1990s Education Action Zones and then disappeared again.

5.30 Antiques Roadshow Michael Aspel and experts put a value on the more elderly lay inspectors.

6.15 Stars In Their Eyes: Special A firm of educational consultants sings "I Left My Brain In San Fran- cisco" and Chris Woodhead does his impression of Sid Vicious.

7.00 You've Been Framed Hilarious videos of the chemistry teacher who accidentally set fire to an inspector's trousers and the deputy head who woke up from a dream and found she really was taking assembly wearing only a very short vest.

7.35 The National Lottery: Jet Set Eamonn Holmes poses questions to six unpopular headteachers and the last survivor is sent on a week's hol-iday to Albania, while the Thunder-ball draw offers the chance for one lucky school to win an exercise book.

8.10 Casualty The paramedics are called out to a school that has just failed its Ofsted inspection.

9.00 SAS Jungle: Are You Tough Enough? Sgt Eddie Stone sends the remaining three survivors from the Borneo jungle to teach a Year 9 class.

10.00 Murder In Mind A studio full of headteachers confronting junior minister Stephen Twigg about his letter urging them to meet their targets.

11.00 Lethal Weapon Mel Gibson ticks thousands of boxes for a class of 30 five-year-olds.

12.00 Closedown Another inner-city school is put into special measures.

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