Will TV's Trinny and Susannah tell you what not to teach?

5th November 2004 at 00:00
Makeover programmes such as What Not To Wear should be the inspiration for a new television channel for teachers, according to one of the Government's favourite think-tanks.

Demos says that Teachers' TV should use techniques from the BBC series in which style gurus Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine attempt to improve the dress sense of celebrities and members of the public.

Teachers' TV is due to begin broadcasting programmes to help teachers 24 hours a day from February. It will be editorially independent but funded by the Government at more than pound;20 million a year.

The Demos report, commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills, urges Teachers' TV's producers to strike a balance between entertainment and education. "Teachers' TV is not a public-service broadcaster, but it does need to meet some of these educative purposes," it says.

"It will need to avoid becoming an Open University for teachers, simply distributing training material. Instead it must combine entertainment and education in new ways."

The report concludes that the "watercooler test", whether teachers discuss the channel in the staffroom, will be more important than the channel's ratings.

It recommends producers pay attention to programmes such as What Not To Wear and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

"This coaching model of observation and reflective dialogue is an effective learning model and a successful entertainment model," it says. But it says Teachers' TV must ensure that its reality programmes add to their audiences' skills and not risk damaging their participants.

The suggestion that Teachers' TV should learn from reality television series is not a new one for Andrew Bethell, the channel's director of programming.

The former teacher has produced documentaries including The House, a behind-the-scenes look at the Royal Opera House, and Culloden, on an east London primary school.

Popular pilot programmes for the channel included Behaving with Bayley, in which a new teacher was filmed taking lessons before and after being coached in behaviour management.

However, Mr Bethell said: "We tried out a classroom makeover programme during the pilot and teachers told us that if they wanted to watch something like that they could tune into Channel 4.

"We don't want the channel to be about gimmicks, so we're not going to be importing a version of Trinny and Susannah. But we are keen to make the most of the observation aspect used in some reality programmes."

Switched on is at www.demos.co.uk

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