You're on camera, Miss

14th January 2005 at 00:00
Next month, a new TV channel will broadcast 24 hours per day about the world of schools. Programme makers are already busy. Mark Arnold explains what it's all about

Hollywood has often championed teaching as great drama, with strong characters and entertaining stories. There was Robert Donat's thoughtful Mr Chips, super-cool Sidney Poitier in To Sir with Love, and the symphony of life that is the Oscar-nominated Mr Holland's Opus.

From February 2005, teaching is not quite getting the Hollywood treatment, but it will appear on small screen in the UK in a very big way. Teachers'

TV is being launched, aiming to offer those who work in education the opportunity to take a look inside other classrooms around the country.

Its aim is to produce accessible, innovative and practical continuing professional development (training) programmes, based on the latest models of educational policy and research.

Sounds a little too stuffy for you? Well, we took a look behind one of its key series to find out what you can expect. Jim Franks, director of the Bigger Picture series, and his production team have a tough schedule to meet each week.

On the day we meet, they are filming a discussion for CareerWise, a 30-minute magazine show, which combines real-life case studies followed by a studio debate with leading professionals about the issues raised.

We assemble in the luxury of their temporary studio: the foyer of the Olivier Theatre at London's National Theatre on the Thames's South Bank.

It's 8.30am when we begin more than five hours' filming.

Peter Curran, the presenter, is is a well-known voice on BBC Radio London and BBC Radio 4's Home Truths. He brings much wit and Irish charm to the interview sofa, where he focuses on some very serious subjects.

In the episode we watched, he spoke to Elkie Landsdowne-Bridge, headteacher of Reading Alternative School, and Fin O'Regan, a behavioural expert, on the problems of working with excluded children.

Next into the hot seat were Chris Keates, acting general secretary of NASUWT, the second biggest teaching union, and Rory O'Brien, chairman of False Allegations against Teachers and Carers (Fact), to give advice to anyone accused of abuse or sexual harassment.

The final guest that day was Jan McKenley, a career coach, who passes on all of her experience in a regular slot on the show. This week she discusses how a teacher who is getting interviews but not getting jobs can help change her success rate. It is accompanied by the latest TES Jobs, presented by John Howson, a regular columnist in this paper.

In between each set of guests, who rush off back to their day jobs, the crew are busy organising and preparing to film the next slot on the show.

But is it going to make entertaining viewing or will it be boring and worthy?

Andrew Bethell, director of programmes, a respected advisory teacher with the Inner London Education Authority in the 1980s and an experienced television executive, believes the channel will be independent and stimulating, even though it's Whitehall that is providing the all the money.

"The channel may be funded by government," he says, "but in order to get our Ofcom licence, we have to be impartial. Teachers have made it very clear that they won't watch if they think we're a government mouthpiece.

The DfES is appointing a board of high profile governors to guarantee independence from day to day and we might end up with a charter, like the BBC."

How do you tune in? If you have digital satellite or cable television at home, then you can watch it 247. Or tune in through a digital Freeview box, if you're a night owl, because the shows will be broadcast in the small hours. No Freeview? Go to the channel's website and download the programme or watch it streamed online.

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