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TV and radio

* Pick of the week: The Human Face, BBC1 Wednesdays, 9.10-10pm.

From time to time, television comes up with a subject that crosses the usual boundaries to give a fresh perspective on a familiar topic. BBC1's enquiry into the human face, introduced by John Cleese, involves biology, psychology, history, art, medicine and sociology. It started last week by looking at how we interpret facial expressions and what happens when the ability to do so goes wrong.

This week, Cleese talks to a neurologist, who explains how the brain recognises faces. The programme gives examples that show how far our sense of identity is bound up with our features. For example, a woman about to undergo plastic surgery hopes it will transform her life. The nurse tells her: "You will wake up a better you."

Given such views, it is perhaps easy to understand how the use of mirrors in the Middle Ages led to profound social changes.

* School spotlight: Word Games I, BBC Radio Friday, March 9, 3.15-3.30am.

Word Games I is part of three new series for five to seven-year olds designed to supplement existing primary-school English programmes on radio with a variety of activities using rhyme, riddles and games. Words make sounds, sounds evoke words, poems suggest running water, clocks go tick and trains sing "clickety-clack". All of these not only exploit children's pleasure in language, but teach them about how words start and end, about vowels, syllables, synonyms and compound words.

The programmes are designed to be accessible to a range of abilities, so teachers can use the tapes in whatever way hey find appropriate.

* Word Machine 2, C4, Wednesdays, to March 28, 9.45-9.50am; block repeat on Tuesday, March 27, 4.50-5.40am.

For a still younger age group, this "Rat-a-Tat-Tat" phonics special, presented by Aidan Cook, is designed to encourage five and six-year olds to play with words and sounds. Each programme focuses on a single set of phonemes, brought alive with graphics, animation and games.

Best of the rest: Blue Peter, BBC1 Monday, March 12, 5-5.25pm

J K Rowling, creator of Harry Potter, is the guest on this edition of Blue Peter, where she will be answering questions about her novels from viewers and from the studio audience. To help this year's Comic Relief, Rowling has written two special books, about the the game of quidditch and fantastic beasts.

Panorama, BBC1, Sunday, March 11, 10.15-10.55pm

This week's Panorama goes inside the Feltham young offenders' institution in Middlesex, where young people are held on remand or serve custodial sentences.

This promises to be a disturbing report, which looks in particular at the case of Zahid Mubarek, a young Asian who was beaten to death by a fellow inmate. It asks if Feltham is a "school for crime" and examines the function of an institution in which attempted suicides are "not unusual" (special scissors are kept to cut down inmates who try to hang themselves) and accusations of bullying are frequent.

Robin Buss

Full education programme schedules can be found online at programmesspring2001.cfm

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