Sunday, 7 October 2012

"Everyone find a space on the floor.." Schools programmes and the way we learned...

About a week ago, my associate TellyCabbage when out looking for new and interesting things for my archive, when he found a set of booklets for the BBC Radio Schools Programme 'Time and Tune' ranging from the early 1960's upto the early 1980's. Now schools television is more prevalent in minds whatever age they are because of the imagery which they conjured up.  But BBC Schools Radio has been an equal partner to its televisual counterpart and some would now say more so with the radio service still continuing today albeit in the middle of the night like the television service as well.

The history of schools broadcasting starts at the beginning of radio in the UK itself with experimental schools broadcasts commencing in 1924 on the London station of the British Broadcasting Company (2LO) with talks by Sir Henry Walford Davies and E. Kay Robinson on music and natural history respectively. With Lord Reith's beliefs to 'Educate, Inform and Entertain' the education of the nation's children at heart, with the introduction of a schools service in 1925 to allow a broader curriculum to be broadcast.

As time went on secondary schools were included and the introduction of foreign language learning, but they BBC found with that there was adult audience who also followed these programmes as well.  But as the twenties moved into the 1930's and with the outbreak of the Second World War, the regional services were merge together to form a single home service for children which lead to any confusion about the new service being a laid by special news bulletins to explain the circumstances which had led for the service to be united together. By 1942 it meant that half of Britain's schools were listening to the wireless for their education.

After the Second World War, the Schools Broadcasting Council was set up in 1947 to replace what had gone before, allowing a uniting council to regulate the broadcasts and to create a varied curriculum which meant during the 1950's, the radio was there to educate the nation's children. With varying programmes covering the core subjects of Mathematics, English both Language and Literature, the sciences as well as foreign languages. But by the late fifties such was happening else where, television was becoming the dominate force which led to Associated-Rediffusion setting up Britain's first television for schools in 1957. Though the television was still a luxury it meant that radio was still an integral part of schooling, the style of programme had slowly started to move on too, from the lecture into a programme which taught.

But the 1950's was the decade that many of the longest running radio schools programmes started in including 'Stories and Rhymes' for 7 to 9 year old children which ran until 1983, these series came back year after year allowing the schedules for both the Autumn and Summer school terms themselves, though it was the introduction of television which changed schools broadcasting forever, allowing things to be seen which would have been described on radio. The world around children had become alive, some people would have said at the time with television there was no need for a teacher at all, that pupils could have been taught through the screen itself. Of which these broadcasts became, a whole class watching the same thing at the same time. The BBC started television broadcasts also in 1957, realising it was a continuation of the Reithan values of it first ever director general.

As the sixties came into view and more ITV franchises came onto the air, it allowed franchises to concentrate on a more focused range of programming, such as the bigger franchises taking the major subjects and also regional stations especially such as Scottish Television, TWW and Ulster to produce programmes specific to their area and also in different languages such as Welsh or Gaelic. The BBC itself made high quality programmes sticking close to their public service values, though as the decade went on the style changed again to from a starched up formal style to education with presenters rather then teacher and processors at the heart of it. Therefore with television set getting cheaper, it allowed more schools to slowly swap over from radio to television and with the introduction of colour slowly and surely at the start of the 70's, the programmes had settled down into a pattern. Mixing the serious subjects in programme like Scene to others teaching maths in a new way by using the newer educational techniques of the time. With these new techniques being introduced by successive governments, the public service ethos was always there.

But it did have a strange effect which a lot of people will tell you about, that these programmes were becoming entertaining in which the actual educators couldn't guess. Programmes like Look and Read were becoming like mini-drama serials, You and Me was strangely entertaining leading to Lenny the Lion and later Basil Brush to teach young children to read. This was education breaking away from itself, even the adult audience at home were interested in the programmes, with How We Used to Live getting late night repeats on Yorkshire Television because the subject matter was interesting to the viewers. With an audience being recognised for television at that time of day, meant there was an appetite for programmes during the day which I will come onto in a later blogpost. 

For myself the first experience of school programming came during the 1980's with steady reliable show such as Stop Look Listen, You and Me and My World having been on since the 70's. The likes of Science Workshop brought their own brand of humour to the school room, which included David Hargreaves and Malcolm McFee but as the years went on and technology moved into their realm with video recorders, computers and laterly the internet. The room for these programme was not needed and given away to more daytime programmes overall, with BBC Schools moving over to BBC2 in 1983 and also ITV Schools moving over to Channel Four in 1987, much like using up the spare airtime like the Open University and latterly the Open College as well so schools could have a set pattern for children to sit down in front the television at a certain time. But as the video recorded came into use, there was no need for teachers to do that and just record a programme to be used at a later time.

As the 90's drew in, the more venerable shows were politely moved out for the schedule and with the introduction of DVD's and MP3's there was no need for them to be hardly on the television at all as they were shunted to overnight on both BBC2 and Channel 4, the deathknell came when Channel 4 withdraw and the BBC as part of the their public broadcasting commitment carried on but not producing new programmes.

So schools programmes came, conquered and went and to some they will not be missed but they have educated us at some point, entertained us when we have been sick and off school and even found a new audience at time so programmes can be put in their place. Does it educate, inform and entertain? It does in a way, we can be grateful for it and if it wasn't for the education which they gave us then the next generations of teachers... So everyone find a space on the floor and celebrate these programme for what they were.... 

1 comment:

  1. As an aside on school broadcasting, your blog readers might be interested in this book, which is the published 1971 diary of a secretary working for the School Broadcasting Council.