Tell me where is Fancy bred
Or in the heart or in the head?
It is engendered in the eyes,
With gazing fed…

Merchant of Venice, Act 3, Scene II.



This website has been produced by Rediffusion Television Ltd to mark the 10th anniversary of television broadcasts for schools in Great Britain. It was on May 13, 1957 that the company pioneered the regular transmission of programmes for schools. The articles in this website tell the story of the first decade of schools television, the organisation behind the programmes and the philosophies of the people running them.


The photographs were specially taken by Morris Newcombe and acknowledgements are due to the headmistress and staff of New End Primary School, Hampstead, and the headmasters and staffs of Sedgehill Mixed Comprehensive School, Bellingham, and Wandsworth Boys’ Comprehensive School for their co-operation.


Since Rediffusion Television started the weekday independent television service for London it was always the intention to provide a programme service which should contain not only entertainment but also information and education.

Less and less is it remembered that the early days of this operation were full of difficulties. The conversion of the television reception facilities of millions of households from a single programme to multi-programme, with the attendant economic and technical problems was not exactly easy. In addition the general public, used to television programmes studded with long gaps of potters’ wheels and watermills, had to learn to accept television programmes with advertisements in natural breaks. Finally it was difficult to convince some people that television advertising was really worthwhile.

These were some of the initial difficulties which caused heavy financial losses and, indeed, some of the pioneers did not have the faith or patience to keep with it. It was under such difficult conditions that in 1956 Rediffusion Television (then Associated-Rediffusion) decided to introduce school television programmes so as to complete its range of entertainment, information and education.

Naturally such a step was received by many with some scepticism. It took a lot to convince people that Rediffusion did not intend to use the schoolroom as a place for subliminal or even direct advertising. The fact that the school television service was proposed right from the beginning without advertising and in close collaboration with the educational authorities was referred to by at least one educationalist as “too good to be true”. There were also others with a direct interest in teaching who were worried that school television might result in a form of direct teaching, replacing school teachers and also reducing the standard of teaching. There was correspondence about this in newspapers by well-meaning people with either too little or too much imagination but, as mostly happens in the educational world, commonsense eventually prevailed. Now more and more educationalists see the value of television as a great audiovisual aid to teaching if properly co-ordinated with the thinking of those primarily responsible for teaching.

As far as it is possible to express in financial terms the value of teaching services, there is little doubt that the sum of £5,000,000 or so that has been spent over the last 10 years by the BBC (out of licence revenue) and independent companies (out of their advertising revenue) has given greater educational value than the same money could have produced if it had been spent on any other form of educational service.

After a disappointing start, we have now reached the stage where over half the schools in the country use school television services. This means that some millions of children now benefit from up-to-date audiovisual aids. It is believed that it will not be many years now before educational television enters nearly every school in Britain.

Those of us who have been connected with the school television service since the planning days over 10 years ago think we are extremely fortunate to have this great experience. We intend to continue our efforts in the school television field in future and to continue to seek advice and guidance from teachers. Our aim is to raise the standard and acceptability of the programmes to an even higher point than they attain to-day.

On behalf of Rediffusion Television Limited I wish to thank everybody who has given us so much help in the planning and application of school television programmes, and in particular, the members of our Educational Advisory Council. I wish to thank, too, all those working in the Independent Television Authority and in the other independent television companies for their collaboration. My appreciation also goes to the BBC for what they are doing in school television and especially for help in co-ordination so that the schools can get the best results out of both school television services. In addition special thanks are due to the thousands of teachers in schools throughout the country who are the final and most important link between the school television service and the pupils. Many of them are of great help to us with their constructive criticism. Last and mostly I wish to thank all those in Rediffusion Television who have first as pioneers, and now as veterans of school television, done so very much to make it a success.

The Educational Advisory Council

When Rediffusion Television began to pioneer in school television it set up an advisory council. The first chairman was Sir John Wolfenden. He was succeeded by Sir Sydney Caine. I am the third holder of the office but I am confident that my two distinguished predecessors would agree that the principles on which our work has been conducted have remained consistently the same. The wary have a suspicion of advisory committees, fearful that they are merely a mode of window dressing. This certainly has not been true of the Rediffusion council. In the first place, the members are not chosen in some haphazard way as individuals, because some people happen to know other people; they are all representatives of educational bodies, mainly national bodies, and they report back to them. Attendance has been exemplary. We have also had consistent and valued assistance from representatives of the Department of Education and Science and of the Inner London Education Authority.

My major impression is the care which the council has taken over programmes. First, these are discussed in detail at committee meetings which last from two to three hours. Secondly, the council has never assumed an omniscient attitude at these meetings. It has relied on the judgement of teachers in the schools, whose reports have been collated and studied and on whose views action has been taken. Thirdly, I would affirm that on all educational matters the company has deferred to the views of the council. There are fortunately in the higher echelons of the company two or three people genuinely interested in education. They are proud that they were the pioneers in school television. Now there are further fields to conquer and one hopes that Rediffusion Television will continue with a forward-looking spirit.

Professional service

Rediffusion Television has always been on the side of the angels as far as education is concerned. Indeed, it could be claimed, without I hope impiety, that the company positively outpaced the educational angelic host by the introduction of its pioneer television service for schools. This was long before there was any direct obligation under the Television Acts or the terms of its contract, and also in fact before a large section of the teaching public were fully prepared to use their broadcasts. So quixotic did the company’s attitude in this regard seem at the time to many teachers that all sorts of ingenious explanations were fabricated to account for it. The true explanation was simple. Convinced of the value of ETV as an educational aid by what had already been achieved in the USA and elsewhere, Associated-Rediffusion, as it was then called, came to the conclusion that the only practical way to allow schools and the educational profession as a whole to test their theories was to give them a regular service of schools programmes. The less costly alternative would have been to sit back and do nothing while an endless academic dialogue argued the pros and cons. However stimulating this might have been to the educationists involved, it would hardly have been of advantage to the children.

Having determined to go ahead with the first term’s programming as from May 13, 1957, the company took some far-sighted decisions as to how the schools output should be organised and produced, and these have stood the test of time. A global annual budget was allocated each year for schools programmes and put at the total disposition of the head of school broadcasting, always a teacher. Education officers and other staff were recruited with the requisite teaching experience.

Each series, planned from the first by teachers, was also to be supervised by a teacher in the role of the education officer who was, and still is, an integral and influential part of each production team. Since that time the custom has become general of also co-opting a specialist from among the members of the educational advisory council onto the planning group for each series.

Rediffusion has never sought to lay down what type of schools’ series should be produced. The onus of selection has always been left entirely to the experienced educationists who form the company’s educational advisory council. The aim here has always been, within the limits of the time allocated, to provide as wide a service as possible for schools. Since 1960, when ATV and Granada entered the schools programme field, Rediffusion has willingly embraced a more narrow and specialist role. It has lavished much time and care on the important work of co-operation in this field with the other ITV companies — now achieved through monthly meetings of the network educational sub-committee — and with the BBC. The main consideration has always been what would serve children and teachers best.

Rediffusion from the start has encouraged its educational staff to be outward-looking and to keep in the closest personal contact with ETV developments abroad, through visits, EBU conferences and seminars and the activities of internationally-minded bodies like C.E.T.O. A number of our staff have gone on to take up advisory and other positions in ETV overseas.

In the newer but hardly less important area of adult education programming, Rediffusion has maintained a steady output since 1963 which started with the year-long series “Towards 2000”. This was acquired by the Central Office of Information and is still being shown in New Zealand and Nigeria. Our policy here, as a weekday company, has been to try to produce series of general interest to viewers, more general perhaps in content and approach than the regular specialised series in “Sunday Session”, while of course fulfiling the formula for adult education programmes laid down by the ITA. Our output over the years has favoured, though not exclusively, the humanities and liberal arts, because our team is best equipped to cover these.

When the history of the ITV saga comes to be written, future experts may well point to and applaud Rediffusion’s distinctively professional approach to ETV. One effect, of considerable importance for the future of ETV in this country, has been the deliberate fostering within ITV of a dedicated corps of ETV specialists, who have made educational television their chosen profession. Such people form a human bridge between the seemingly disparate worlds of education and television. With the general expansion of ETV, at the national, LEA and university levels, which can be foreseen ahead, it is certain that their special brand of expertise will be even more in demand in the next decade than it has been in the last.

Programmes in production

Day-to-day organisation and methods

Edwin Whitely, head of school broadcasting.

Educational broadcasting demands a continuous dialogue between representatives of the worlds of education and television. The three essentials of the operation — planning, programme production, and followup — can only be achieved through teamwork. The school broadcasting section of Rediffusion Television is designed to establish teams on a practical basis. The section consists of: a head of school broadcasting, an assistant head of school broadcasting, education officers, television directors, a script editor, a schools liaison officer, a manager, together with production assistants, stage managers, and secretaries.

The operation is complex as the three constituent parts are all happening simultaneously. Planning of future series is taking place while production of present programmes and evaluation of past broadcasts are in full swing. The processes outlined below, therefore, should be seen as overlapping and not separate functions.

The educational advisory council about which Sir Ifor Evans has written, is the link between the section and the educational world. It advises the section on the overall balance of programme series and scrutinises the section’s implementation of that advice before approving the programme schedule for the next academic year. The section’s first task is to translate the council’s advice into terms of subject areas and programme series within the framework of the time available and the national pattern of educational television broadcasting.

Ideas for series come from many different sources — teachers, educational writers, advisers and members of the section. A meeting of the whole section discusses and decides the series it proposes to offer. Teams, made up from members of the section representative of all interests, are formed with the task of providing a working paper. The teams consult teachers, lecturers and experts in the field, and prepare a working outline of the proposed series. The essential features of this are the topics to be presented, the length of the series and each programme in it, the age-range of the children for whom it is intended and the general method of treatment of the subject. These papers are presented to the advisory council at a meeting which members of the section attend. The council makes its comments on the papers and suggests additions or modifications. On the basis of these, and after further consultations with specialists in ad hoc meetings, final proposals are drawn up and approved. These final proposals are then considered by the schools committee of the Independent Television Authority in relation to the whole output of Independent Television for schools.

When the various series have been approved, and the network time-table drawn up in consultation with the school broadcasting officers of other Independent Television companies, a production team for each series is formed. This is the heart of the operation. The nucleus of each team consists of a director and an education officer. Together they plan the production of each programme; the director concerning himself mainly with the technical aspects and the education officer mainly with the educational content. At all stages — the appointing of script-writers and series advisers, consultation with teachers (either individually or at ad hoc meetings), selection of film from library stock, special shooting of film, rehearsals outside and in studio, and choice of presenters — the director and education officer work in harmony to co-ordinate their different expertise.

From the TVTimes Midlands edition for 26 May to 1 June 1957

The education officer, invariably a former teacher, will keep himself constantly in touch with educational thought and practice. The director is a professional television director experienced in the techniques of his art. Together they are aware of the demands and limitations of educational television and are responsible for shaping the production. The stage manager, production assistant and the studio staff work with the director to translate all this into a television programme.

Before any series is transmitted, the link between the section and viewing schools has to be strongly confirmed. Information about future series has to be sent to teachers in the form of programme literature. The production teams provide this information which is prepared for publication. The annual programme booklet, containing an outline of all the series to be transmitted is sent to all schools around Easter for broadcasts starting in the next academic year. This allows time for broadcasts to be fitted into school time-table patterns. The programme booklets for each series are written by the production teams and their preparation for publication is the work of various members of the section. The schools information office keeps a record of all the schools in the London area and details of those which are registered as viewers of Independent Television programmes. The secretary, education and schools liaison officer deal with all inquiries from schools, and ensure that all relevant information is sent to them.

While series are being broadcast, close contact is maintained with the users of the programmes. The section, and especially the production teams, need to be sure that the programmes are pitched at the right level for the classes for which they are intended. The schools liaison officer, through the schools information office, organises a reporting panel for each series. Teachers are asked to complete, at the end of each transmission, a simple reply-paid card giving the producers their immediate reactions to the programme. This feed-back of information is very valuable and influences production of future programmes.

There is, however, no substitute for personal contact at the classroom level. Reports from teachers — and many come from teachers using the programmes who are not members of reporting panels — are supplemented by reports from various members of the section who regularly visit schools to view programmes with children and their teachers. Sometimes a special investigation into the use of a series is undertaken with a group of schools. Teachers send in regular reports and examples of work inspired by the programmes. At the end of the series the teachers meet the production team to discuss the series as a whole. At the end of each term a report is drawn up evaluating the reception of the various series.

Personal contacts with schools and teachers are extended in talks and demonstrations which members of the section give to various organisations. A team will visit a college of education to explain the work of the section, show a demonstration print of a programme and discuss with students the use of educational television. Members of the section attend meetings of teachers’ organisations, teachers’ conferences and parent-teacher associations to discuss programmes with them. We maintain contact, at conferences and through visits, with other broadcasting organisations, at both national and international level. It must be remembered, too, that educational television has a responsibility to be forward-looking. New ideas in education are constantly being formulated and members of the section are in touch with individuals and organisations concerned with the development of new ideas and methods. Part of our day-to-day work is to incorporate these in our programmes.

In its new project “Teachers and Television”, Rediffusion Television is trying to strengthen even further its contacts with teachers. Teachers come to the studios to see and experience the operations for themselves. They meet members of the section and, through devising their own short programmes in groups, gain an idea of the production side. The aim is to create mutual understanding and confidence, and to enable teachers to become better-informed users of the programmes.

This is not the place to go fully into the mechanics of scheduling studios and controlling finance. All members of the section play their part in the supporting work behind programme production. There is a singleness of purpose throughout and that is to serve the children in schools to the best of our ability. The strength and future progress of educational television lies in the continued and growing intimacy between us as producers and the users of the programmes. This is what makes the demanding and exciting nature of our complex operation so rewarding.

The rising number of London area registered schools

Primary and prep. schoolsSecondary schoolsSpecial schoolsFurther education & colleges of educationTotal
January 1963265476--741
January 196445449264531068
June 196462857570591332
January 196569658573591413
October 1965126274185642152
January 1966136277692652295
August 196617469051161072874
October 196618399361191103004
March 196719669511341123163

Present and future programmes

The series at present being produced by Rediffusion Television are intended for children in the 7 to 16 age group. They are:


A series for children in top infants, transition and first-year junior classes. Through mime, song, art, movement, stories and film, active participation by the children is encouraged. This year’s subjects have included bread, milk, paper, chocolate, tea, weather, railways, post, telephone, West Indies, Iran, and human activities.


This series for 9 to 11-year-old children is designed to help teachers in primary schools who have no specialist training in science and little apparatus at their disposal. Illustrated sheets giving diagrams of suggested experiments are produced for the teachers and pupils. This year’s topics are: time, space, heat, cold and size. The programmes are broadcast at fortnightly intervals to allow time for follow-up work.


This specially filmed series for 9 to 11-year-olds gives accounts of the lives of people whose work helps the community. Programmes deal with the work of the lighthouse keeper, the butcher, the postman, the vet, and the bus crew.


The aim of this series for 9 to 11-year-old children is to teach them to study all animals more intelligently. It deals with the function and different types of work of zoos, emphasis being placed on what goes on behind the scenes. Feeding, science at the zoo, environment, vertebrates, birds and mammals are among the subjects.


This English series for 12 to 13-year-old children in secondary schools aims to stimulate discussion and creative writing by giving pupils a variety of emotional experiences. Each programme has a single theme interpreted in many different ways. This year the themes include “Laziness”, “Protest”, “Silence”, “Tricked”, “In the Red”, “No Man is an Island”, “Decision”, and “It’s all in the Mind”. Poetry, film montages, dramatised scenes and songs are some of the techniques used.


A drama series is a regular feature of the output of Rediffusion Television. This year a series of programmes, intended for pupils of 14 and over, is designed to make clear the nature of drama. It shows the major stages in the preparation and actual performance of a television play. The play itself, “A Change of Climate”, was specially written for school television and aims to present topics for class discussion besides showing technical aspects of production.


The programmes in this series are intended to supplement science courses taken by pupils in secondary schools. They aim to show ways in which the work of various scientists have an impact on the communal, domestic and recreational aspects of our life. Programmes on bridges, canals, tunnels, aircraft, ships; skating, mountaineering, sport, endurance, and pets are included.


Programmes in this series are designed not so much to teach grammar but to give pupils with an elementary knowledge of the language a chance to hear French used as a means of communication between French people in a French setting. Dramatised episodes have shown incidents in the life of one French family in a provincial town and of another family on holiday making a journey by boat along the waterways of Brittany. The language is kept simple and repetition of phrases is introduced in a natural way.


“The Golden Age” is a series for children in the lower secondary school showing many aspects of life in England in the Elizabethan era. The programmes are designed to arouse imagination and interest and lead to project work in viewing classes. The literature of the period is dealt with and, in particular, the Shakespearian aspects.


Besides the continuation of established series: “Finding Out”, “The World Around Us”, French, Drama, English and Social History, new series are being planned for 1967—1968.


This series will be the first produced in Independent Television for middle infant classes. The programmes will be designed to involve the children of about 6 years of age and make them participate in the programmes. By using special techniques aimed at arousing their natural curiosity, the producers hope to encourage the children to go on to make discoveries of their own and become more aware of the world in which they live. Stories, mime and music which will appeal to the viewing classes will form the nucleus of the series.


This is a new venture and a new departure in presenting music programmes for 9 to 11-year-old children. Songs with bold and simple tunes, from various parts of the world, will be given a visual interpretation with dramatisation, mime, film and dance, as well as straightforward singing.

Emphasis will be placed on the stories behind the songs as well as on their music. Through participation in the singing the children will be encouraged to find out more about the historical background of the songs and the events underlying them.


In 1967—1968 a completely new programme will be made for this series which was first presented four years ago. It will be for less-able secondary school pupils. A fully dramatised serial, based on incidents in the life of a family with teenage children, will introduce pupils to the society they will enter after leaving school.


In this new series for secondary school pupils, the aim is to help young people to orientate themselves in a changing world and take their place as responsible citizens. The programmes are designed to show the impact of scientific and technological advance on the individual and society. They will be presented in pairs: in each pair one programme will be concerned with the scientific study of a subject: the second with the effects of this study on daily life.