Schools TV brings geography to life

From the TVTimes Midlands edition for 28 September – 4 October 1958

It is back to school for a second academic year for ITV on Monday — and the number of schools taking the Monday to Friday programmes will be increased to 580 by the entry of Southern Television into the scheme.

For the first time, the family of classroom viewers are to share a contribution from Scotland. For the first time, too, there will be an opportunity for everybody to take part in a competition with prizes.

For the first time — in the Friday art series — a boy and girl will be in the studio each week. And, for the first time, the schools broadcasts organisers have included geography in the curriculum.

Cameramen have recently completed work on the Tuesday and Thursday series. “La Dordogne — the Story of a River.” Beginning at its sources in the French Massif Central, which can be reached only in the late spring and summer, being otherwise snowbound, a French crew directed by Randal Beattie has followed the life of the river through all its phases and finally come down to the plain of Aquitaine.

The Bort-les-Orgues dam under construction across France’s Dordogne river, which is featured in nine programmes

The nine filmed programmes of the series are designed to show how the way of life along the river bank, both today and in the past, has been bound up inextricably with the physical geography of the valley.

Says education officer John Lloyd: “We chose the Dordogne because it is particularly rich in scenery, and the people, social customs, architecture and history of the area arc of exceptional interest.”

Why should a window in Bernard Braden’s house at Shepperton, Middlesex, figure in a programme for schools? The answer is that in bygone years a doodler with a diamond left his mark on the glass, and the engraved scrawl illustrates one of the properties dealt with in the Monday series, “Matter in Use.”

A diamond scrawl on Bernard Braden’s window helps in “Matter in Use”

Here, the aim is to elicit the science which is associated with the materials and natural substances encountered in everyday life.

Says the programme’s director, Cambridge graduate John Frankau: “Although these basic science programmes are planned for children of medium ability, even a six-year-old ought to be able to get something from them. On the other hand, there will be an attempt to provide such stimuli for further inquiry and research as will meet the needs of better-than average pupils.”

The series will point the way naturally to a wide range of possible follow-up activities — from a suggested discussion of what happens to moth-balls when they grow smaller in the wardrobe, to an analysis of a diet-sheet. The preparation of the Wednesday social studies series, “Process of Law,” confronted director Peter Robinson with a problem.

An ancient “trial by ordeal” – walking on hot iron – illustrates “Process of Law”

“Our difficulty has been in finding how to illustrate the working of the law in a studio,” says this Cambridge law graduate. “Most happenings connected with breaking the law occur out-of-doors, and, for another thing, it has been a teasing question how to introduce a courtroom scene.”

The programmes will explain the necessity for law, or rules, in any community, large or small, will outline the role of Parliament, and demonstrate the difference between a crime and a civil “injury.”

“The treatment will be documentary, and dramatisation will be used to clarify and bring home certain points,” says Robinson, who has brought in Jeremy Thorpe as narrator and interviewer.

Van Gogh’s The Reaper – a typical drawing to be used in the visual arts programmes

Rounding off the school week, the visual arts programmes, directed by June Neville, have a three fold aim.

Explains education officer Fernau Hall: “This is, first, to help children to appreciate black and white art — the basis of all visual art; secondly, to help them with their own work; thirdly, to heighten their awareness of the world around them.

“Milein Cosman, the distinguished graphic artist, will be in every programme. With him will be a notable guest, who will talk about the great works of the past and be seen in association with his or her own work.

St Bride’s Church in London – a splendid example of Wren design to be commented on in one of the programmes

“Frederick Gibberd, for instance, will glance back at his historic forerunner, Sir Christopher Wren, and will also comment on a model of his own best-known work — the new London Airport buildings.

“Thus, the children will see for themselves that there can be different attitudes and styles according to the interpretation of the particular artist.”

London Airport buildings designed by Frederick Gibberd

Two worlds link for schools ITV

From the TVTimes Midlands edition for 28 April to 4 May 1957

Looking back on the early days of Independent Television, it is hard now to realise what unutterable chaos we grappled with, before and during that first autumn quarter.

The physical hazards alone were exceptional. There were many days in Television House when we could not hear ourselves speak for the noise of pneumatic drills and concrete mixers as the building was torn to pieces and put together again about our ears.

There was a week or more when we had no electricity and all work was done by paraffin lamps, and another dreadful spell when the building was without water.

The problems of starting the ITV school broadcasts service — the first programme is on May 13 — are discussed in this article by Rosemary Horstmann, Assistant Head of the School Broadcasting Section of Associated-Rediffusion Ltd. But first she takes a glance over her shoulder to compare the present-day problems with those she had when ITV first went on the air in 1955. She was then the company’s Manager of Women’s Programmes

There were also, of course, the larger problems of finding and training staff and performers, building a big organisation from scratch, and planning programmes.

Then it came. The moment on the evening of September 22, 1955, when the voice of the commentator said “Take it, Guildhall” and our first live remote programme was on the air. It was worth all the toil and sweat.

Life in Television House is no longer rugged, but the pioneering Haute still burns brightly, and for a small group of people of the first floor a date in May looms as large as did that first day of transmission.

At 2.45 p.m on Monday, May 13, the first Independent Television programme for schools goes on the air.

The School Broadcasting Section is hammering the programmes into shape. TV for schools must bridge the gap between two worlds: education and show business. The people who put the programmes on must have an understanding of both.

Such people are scarce, and in assembling our staff for this venture we have benefited from BBC experience, and put a production team of two on each series: a producer who knows more about teaching than television, and a director who knows more about television than teaching.

We have been fortunate in finding some people with qualifications on both sides: two of our producers, Alan Nicholson and John Frankau, have worked as floor managers, and one of our directors, Joan Kemp-Welch, is a fully-qualified teacher.

Apart from the need to combine different fields of experience, there is a great advantage in having a team of two on programmes such as these: I think any programme director would agree that the technicalities of direction at camera rehearsal take up so much of his attention that he is almost unconscious of what is said on the screen.

It is a valuable safeguard to have a producer present sufficiently detached from that hurly-burly to be able to assess the impact of the programme as a whole.

Moreover, we hope it will be possible for producers to leave the studio after the final run-through and dash to the nearest school that has a television set to view the results of their handiwork with children in a classroom. This can be invaluable in learning how to do better next time.

Thanks to the co-operation of members of our Educational Advisory Council, our production teams have been visiting schools and getting acquainted or re-acquainted — with their audience.

Alan Nicholson and Roger Jenkins, producer and director of the series The Ballad Story, spent an instructive day discussing poetry with different classes in a secondary modern boys school at Wimbledon.

Thora James has been talking to many groups of young people about to leave school or in their first jobs, and gathering material on the questions they would really like dealt with in her series On Leaving School.

The school programmes are to go out from Studio 9, in Television House — the studio from which This Week comes every Friday night. Eric Croall, our Co-ordinating Director, has been deep in plans with designers Anne Spavin and Michael Wield devising a flexible permanent set.

Scenery — in the sense of elaborate reconstructions of outside locations — forms no part of school TV plans, nor do we intend to build a classroom in the studios. The aim, rather, is to create an unobtrusive but effective background for the different programmes, and the imaginative use of lighting will play an important part in this.

As well as the stall behind the cameras, the performers in front of them also need the dual experience of television and classroom. Here, one is juggling constantly with different factors, balancing the desirability of having an experienced teacher with the necessity of having a trained interviewer, used to handling amateurs before the cameras, equating the extreme eminence of a V.I.P. with the fact that he has never been on television before and cannot spare much time for rehearsal.

We have been lucky in finding unexpected qualifications in Associated-Rediffusion’s staff. Redvers Kyle and Mitchell Raper, station announcers whose voices are well-known on Channel 9, both have teaching experience, and they will be seen in two of the schools series. Another series will be introduced by John Lord, the English teacher about whom you may have read in the TV Times of April 5.

John Lord’s was one of the hundreds of letters that came flooding in when this project was first announced. From these letters we are building a valuable index of people on whose experience we can draw in time to come.

John Lord – television teacher No. 1

From the TVTimes published 5 April 1957

John Lord has founded a new profession. He is the first TV teacher in Britain. There will be others, of course. But John Lord was the first “presenter” to be chosen for the experimental 8-week term of school broadcasts which will begin in May.

He is 32 years old, married to a girl named Alison, and there are 16-month-old twins — Annette and Nicholas. Annette is the elder, by 20 minutes.

John Lord has an Oxford B.A. and is the senior English master at Bancroft’s School, Woodford Green, Essex, which is a direct-grant school under the trusteeship of the Drapers’ Company.

The series he will be presenting in the school broadcasts is designed to lead children to a better understanding and appreciation of poetry and the ballad tradition. It will also encourage them to create their own ballads.

This is Lord’s first association with television. If was, of course, education which attracted him. He read in the newspapers of Associated-Rediffusion’s venture into school broadcasts, and was inspired to write to Television House with suggestions for scripts.

Surprisingly, the reply was an invitation to appear before the cameras for an audition. But quiet-spoken John Lord was game for anything.

John Lord, his wife, Alison, and the twins

I watched that audition. Lord made no mistakes. He sailed confidently, quietly, without hesitation, through a long interview. There were no “ers” and “ums.”

John Lord — he was born in Rochdale and served with the Cameron Highlanders during the war, finishing as a staff captain — is now caught up in the enthusiasm of the school broadcasting section. But when he came for the audition he wasn’t really worried whether he got the job or not.

“You see,” John told me, “I am not a hungry man. I’ve got a good job.

“But now that I’m in there, now the cameras are there, now that I’ve tasted blood, I’m excited. It’s great fun, and the beauty of it all is that it is also, I believe, something worthwhile.”

What are his personal beliefs about school broadcasts?

“I think it has an immense potential. Television is a very good medium for communicating things… it is an art form. It will, however, never replace personal contact. It can only help the teacher.”

But about being the first TV teacher in Britain he has only this to say:

“I feel very happy — and very lucky.”

His pupils have not yet heard that their master is to be a TV personality, and he finds it hard to imagine their reactions when they do. He has little doubt, however, about what will happen when Daddy is seen on TV by the twins — whom he describes thus: “They’re murder.”

“They will probably,” he says, “batter the screen to pieces.”

TV in the classroom

An interview with
Vice-Chancellor of Reading University, who is advising on the new ITV service to schools

From the TVTimes Midlands edition for 10-16 March 1957

School broadcasts on ITV in London and the Midlands are due to start on Monday, May 13, five days a week for an experimental eight-week term. And Sir John Wolfenden, Vice-Chancellor of Reading University, thinks this “could be the beginning of something quite big.”

Sir John is chairman of the 25-strong Educational Advisory Council established by Associated-Rediffusion, programme contractors for London weekdays. The new schools programmes arc also being screened by Associated TeleVision in the Midlands.

Sir John told me: “I don’t want to pretend that I am an expert on television. Nor do I want to say that I know nothing about it at all.

“I am certainly not one of those people who say or think that television is something you can’t touch with a barge pole especially Independent Television.

“I read a few weeks ago that a headmaster in Manchester had said that a television set would enter his school only over his dead body.

“This gentleman is a very dear friend of mine. But I wouldn’t think his opinion is typical of what people in schools think these days.”

Sir John continued: “It’s fairly obvious, isn’t it, and most people recognise, that a great deal of the derogatory things being said about television now is exactly what people said about sound broadcasting 20 or 30 years ago.

“And I should think that it is very clear from the consequences of sound broadcasting that there will be comparable benefits from television.”

Of the experimental eight-week term of school broadcasts Sir John said:

“I think this could be the beginning of something quite big. Depending, very much indeed, on how it is done.

“What we on the Advisory Council and the School Broadcasts Committee are trying to do is to give what help we can, of a background kind, to Boris Ford (Head of School Broadcasts) and Rosemary Horstmann (Assistant Head). I think it would be an awful pity for this council to get too much involved in the executive part of it.”

Sir John’s Council will be asked to advise on the educational implications of any of the company’s programmes

He said: “I think Associated-Rediffusion genuinely wants advice about a lot of programmes, but it’s over the school broadcasts that the thing has come to a focus. I think there is a good deal, besides these, on which it would be not improper for education people to have views.”

The council, said Sir John, is not entirely a teachers’ body.

“There are members from all ranges of the educational world and people who are interested in school-age children but are not professionally involved in teaching people from boys’ and girls’ clubs and youth organisations. I think that is very relevant to have people whose contact with school-age children is outside school.”

The broadcasts, initially, will be directed to the 14- and 15-year-olds, 75 percent of whom attend secondary modern schools.

Much of Sir John’s educational experience has been with public schools and universities. As the former headmaster of Uppingham and Shrewsbury, did he consider himself the right person to advise on broadcasts to secondary schoolchildren?

“Well, I would have qualms if I were the only person doing it. There are, of course, people on the Council and Committee more familiar with secondary modern schools than I should presume to be.

“As chairman, all I’m there for is to hit them over the head if they talk too much.”

If Sir John were still the headmaster of a public school, would he use television broadcasts ?

“I certainly wouldn’t rule them out. We did use sound broadcasts, of course.”

He supposed that the Committee would be asked what they thought of the general treatment that Boris Ford was suggesting:

“But it isn’t expected of the Committee that it will vet each programme, because that would stultify the people on the production side.

“You can’t have a programme put on by a Committee.”

The fact that the school broadcasts would be transmitted in the normal way, not on a closed circuit, might mean — I said— that they will be seen by viewers at home.

Sir John said: “I hope very much that they will look in. But I think that it would be blurring the thing if that audience were kept in mind when preparing the programmes. You must stick to your objective. But the viewers are very welcome to eavesdrop.”

The five-point programme

“There is no doubt in my mind that these programmes will present something of great value to schools, and in particular to school teachers.”

Those were words of Mr. Paul Adorian, managing director of Associated-Rediffusion Ltd., the London weekday contractors, when he presented to a Press conference the charter for the company’s school television broadcasts.

“It is not our intention to try to replace the schoolmaster. We are trying to give him some help in carrying out his work.”

It is planned that the subjects to be covered half-an-hour a day early in the afternoon will be:

Looking and seeing: A series to encourage children to realise how little and how sketchily they look at the world about them, and how to practise attention and discrimination.

A year of discovery: In 1957, the Geophysical Year, to explain simply the reasons for the struggle towards scientific achievement; to study the launching of the satellites and the Antarctic explorations.

A literary programme: To introduce a Dickens novel, alive and exciting, with the hope that many of the children will read it subsequently.

People among us: Programmes to introduce some of the immigrants now in Britain, and to make the point that Britain has for many centuries been enriched by receiving foreigners into the community.

On leaving school: A series to help children across the bridge from school to the adult world, and give them an idea of the problems and responsibilities involved.

Mr. Adorian added: “When we undertook to provide ITV programmes for five days a week, we undertook to provide a balanced service. Some of us think that a balanced service should include, school broadcasts.”

The Educational Advisory Council will advise Associated-Rediffusion on the educational implications of any of the company’s programmes, either at the request of the company or on the initiative of the Council. From the membership of the Council there has been elected a smaller committee to deal specifically with the new school broadcasts. This committee is also under the chairmanship of Sir John Wolfenden.

Other members of the Council are:

Mr. F. C. A. Cammaerts, Headmaster of Alleyne’s School, Stevenage; Mrs. H. R. Chetwynd, Headmistress of Woodberry Down Secondary School, London; Mr. John Gilbert, Head of Department of Telecommunications, Northern Polytechnic, London; Dr. J. A. Harrison, Director of the Educational Foundation for Visual Aids; Mrs. Molly Harrison, Curator of the Geffrye Museum, London; Mr. Fielden Hughes, Headmaster of Queen’s County Secondary School, Wimbledon.

Mrs. B. M. Humphrey, hon. sec., National Federation of Parent Teachers’ Associations; Miss E. M. Kimsey, Headmistress of Sydenham County School, London; Professor M. M. Lewis, Institute of Education, University of Nottingham; Dr. J. Macalister Brew, Education and Training Adviser, National Association of Mixed Clubs and Girls’ Clubs.

Professor Ben Morris, Institute of Education, University of Bristol; Mr. Deryck Mumford, Principal of the Cambridgeshire Technical College and School of Art; Mr. Paul Reilly, Deputy Director of the Council of Industrial Design; Mr. Albert Rushton, formerly Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering, Imperial College; Mr. Percy Walton, Youth Employment Officer, Worcestershire; Dr. Simon Yudkin, Consultant Paediatrician, Whittington Hospital, London.

The following organisations sent representatives to the inaugural meeting and were invited to nominate permanent representatives: The County Councils Association; Association of Municipal Corporations; Association of Education Committees; London County Council; National Union of Teachers; Joint Committee of the Four Secondary Associations; National Association of Head Teachers; and Association of Teachers in Technical Institutes.

The High Schools of the TV screen

From the TVTimes Midlands edition for 27 January to 2 February 1957

The opening of Britain’s first TV service for schools — Associated-Rediffusion’s pioneering tele-classes are scheduled to start in April — will be watched closely by an enthusiastic group of TV educationists in Pittsburgh U.S. For a similar service began there three years ago.

While ITV “headmaster” Boris Ford has been drawing up his studio curriculum I have been studying the development of the appropriately-named station WQED, which first beamed out TV lessons to the schools and homes of Western Pennsylvania on April 1, 1954.

It started with four hours a week. Now its programmes last for 60 hours a week. And such has been its success that 17 other high schools of the air have followed in the U.S.

Britain’s ITV schools service will use existing transmitters and other technical facilities. The preparations have lasted a matter of weeks.

But in Pittsburgh they took three years. The first requirement was money — $350,000 (about £116,000) for equipment alone. Three foundations settled the bill. A local firm provided a building for studios and offices. And a radio station offered room on its transmitting mast for the WQED aerial.

The public and schools co-operated to get the station on the air. Even today more than half the staff are volunteers. There are unpaid announcers and cameramen, and they all lend a hand for odd jobs such as painting and decorating.

With 60 hours of air time a week not all the programmes are directed solely at schools. There are items of interest for a wide range of viewers, from children of under-school age to adults.

The three major divisions are : in-school programmes, intended principally for classroom reception, out-of-school programmes for children at home, and informational and educational programmes for adults.

Programmes in the first group are planned to enrich and supplement the average school curriculum. They are devised, and their use encouraged, by representatives of all the elementary and secondary schools in the vast area covered by the transmissions. Full details of future programmes are sent every quarter to local teachers so that they can take advantage of the transmissions in their daily teaching schedule.

In the second group is Children’s Corner, a younger viewers’ feature presided over by a puppet tiger which also runs a Tame Tiger Torganisation which, besides entertaining, teaches care of pets and arts and crafts.

Perhaps the most ambitious work being done is in the third group. The Adult High School of the Air provides educational opportunities for more than 70 per cent of all the people in Western Pennsylvania who do not hold a high school diploma. Armchair students pay two dollars (about 13s.) a course. When it is completed they can take their examinations for the diploma.

Even prisoners have been tuning in— giving them the same educational chances as people outside.

Disabled and sick children who cannot attend school can follow the lessons in the same way as those more fortunate.

High school students who fail to make the grade devote their vacation to catching up on their studies by viewing.

One result has been to case the pressure on overcrowded classrooms. Educationists point out that an extension of schools TV may be the answer to the shortage of teachers.

Other stations in Pittsburgh arc doing everything they can to help.

Stations have cancelled programmes to re-transmit a WQED feature because it was of outstanding public interest.

Looking around with John Gough

From the TVTimes Midlands edition for 13-19 January 1957 

When Boris Ford was appointed Head of School Broadcasting for Associated-Rediffusion, he said he hoped people wouldn’t call him “Headmaster.” He hoped in vain. Already he’s known throughout the country, months before the programmes start, as “The ITV Head.”

But for these school broadcasts, which ITV is pioneering in Britain, Mr. Ford intends to stay pretty much in the background — as far as the viewer is concerned. He may introduce the first scries at the end of April, but probably won’t be seen often during the lessons.

He will have a staff of ten to prepare the programmes, and the benefit of an advisory council comprised of educationalists. The actual TV production will be handled by TV experts: Rosemary Horstmann, former Manager of Women’s Programmes, has been appointed Manager of School Broadcasting.

The programmes will be mainly directed at the 14 to 15-year-olds, 75 per cent of whom are at secondary modern schools. Transmission times are not yet fixed definitely, but may be 1.45 to 2.15 — every day from Monday to Friday in term time.


Mr. Ford, 39-years-old, married, and with four children, says: “Education need not be solemn to succeed. I hope our programmes will be extremely lively and invigorating.”

In that case, I imagine he will find himself entertaining not only schoolchildren — but housewives. He agrees that the programmes may well have quite a large “eavesdropping” audience.

TV lessons, says Mr. Ford, will not attempt to oust the teacher or the printed word, but to supplement them. Programmes may deal with civic affairs, historical geography, and even the launching of the earth’s man-made satellites.


Mr. Ford is a Cambridge M.A., and during the war served with army education – finishing as Chief Editor at GHQ in Cairo. In post-war years he held important posts with the Bureau of Current Affairs and was Information Officer and Editor to the Technical Assistance Board of the United Nations Organisation.

In 1953 and 1954 he was Secretary to the committee for inquiry into vocational and non-vocational further education, and in 1955 was appointed Editor of The Journal of Education and Universities Quarterly. Last year he became organising secretary of a trust body named Children’s Play Activities Ltd.

£2,000 a week

Captain T. M. Brownrigg, general manager of Associated-Rediffusion, says the programmes will cost the ITV companies, together, about £1,500 to £2,000 a week. That’s not a lot as TV costs go: but Capt. Brownrigg reminded me — “A lot of the cost of TV programmes goes in salaries to the stars, and teachers don’t cost as much as Arthur Askeys.”

Rosemary Horstmann, who is manager of Associated-Rediffusion’s education programmes, was connected with the BBC’s experimental schools telecasts five years, ago and has clear ideas on what TV should give young viewers. “It should be something they can’t get from teachers,” Miss Horstmann said, “Television is not an easy way out for a teacher. You must have imagination to take from the screen what you want and bend it to the needs of the class.

“TV can provide a strong stimulus. If, for example, children are studying Macbeth for GCE we might get a famous Shakespearian actor to talk about his interpretation of the part.

“And TV is a good medium for relating what is learned in the classroom to what is learned outside. If a boy goes to work in a factory he would know only his own job and the boss would be a shadowy figure. We can bring the boss on TV, and show how the whole factory operates.”