Highlights of TV for schools


In the week beginning May 13, 1957, the first regular British schools programmes were transmitted by Rediffusion Television. There were five series, covering a wide range of secondary school subjects:

“Year of Observation” — a science series dealing with the International Geophysical Year. The Russians sent up the first space satellite (Sputnik) during the term and this was covered in the very next “Year of Observation” programme.

“The Ballad Story” — a folk-song programme, concerned with both music and English, featuring top folk-singers. “On Leaving School” — designed for school leavers to prepare them for life in the adult world.

“Looking and Seeing” — art and environmental studies. “People Among Us” — a synthesis of geography, history, social studies, religion and art.


The BBC began to transmit schools programmes in the autumn of 1957, but almost all series produced by Rediffusion Television were still “firsts”. There were series on mathematics (“World of Figures”), the mass media (“Judge for Yourself”), farming (“The Farming Year”), art (“Shape in Your Hands”), music (“Music in the Making”), and dance (“Invitation to the Dance”).


By this time, certain series had become an established feature of Rediffusion Television school transmissions (notably science and drama), but many new types of series were also created in this academic year: the story of a river (“La Dordogne”), an anthology series designed to evoke both written work and work in the visual arts (“The Open Window”), a series designed to foster the effective and accurate use of words (“The Ring of Words”), exploration (“Maps and Men”), and the use of leisure (“In Leisure Time”). In the autumn term, “Process of Law”, written and presented by Jeremy Thorpe, was broadcast. This was a series designed to give a better understanding of the meaning of the word “law”.


This academic year saw the first transmission of a series designed for primary schools:— “The World Around Us”, with primary science programmes alternating with general interest programmes. Another “first” was a series for sixth forms, “The Artist in the Modern World”, in which artists in various media discussed their position in society. There was also “London: Capital City” which combined geography, history and social studies.


This year brought the first schools foreign language series (“Chez les Dupre”); the first complete regional geography of the British Isles, extending over three terms and involving much location filming all over the country (“The British Isles”); a current affairs programme for fifth and sixth forms (“A Changing World”); and a new type of book programme in which part of a book was dramatised and the viewers told to read the book to find out what happened next (“Books to Enjoy”). A new and different kind of science series, which traced the development of medical knowledge, was also produced (“The Story of Medicine”).


A new type of programme introduced this year was “Looking About”, a “bridge” series for older primary and younger secondary children. This took the form of four different groups of programmes of varied types alternating with each other. Also new was “The Pickwick Papers”, a dramatisation in serial form of the novel by Dickens. This year, too, schools series produced by ATV and Granada were included in Rediffusion Television’s time-table. They included series on the arts, mathematics, science, modern languages and current affairs.


An important “first” this year was “Your Money and Your Life”, a series which explained economics through simple dramatised fables. “Story Box” was a miscellany series something like “Looking About”, but intended for a lower age group (8—10) and tackling different areas. One of the drama series (“Theatres and Temples”) broke fresh ground by presenting ancient Greek tragedies and also by including introductory programmes on the ideas and institutions of the ancient Greeks.


There were two major “firsts” this year. There was a series for less able children, “You and the World”, which gave the children an idea of the world they would be facing when they left school. In addition there was “Cross-Roads”, a religious series designed to start children thinking about moral problems.


Once again, there were two major “firsts” — “One World”, a two-term series designed to foster international understanding, and “Finding Out”, the first series for infants and lower juniors.


Three major innovations took place—a series on medieval drama (“Mysteries and Miracles”); a local studies series for primary schools (“Let’s Go Out”); and a new type of English series, “Ways with Words”, designed to stimulate discussion and creative writing.


This year brought a new type of primary series, “A Time and a Place” about the different kinds of work in zoos; and a new type of social history series, “The Golden Age”, showing aspects of the world in which Shakespeare wrote his plays. Granada’s new series on human relationships, “Understanding”, was included in Rediffusion Television’s pattern of broadcasting.


The first series for middle infants is due to start— “Seeing and Doing”. There will also be a new type of music programme, “Song and Story”, in which songs are given a visual interpretation. A new science and social studies series, “Approach to Living”, will also be presented. It is designed to give an understanding of the impact of science and technology on society.

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.

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.