BBC1/BBC2: Here’s the first part of some thoughts and memories on schools presentation and programming on various channels throughout the years. I am not old enough to remember when schools programmes were on BBC1 but I have seen various clips online. They launched on BBC1 in 1957, and by the early-80s you would get a slide of the next programme which we would be informed would “follow shortly”. Then when there was about a minute to go a circle with “schools and colleges” would appear which had dots surrounding it. The dots gradually disappeared from the screen, and when they were all gone it was time for the programme. These replaced a diamond symbol that was used throughout the 70s. These sequences were also usually accompanied by a funky piece of music such as a medley of songs by Abba.
In September 1983 schools programmes moved to BBC2, and a special yellow variation of the striped ident was introduced to appear before the start of programmes. The strand usually ran from about 9am to 2pm on weekdays and was named Daytime On Two. There have been lots of memorable BBC schools programmes over the years, one of my favourites is Zig Zag which had a terrific opening sequence and theme. Other classics included Scene, Landmarks, and Watch.
When I was at junior school, the only time that I remember specifically going into the room with a TV to watch a BBC schools programme live was Look And Read. This was a long-running programme and I remember watching it in the early-90s, there were great characters such as Wordy who helped us learn the words, and we watched stories including Badger Girl, Geordie Racer, and my favourite was Through The Dragon’s Eye. The reason that there were such intervals between programmes was because in those days it would take time to get one class out of the room and bring another one in as the programming was aimed at various age groups from toddlers to teenagers. It seems remarkable how casual this approach to presentation seems now, an unanimated slide saying “follows shortly” appearing on screen for up to five minutes, you wouldn’t get that now.
I also remember by the early-90s a ten second clock would appear over the “TWO” ident. By the 1991 BBC2 relaunch intervals had mostly been dropped, with a short clip of a schools programme usually appearing. There was also lots of announcements of how you could get more information about the programmes. Schools programmes appeared on BBC2 daytimes for over 25 years but by 2010 they had been phased out and now only appear online.
Various other schools and educational programming on the BBC includes GCSE Bitesize, which was usually shown very early so you had to set the video for revision on various subjects like I did when I was doing mine in the late-90s. There is also of course the Open University which took up most of weekend mornings for many years, and adult education programmes on Sundays. The CBBC channel also briefly had a strand for school programmes under the name Class TV. There is also The Learning Zone which does continue to this day, but it means the only educational programmes on TV now are at around 4am.
I’ll look back at schools TV memories on ITV and Channel 4 in part two of this piece.