More TV Memories – Look And Read.

Look And Read (BBC2, 1967-2004)

Look And Read is one of those long-running shows that was watched by a lot of children, but it was never shown as part of CBBC, this is because it was a schools TV show which was designed to help improve reading skills with various stories and songs. I remember watching the show in my first and second year at junior school (1990-1992).

And yes, we really did all go and sit in a small room which had a TV in it to watch Look And Read live on BBC2 (although we did have a video recorder too, honest). The novelty of being able to watch TV at 10am even though I was actually at school! There were four ten-part stories that I remember watching, although some of them were repeats, and the year that they were first shown on BBC2 will be in brackets, along with a brief analysis of what I can remember about the story. vlcsnap-00065

Badger Girl. (1984) This is the first one that I remember watching. It featured some children who visited a farm and noticed that something was happening with the badgers and ponies. vlcsnap-00067

Geordie Racer. (1988) This was a story about a boy who liked to race pigeons and had to solve a mystery, while the rest of his family were in training to take part in the Great North Run. vlcsnap-00069

Sky Hunter II. (1992) A sequel to an earlier story from 1978, this one featured a lot about bird-watching and peregrine falcons and I found it rather dull compared to the other stories. vlcsnap-00070

Through The Dragon’s Eye. (1989) Now this was definitely my favourite one, I remember really enjoying this. This was a story which begins when three children paint a mural at their school which features a dragon that suddenly comes to life! They then go on an adventure in a magical land with a very odd range of characters, there were orange people and everything! I still remember this one fondly all these years later. vlcsnap-00072

Also along the way were helped by our old friend Wordy and there were also lots of memorable animations and songs (which all seemed to be sung by Derek Griffiths which is great). Look And Read eventually ran for almost four decades, and some classic stories were also repeated in the early days of the CBBC Channel. This really is one of those shows that is fondly remembered by generations of children, and I’m sure that just about everyone who went to school throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s will remember watching at least one of the 20 stories that were produced throughout that time and were encouraged to build a word. vlcsnap-00066


More TV Memories – Schools TV (part 2).

ITV/Channel 4: Programmes for schools and colleges launched on ITV in 1957. Although I am not old enough to remember when schools programmes were on ITV, I have seen several clips online. Programmes were every weekday from 9:30 to midday. First of all a slide would appear and these would be changed every term, which would then go into a countdown clock when there was one minute before the start of the programme. This would be accompanied by various pieces of music. Usually just before every programme started the continuity announcer would provide information for teachers such as how to receive factsheets and books with information on the programmes. schools5

In September 1987 after 30 years on ITV, schools programmes moved to Channel 4. This is the first era that I remember. Before every programme started, The ITV Schools symbol would rotate on the screen. This was based on the ITV symbol that was used occasionally on screen at the time, but even though an official ITV symbol wasn’t introduced until 1989, the sequence was never amended. This would accompanied by a great and memorable piece of the music called “The Journey” which was six minutes long, meaning that it could be joined at various times depending on how long the junction was. When there was a minute to go to the next programme, a countdown clock would appear accompanied by a piece of music called “Just A Minute”. schools7

Even though it was now on Channel 4, the strand remained named as ITV Schools because they still produced the majority of the programmes. I don’t remember watching any programmes specifically live when I was at school, but I definitely watched some pre-recorded ones. Some of the most famous of the ITV Schools programmes include How We Used To Live, Stop Look Listen and Picture Box which are still remembered fondly by many viewers to this day. Most of the programming from the late-70s and early-80s would go on to inspire the first series of the terrific BBC2 comedy Look Around Youschools6

In 1993 the ITV name was dropped and the strand finally became Channel 4 Schools, which meant that it was time for some new presentation. The main ident featured various historical figures over some rather creepy music. The countdown before every programme was now only 30 seconds, with longer intervals being filled by some pictures of artwork. schools8

When Channel 4 introduced their circles era of presentation in 1996, the schools presentation was changed again, this time continuing to feature a 30 second countdown before programmes, and the circles being used and featuring various subjects appearing in them over a new piece of background music. schools9

The presentation was changed again when the squares era of Channel 4 presentation was introduced in 1999, and the strand was renamed “4Learning”. It was around this time that schools programmes began to be phased out on Channel 4, usually only being shown at around 4am, before in 2009 they were dropped altogether, finally bringing that era to an end. schools10

More TV Memories – Schools TV (part 1).

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. schools1

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 Watchschools2

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. schools3

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. schools4

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.