Schools Television is 10


It was, in 1967…

On May 13, 1957, Rediffusion was responsible for the first regular programmes for schools in the country. In the following decade the company established many ‘firsts’ in broadcasting to schools. In Fusion 46, Easter 1967, Guthrie Moir, Rediffusion’s executive producer, adult education and schools broadcasts at the time, wrote about the people involved and their spirit of dedication. He was the editor of the anniversary book Teaching and Television – ETV Explained which attempted to set the total ETV (Educational Television) picture in its right perspective and was published on May 8, 1967 by Pergamon Press.

Since 1956 Rediffusion Television has been a not inconsiderable patron of the arts, often doing good by stealth rather than with a fanfare of trumpets. Our schools broadcasting 10th anniversary week from May 8-12 this year offers a chance to mark the substantial investment the company has made in ETV since its first broadcast to schools on May 13, 1957. It has been estimated that the total expenditure on schools broadcasting alone in the last decade – not including adult education – has been more than £2 million by Rediffusion.

At first sight, it must have seemed a quixotic and even endearingly eccentric gesture for a brand new commercial television company, with no direct contractual obligation under the Television Act, 1954, to launch out in those early days into the uncharted seas of schools broadcasting. This was before even the BBC had got majestically under way. From the start, two members of Rediffusion’s top management have been especially active champions of educational television – Paul Adorian and John McMillan, the latter being responsible in February, 1962 for setting up the ITV educational secretariat now located with the I.T.C.A. in Mortimer Street. Mr Adorian has described how the general outlook of his board was mainly responsible for the policy that the programme company should provide a balanced and comprehensive output so that there should be what has been described by Sir John Wolfenden as ‘a total offering’.

The first week of Associated- Rediffusion’s schools broadcasting was recorded in the TV Times of May 10, 1957 as follows:

‘Looking and Seeing’ introduced by Redvers Kyle ( I mention only the more familiar names of production staff);
‘The Ballad Story’ education officer Alan Nicholson (after a tour with CETO he is now deputy head of the new Inner London Education Authority Television Service);
‘On Leaving School’ script by Martin Worth;
‘A Year of Observation’ scripted and directed by John Frankhau;
‘People Among Us’ education officer Fernau Hall.

Fernau Hall records: ‘We had a freedom then which today seems fantastic’ this feeling of freedom, of having the chance to create something really new, was one of the things which attracted me…’

Rosemary Horstman, now deputy director of the University of Leeds Television Service, was appointed assistant head of schools broadcasting at the end of December, 1956, and secretary of the then non-existent Educational Advisory Council. Both staff and council members had to be recruited in double-quick time to get the service on the air by May, 1957. There was strong resistance to the new service in some sectors of the teaching profession. Miss Horstman writes : ‘It was touch and go at first whether the LCC, then the London Education Authority, would allow their schools to view our programmes at all – Dr Briault (still a member of our Educational Advisory Council) and Sir John Wolfenden (our council’s first chairman, as the then vice-chancellor of Reading University) between them managed to tip the balance’.

Rediffusion’s Educational Advisory Council has had two subsequent chairmen ; Sir Sidney Caine, principal of the London School of Economics and now vice-chairman of the Independent Television Authority; and the council’s current chairman, Sir Ifor Evans, until last year provost of University College, London. I asked Sir Ifor to sum up his impression of five years of chairmanship. He writes: ‘What has fascinated me most has been the degree of consultation. The Advisory Council brought together by the company represents every aspect of education, and to preside over it is to realise how seriously they carry out their duties. Further, and this is most impressive, the company has produced precisely the programmes that the council indicated, and tested reaction in the schools. There must be some moral for television as a whole, for in the school area it has led to admirable results’.

There have been four heads of school broadcasting – Boris Ford was the first. My own appointment to the company as assistant controller followed and I made it a priority task to recruit a suitable schools head, which we found in the energetic person of Miss Enid Love.

Within a year of taking up her appointment with Rediffusion Miss Love was invited by Sveriges Radio to go to Stockholm to run an introductory course in educational television for Swedish teachers and producers. So one could claim that Rediffusion had ‘mothered’ the schools television service in Scandinavia. Miss Love returned to full-time teaching in 1963 as headmistress of Sydenham School and her successor, Robert McPherson, rapidly became and still is now, since his return to Scottish Television, a leading figure in European Broadcasting Union educational circles.

His successor, Edwin Whiteley came to Television House in 1965 from the deputy headship of Sandbach School, Cheshire, and has rapidly reinforced the company’s position in the complex world of educational networking and liaison between the providers. He has also been the architect of Rediffusion’s new teaching and television project. This started last November partly to help teachers to use our programmes more effectively and partly as a gesture of encouragement to the new Inner London Education Authority Television Service.

Charles Warren, in addition to being the assistant head of schools to the last two incumbents, has himself produced some of our best schools series – ‘Ways With Words’, ‘Preparing A Play’ and ‘World Around Us’. His single-minded devotion to educational television is illustrated by his regular dedication of leave to visiting ETV stations in the USA and elsewhere abroad.

Rediffusion’s schools section is a lively and idiosyncratic part of the company’s production team. It would be invidious, in a general commemorative article of this type, to single out other prominent members for mention by name. Suffice it to say that they all lead vigorous and rewarding careers and help to bridge in their own persons and ways of life the gap which is sometimes misguidedly alleged to yawn between the worlds of education and T.V. In 10 years of preoccupation with ETV, I have never myself succeeded in locating this gap, or the weak links that would be needed to occasion it, in our truly massive advisory and consultative systems.

Several members of the present section have remained in it from the start until now. Others like Alan Nicholson in Central Africa and more recently Andrew Lieven in Uganda have been able to pass on their knowledge to less advanced countries. Rediffusion can compliment itself both on maintaining through the years an extremely professional team of educationists and also on encouraging the circulation of this talent.

When the history of British ITV comes to be written, Rediffusion’s unremittingly pioneering role in schools broadcasting will seem increasingly admirable, maintained as it was even against the background of the financial losses of the first two years.

Spare a thought then for schools broadcasting on May 13, what it has achieved and which direction it should take for the future. The service it provides now each year for more than 16,000 schools in Britain is liable to be taken so much for granted that perhaps not enough thought is given nationally to the future application of educational television.

It is with this consideration in mind that the company has chosen, as part of our anniversary arrangements, to encourage the production of a background book Teaching and Television – ETV Explained. This is not a piece of propaganda or self-advertisement. It is an attempt by a team of experts to survey the total ETV situation in this country as we find it, after 10 years of work, in a detached and unbiased fashion. No such background book exists as yet in this country. It should save television educationists a great deal of breath and effort, when attempting to describe, as they are constantly called on to do, the complexities of our ETV system to overseas visitors and academics. It is also, we hope, of sufficient general interest to appeal to progressively minded parents, to teachers at every level and even to fellow members of the Rediffusion staff.

About the author

George Guthrie Moir MA (30 October 1917 - 29 November 1993) was a production executive at Rediffusion and head of religion at Thames.

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