ITV Schools

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ITV Schools (full name: Independent Television for Schools and Colleges) was the educational television service set up in 1957 by the Independent Television Authority, broadcasting learning programmes for children ages 5 to 18 across ITV-affiliated stations. It was an example of public service broadcasting on a commercial television network (as opposed to the public BBC and their service BBC Schools).

ITV moved its schools programming to Channel 4 in autumn 1987 although ITV continued to produce programmes and the service continued to use the ITV name for another six years. The last ITV Schools programme on Channel 4 aired on Monday 28 June 1993; Channel 4 continued to produce their own schools programmes for many years afterwards.

LWT never aired it.



The service started with a small audience, limited largely to the London area via its weekday franchise-holder Associated-Rediffusion. The service expanded as stations were added to the ITV network, and continued for the next 30 years, broadcasting a schedule of memorable documentaries, drama and entertainment programmes aimed at children between the ages of 5 and 18. These were almost all made by the various companies of the ITV network, mainly the largest ones such as Thames Television, ATV and Granada Television.

The Broadcasting Act, 1972

Broadcasting hours were for some time regulated by the British Government, however there were some exemptions, for example, educational programmes and sports coverage. The commercial broadcasters therefore reserved their most commercial output for peak viewing hours and used the remainder of their broadcasting hours to put out their contractually obligated programming, conveniently enough, at a time when children were at school. Networked programmes for schools and colleges were mostly made by the "big four" weekday broadcasters Yorkshire, Granada, Thames and ATV, and were screened during the late morning and early afternoon, after which the network would close down until children's programmes commenced in the afternoon.

Following changes to the law in early 1972, the schools broadcasts were moved to an earlier slot, with effect from Monday 16 October 1972 between the hours of 0930 and 1200 during term time. This enabled the ITV broadcasters to open up the afternoon schedule to sell advertising between programmes; advertising was strictly prohibited during schools broadcasts.

The ITV Schools broadcasts gave teachers access to a broad spectrum of teaching resources, such as documentary film with which to illustrate their regular lessons, or songs and stories for children to learn and discuss, and could be considered an early example of multimedia learning. Activities and booklets based on the programmes were available to teachers via the Educational Officers based at the local ITV companies, allowing students to develop a relationship with the regular broadcasts. Typically, schools were equipped for schools television with a couple of large television receivers, sometimes housed inside a wooden cabinet atop a wheeled trolley which could be moved between classrooms as required.

This arrangement lasted until Monday 29 June 1987.


Schools programmes on ITV were generally between ten and twenty minutes in length. Unlike peak-time programmes (which were usually scheduled at times rounded up to the nearest five minutes), schools programmes were scheduled at very precise times, such as 10:03 or 11:32. Some individual regions, such as HTV Wales, sometimes showed their own programming instead of the network offerings, but would rejoin the network in time for the next scheduled programme, and so it was necessary to devise a flexible presentation system which would allow the network to effectively fill the time between programmes without resorting to showing a blank screen. Network schools presentation was provided by ATV and later, Central Independent Television in Birmingham with live announcements made by ATV & Central's staff announcers including Mike Prince, Stewart White, Peter Davies and Su Evans.

Between programmes, interval music was played and a holding slide shown onscreen, identifying the service as Independent Television For Schools And Colleges and thus differentiating the service from the similar schools TV service run by the BBC, which were listed as "For Schools, Colleges" in the Radio Times until BBC Schools broadcasting moved to BBC2 in autumn 1983 with a new title of Daytime on Two. This holding slide could be shown for anything from a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on the length of time required to fill. A different theme for the holding slides was used each term, and each week a different slide would be used.

Exactly one minute before the start of the programme, the slide was replaced by a clock showing sixty second-marks, which gradually disappeared until there were none left. This gave the teacher one final minute in which to calm the class down before the programme began. A suitably timed piece of library music, changed once a term and often taken from the Bruton Music library, accompanied the animation.

The image of the 'schools countdown clock' has taken on something of a cult status, as referenced in programmes such as Look Around You, and produced a memorable image fondly remembered by generations of British schoolchildren.


Some examples of programming from the 1957–1993 era

  • How We Used To Live, a history drama for children made by Yorkshire
  • Good Health, a health education programme made by ATV/Central
  • Starting Science, (later Science Start Here!) a documentary from ATV/Central introducing children to the world of science. Incidental music was composed by Ron Geesin.
  • The English Programme / The French Programme / The German Programme (language tuition from Thames)
  • My World, stories for children of infant school age, made by Yorkshire Television
  • Experiment, Granada's series of filmed biology and chemistry experiments for secondary school pupils and parodied in the first series of the BBC comedy series Look Around You
  • A Place To Live, geography documentaries from Granada
  • Living And Growing, a sex education from Grampian which was later repeated late at night for adults
  • Stop, Look, Listen, made by ATV/Central and introducing children to social science. The programmes were narrated by Chris Tarrant.
  • Story World made by Granada
  • Reading with Lenny, designed to introduce literacy to infant school children, made by Granada and written and presented by Terry Hall with Lenny the Lion
  • Let's Read with Basil Brush made by Granada.
  • Picture Box made by Granada, later a co-production with Childsplay
  • Talk, Write and Read made by Central
  • Seeing and Doing, made by Thames
  • Basic Maths and, later, VideoMaths made by ATV and later Central
  • Let's Go Maths, a maths programme for infant school children made by Granada and presented by Lesley Judd
  • Middle English Made By Thames
  • Geography Start Here made by Central
  • Scientific Eye/ Geographical Eye made by Yorkshire
  • Time for a Story Made by Granada and presented by Bill Oddie
  • Place and People Made by Granada
  • ReadAbout English Programme for Junior Pupils made by Yorkshire
  • Time for Maths Maths Programme for Junior Pupils made by Granada Television
  • "World About Us" produced by Charles Warren. Presenter was Gordon Luck (Rediffusion)
  • "Preparing a Play" produced by Charles Warren (Rediffusion)
  • "Way with Words" Produced by Charles Warren (Rediffusion)
  • "Looking and Seeing" with Redvers Kyle. First Rediffusion Schools Programme on 10 May 1957
  • "The Ballard Story" Presented by Alan Nicholson (Rediffusion) 1957
  • "On Leaving School" ITV version of BBC's Going to Work Script Editor Martin Worth (Rediffusion)
  • "People Among us" Presented by Fernau Hall (Rediffusion) First Broadcast May 1957
  • "Junior Geography" Geography Programme for Junior Students, Made by (Thames TV) with co-production with Dark Horse

ITV Schools on Channel Four and S4C

After 30 years on ITV, the service moved to Channel 4 and S4C from 14 September 1987, allowing ITV to concentrate on building a fully commercial daytime schedule. Just two pieces of interval music were used after 1987: The Journey for a 3D holding device, and Just a Minute which backed a redesigned clock.

The transmission times were the same, 09:30 – 12:00. At 09:28, the four ITV logos glided onto stage, followed by the first minute of The Journey, before gliding off stage. The 3D countdown clock spun onto screen at this point. For all other programmes the holding device would be faded up, and the music faded in at where it had reached. Once the tune had reached the end, the ITV logos glided off stage, and were replaced by the clock. Presentation was handled by Channel 4 in London with announcements for support material pre-recorded and voiced mainly by Central TV announcer Ted May in Birmingham.

In the run up to the move to Channel 4 and S4C, at the end of each schools programme on ITV, a trailer was run, warning schools of the change, and also mentioning it was the 30th anniversary of ITV Schools. It is claimed that in some regions these trailers were shown after normal programming as well.

The very first programme on ITV Schools on 4 and S4C was "Environments", produced by Thames Television. On that historic first morning, Channel 4's trade test sequence was moved forward. Normally, they switched between test card, Oracle teletext, and 4-Tel every 15 minutes. The test card was normally always shown before programmes, with music. However, that first morning, it was Oracle teletext that was shown. At 09:26;57 the pages crashed out i.e. they disappeared suddenly, and a blank screen was shown. This remained for a full minute, until at 09:27;57 the screen had the grey background, with a 4 logo in the right hand corner on a strip. The sequence with the ITV logos, as described above, then commenced. Between September and late November 1987, the ITV logo on the ITV Schools clock freeze framed before the programme started to avoid showing an ITV company's ident.

When Channel 4 introduced breakfast television in April 1989, it was necessary to extend the first interval to five minutes due to the 9:25am finish time of The Channel 4 Daily. For the first three minutes, Channel 4 would play one of their own interval tracks – between April 1989 and the end of 1991 over a still of the 3D clock and throughout 1992, the ITV "rotomotion" between January 1992 and December 1992. In both cases, at 09:27.50 the music and image would be faded out, and then at exactly 09:28 the 3D logos glided onto stage.

On ITV, at the end of schools programmes, the regional ITV announcers would make their own closing announcements over a holding slide, before introducing the lunchtime programming. On Channel 4, however, at the end of schools programming, the ITV logos glided onto stage, with the first 10 seconds of The Journey. This was rapidly faded to black, after which the Channel 4 logo appeared and the announcer introduced the next programme.

From Monday 11 January 1993, the holding device was no longer used for the first programme, and the introduction cut into 40 seconds of the clock. The holding device did appear for all other programmes. This ended on Monday 28 June 1993, signalling the end of this particular era and style of schools television broadcast. The very last programme on ITV Schools on 4 was "The Technology Programme", at 11:41 am.

Since September 1993, the strand has been known as Channel 4 Schools, and is now Channel 4 Education.

The two pieces of music used on Channel 4, the Journey and Just A Minute, were both written in 1986 by "James Aldenham", which was a pseudonym for Brian Bennett, former drummer with The Shadows, and who has, for many years, written TV themes, such as the BBC Golf theme tune. Just a Minute also featured as background music on Coronation Street on 22 March 1998.

Educational programmes for schools continued to be broadcast on Channel 4 until 2009, although they were usually moved into commercially unviable timeslots, such as overnight, where they could be video-recorded by teachers for later consumption. The usual standard Channel 4 presentation devices were employed between programmes.

Regional outputs on ITV Schools on Channel 4

Between September 1987 and June 1992, Grampian Television, Scottish Television, Border Television, Ulster Television (UTV) and S4C opted out of the main ITV Schools on Channel 4 service to show regional ITV Schools programmes such as Swings & Roundabouts.

On S4C, Welsh-language programmes were seen under the S4C Ysgolion banner, and used their own holding devices and clock similar to ITV Schools, but used the same music as the national holding device. S4C used the traditional ITV Schools holding device for English language programmes, but the S4C logo was keyed over the Channel 4 logo on the aston bar at the bottom of the screen.

In preparation for Channel 4 being spun off from IBA control, all regional outputs ended at the end of the Summer Term in June 1992, with all programmes, such as Videomaths and How We Used to Live, fully networked. The only exception was S4C in Wales, which continued to opt out some English programmes for its Welsh-language programmes; this continued even after ITV Schools was re-branded as Channel 4 Schools, with S4C adopting S4C Schools for its English programmes, continuing to use S4C Ysgolion for its Welsh programmes.

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