BBC School Radio

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BBC School Radio is the audio division of BBC Schools, the educational division of the BBC. It is aimed at primary schools.


BBC School Radio began on 4 April 1924 when the BBC was still the British Broadcasting Company (it became a Corporation in 1927). The first school broadcast was given by the composer Sir Walford Davies, Professor of Music at Gresham College. It broadcast only in the London area on the 2LO network (Britain's second ever radio station). In 1927 it went national. Feedback on the broadcasting was collected from schoolteachers in Kent, funded by the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust. In 1928 the Central Council for School Broadcasting (CCSB) was formed, whose first two Chairmen were Herbert Fisher and Eustace Percy, 1st Baron Percy of Newcastle. Each subject broadcast had a Subject Committee, staffed by teachers.

From 1929-57, the first Director of School Broadcasting was Mary Somerville. By the 1930s, secondary schools were included and to whom foreign language education was broadcast. Older listeners were also tuning in.

Second World War

During the Second World War, School Radio gained a new importance. Any regional variations were consolidated into a single home service for children with a five minute news broadcast that was designed to explain the confusing circumstances. By 1942, half of all British schools were listening.

Post war

The School Broadcasting Council for the United Kingdom had been set up in 1947, replacing the CCSB, and included Scotland and Wales.

After the Newsom Report in 1963, more series were made about the transition from school to work. The 1960s to 1980s were regarded as a 'golden age' for British schools radio broadcasting.

By the early 1970s, around 90% of schools were using the School Radio service, with the BBC producing around 80 series per year for School Radio, which amounted to around 16 hours per week.

From 1983, older programmes were available on cassette from the Centre of Educational Technology in Mold, Flintshire. By the mid-1990s, schools broadcasts were being marginalised from daytime radio. They were broadcast for many years on Radio 4's FM frequencies - 11am (9.05am on Thursdays) to 12noon and 2pm to 3pm - before switching to Radio 5 in September 1990 when programmes were broadcast between 9am and 10.25am. After the original Radio 5 had closed, some schools programmes from Summer 1994 to Summer 1996 were broadcast from 2pm to 3pm on Radio 3, much to the chagrin of many of that station's listeners, with others going out on the same station overnight. From Autumn 1996 all programmes were broadcast overnight during Radio 3's downtime where they could be pre-recorded, before finally switching to overnight broadcasts on the digital version of Radio 4 in Autumn 2003. Since 2003 all school radio programmes have been available on the internet. The advent of podcasts has opened up a whole new avenue for the school radio service.


TV broadcasting for schools began on 13 May 1957 (this had been hoped to begin in the late 1940s, but financial constraints prevented this). This was first broadcast by Associated-Rediffusion, not the BBC, though the BBC began schools television four months later. The BBC's television service had begun in 1936, and stopped for the war, to begin again in 1946. Schools television was shown on BBC1 until 1983 when it moved to BBC2.

No commercial broadcasters have ever produced educational radio programmes for schools.


On 4 April 1984, John Dunn presented a programme entitle Faith, Hope and Clarity, about the sixty years of BBC Schools Radio, on Radio 4. In the same year, from 3 to 5 July, a three day festival was held at Pebble Mill Studios in Birmingham. It was hosted by Duncan Goodhew, Sue Lawley and Rolf Harris.

Broadcasting sites

In 1939 the School Broadcasting Department moved to Bristol.


Presenters have included -

  • Sophie Aldred
  • Sandra Kerr
  • Simon Mayor
  • Rhoda Power, sister of the historian Eileen Power, who produced historical output from 1927 until 1957


It is based on Wood Lane in London. Broadcasts take place in the middle of the night (starting at 3am) on Radio 4 Digital from Tuesdays to Fridays. Programmes can be recorded under the Educational Recording Agency copyright laws, but podcasts are freely available as well.


It is divided into eight subjects:

Pre-recorded programmes are available on CD or DVD from BBC Schools' Broadcast Recordings, based in Market Harborough.

Former programmes

  • In the News - produced by Radio News and School Radio in the early 1980s for ages 9 to 12
  • Wavelength - youth culture programme, with content borrowed from Radio 1 in the 1980s
  • Talks to Sixth Forms - introduced in 1935, and had distinguished speakers such as G. K. Chesterton, T. S. Eliot and E. M. Forster
  • How Things Began - a natural history programme broadcast in 1943
  • Make Up Your Mind - discussion programme for sixth formers

See also

  • BBC Switch, BBC output for teenagers from 2007–10
  • The Big Toe Radio Show
  • Newsround
  • Becta- formed from what was the Council for Educational Technology
  • BBC Learning



External links

Template:BBC Radio