The return of a form of schools broadcasting next week has provoked inevitable nostalgia – and not just from pres fans.
The dots and the diamond are better remembered than you might think.
And one of the loveliest tributes was shared on Twitter by the BBC’s Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg who’s also both an accomplished pianist and hugely knowledgable about television music.
Now time to come down to earth with a shudder.
Special presentation for BBC Schools programmes effectively stopped when schools programmes moved to BBC Two in 1983. Yet ITV – and later Channel 4 – continued with distinct schools branding and presentation for another 20 years or so.
It’s easy to wonder just what the BBC was thinking of in 1983. The transfer of schools programmes to BBC Two was a straightforward move.
In the previous few years, there had been an increasing number of occasions when they would move over for part of the day – perhaps because of an important outside broadcast or news event.
In 1983, the BBC was also keen to make improvements to its limited provision for viewers at home during the day. From January onwards, the gap on BBC One between afternoon schools programmes and Play School was always filled.
Moving schools programmes to 2 permanently was an obvious move – it meant BBC One could offer a full afternoon service permanently and teachers would be in no doubt about where schools programmes could be found.
By 1983, there were no practical issues involving the transfer of programmes to BBC Two whereas large numbers of people were still unable to receive Channel 4.
But the new service, called Daytime on 2, didn’t just include schools programmes. It also included adult education programmes previously dotted around BBC Two’s limited daytime schedule.
The decision was taken to significantly change the style of presentation. There was no schools branding and no formal countdown sequence. Why?
Well, from the start the BBC was clear that Daytime on 2 was a service for everyone and anyone. Home viewers were positively welcome and not eavesdropping.
There were also grey areas about just who individual programmes were intended for. What was the difference between a programme for colleges and an educational programme for adults?
There are plenty of programmes in the 70s and 80s which were shown during the Schools and Colleges sequence on BBC One and also shown to a general audience – say on BBC One on Sunday mornings or in the early evening on BBC Two. Notable examples include language teaching programmes and Shakespeare in Perspective.
By 1983 many schools were using video recorders and teachers used the programmes in their own time. The need for a formal countdown had been reduced.
So Daytime on 2 basically had normal BBC Two presentation – albeit with special Ceefax pages for long intervals and a special daytime version of the BBC Two symbol.
However the yellow =2= was also used, whether by accident or design, whenever there were other programmes on BBC Two on weekday afternoons.
From March 1986, there was no special daytime symbol.
So why did the BBC do all this while ITV kept a formal countdown sequence and distinct branding? Maybe there are two reasons.
The entire ITV Schools sequence was principally designed primarily for educational institutions – not viewers at home, even if they were more than welcome.
And ITV Schools clearly sat apart from the rest of the channel – no adverts, of course, or local announcers. BBC Schools seemed a fully integrated part of BBC TV even when it had more distinct presentation.
So perhaps this explains the mystery.
Incidentally, special Open University presentation was a different matter. These programmes were never part of the general BBC schedule and were made for nobody but the students. The BBC merely helped to produce them and then transmitted them.