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BBC Broadcasts for Schools Collection


Broadcasts to Schools between 1926 and 1979.


16 m.

The artist David Bassedone using the 1950s pamphlets at the IOE Library’s Special Collections Reading Room (photographed by Julia Rassmussen).


Scope and content

‘Wireless education’ in the form of radio broadcasts to schools was the first type of ‘distance learning’ in the UK. With a mission ‘to inform, educate and entertain’, the broadcasts began with an experimental radio broadcast to a single school in Glasgow in February 1924. 

By the time the BBC received its Royal Charter as the Nation’s broadcaster in 1927, the BBC Education Committee was well-established. It was led by J.C. Stobart who had been an HMI for the Board of Education. The BBC emphasised that the broadcasts were to ‘supplement’ the school curriculum rather than to replace the lessons taught in schools. This was a way to appease the teachers who regarded the early broadcasts as a threat to their professionalism. They were also critical of the patronising tone and highbrow content of the earlier broadcasts.

By the end of the 1920s, teachers were involved in an advisory capacity and teacher educators, such as Clotilde von Wyss, the Nature Studies Lecturer at the London Day Training College (now UCL IOE) were creating programme content for the broadcasts. 

By the late 1920s, the Schools Broadcasting Committee had authorised the publication of illustrated pamphlets as guides to the broadcasts. These were hugely popular. By 1927, c233,000 copies were distributed to participating schools and by the following year over forty programmes, some with regional variations, were transmitted from studios in Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow, Bournemouth and Belfast. Between 1929 and 1930, 5,000 schools across the country were subscribing to the broadcasts and over 560,000 pamphlets, edited by various subject committees, were distributed. The pamphlets continued to be published until 1979.

The IOE has the full collection of pamphlets produced to accompany schools radio broadcasts from September 1926 till the late 1970s. The volumes from Summer 1958 and onwards also include pamphlets for television broadcasts.

During the academic year 1946-47 the series divided into 'Pamphlets' and 'Leaflets', within the same numbered sequence, and in 1973 another sequence, called 'Notes', was added. These are contained within the original numbered sequence.


The Collection was deposited on permanent loan with the Institute in 1990.


The collection is uncatalogued. It is available to view under supervision in the IOE Reading Room.