BBC School Broadcasting, Progressivism in Education and Literacy 1957-1979

Barclay, Steven 2021. BBC School Broadcasting, Progressivism in Education and Literacy 1957-1979. PhD thesis University of Westminster Westminster School of Media and Communication

TitleBBC School Broadcasting, Progressivism in Education and Literacy 1957-1979
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsBarclay, Steven

This thesis accounts for the history of BBC television and radio programmes made for use in schools, their relationship with educational progressivism, and the application of linguistic theory to literacy programmes in the period 1957-1979. School broadcasting has been neglected by the disciplines of education and media history. The thesis uses educational literacy broadcasting as a route to link the history of linguistic theory with media and communications research. A historical documentary and oral interview research method has been used, with the addition of a linguistic theoretical analysis. The thesis finds that BBC school broadcasting played a leading part in curriculum resource development, and was a valuable and unique part of the education system. It was popular with the grassroots of teachers but was overall not well integrated statutorily with the main institutional domains in the education system; teacher training institutions, local education authorities and the government. The orthodoxy in educational theory, progressivism, had an ambivalent attitude towards educational media. School broadcasting changed the education system by leading a system of resource-based schooling. School broadcasting sat uncomfortably in the BBC due to its anomalous format, aims and audience. School radio especially was a gradually declining priority. The system of accompanying publications was vital to the effective functioning of the service, but suffered by competing in a commercial educational book market. Literacy television series began in the 1960s with a collaboration with Joyce Morris, who pioneered phonics as a method of teaching reading. The BBC’s series used the strengths of television to lead national provision. Other parts of the literacy provision followed ‘real books’ methods and commissioned leading writers. Literacy series for the early years were influenced by sociolinguistic theories of class and language and later reflected child-centred methods. The success of BBC school broadcasting depended on its attachment to public service broadcasting and aired of the question of the status of mediated experience.

File Access Level
Open (open metadata and files)
PublisherUniversity of Westminster
Publication dates
PublishedJun 2021
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Related outputs

The BBC School Broadcasting Council and the Education System 1935–1971
Barclay, S. 2022. The BBC School Broadcasting Council and the Education System 1935–1971. Media History. 28 (2), pp. 214-229.

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