Scottish educational broadcasting

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At first there was a fear that broadcasting could supplant teachers, but schools soon realised that it acted as a supplement to their lessons. The BBC soon realised that the broadcast lesson was incomplete without printed matter prepared by the 'wireless teacher' and issued to the teachers in the schools. Such material enabled teachers to make the best possible use of the lessons by preparation beforehand and discussion after.

Scottish Area Educational Advisory Council

Set-up in 1926. Contained representatives from the Scottish universities, the Association of Education Authorities, the Association of Directors of Education, the Provincial Training Colleges and the Educational Institute of Scotland. With the advice of this body and its various sub-committees, the BBC in Scotland arranged appropriate broadcasts for schools. In 1927, demonstrations were carried out for the benefit of over a dozen education authorities, and also at a Summer School of Teachers in St Andrews.[1]

Role of libraries in BBC talks

The BBC sought the libraries' co-operation in the distribution of informative pamphlets relating to Its various courses of lectures. Glasgow agreed to assist the BBC by making available copies of the syllabus of a course of lectures by Dr J. R. Peddie, dealing with "The Craft of Letters". After just two lectures of the course were delivered, over a thousand readers at the Glasgow District Libraries had consulted a copy of the syllabus or taken one away. In its pamphlet the BBC printed 41 titles of books selected as suitable for reading by those interested in Dr Peddie's lectures. Of these books the libraries had 106 copies, and a census disclosed the fact that these were being very largely used; one district library, indeed, reported that all the available books included in the syllabus were on loan to its borrowers.[2]

Scottish schools broadcasts

On 24 September 1928, the BBC's Scottish stations transmitted an all-Scottish schools programme for the first time. The first programme that afternoon was a talk by Professor J. Arthur Thomson on the "Showers of Gossamer", the first of a new series under the general title Natural History Round the Year.

The responsibility for broadcasts to Scottish schools was devolved to the Scottish Sub-Council for School Broadcasting, which met for the first time on 4 December 1929. The Council was composed of members of the Scottish Education Department, the Education Authorities, the Association of Directors of Education, teachers of all grades, together with various representative Scotsmen, such as Professor J. Arthur Thomson, Sir Charles Cleland, and others.[3]

Thomson proposes cuts to educational broadcasting

In 1931, Scottish Regional Director David Cleghorn Thomson identified educational broadcasting as a target for efficiency savings. In a letter to Director General John Reith he made three proposals: (1) The suspension of all meetings of the educational advisory committees. Over £125 was spent in 1930 alone on the expenses claims of the schools committees, and Thomson felt that adequate advice could be obtained without this cost by the schools official consulting local experts. (2) The cancelling of the use of educational cars except by education engineers, the latter to be at the expense of the groups or education authorities obliged. Dr. Low's expenses for six months alone had come to more than £100. (3) To consider decreasing the number of courses arranged and transmitted.[4]

Take-up of schools broadcasting

Scotland was far behind England in the use of wireless in schools. By the end of 1927, 3,000 schools in England had wireless sets, compared with less than 100 in Scotland.[5] Much of the reason for this was inadequate reception in many parts of Scotland. Demonstrating educational engineers were sent out to visit Scottish schools, and the BBC appointed a qualified teacher to devote his whole time to the development of their work in Scotland.[6] But the reality was that only a fraction of schools could get good reception: specifically those within a thirty-mile radius of the Glasgow and Aberdeen stations, and within a four-mile radius of the Edinburgh and Dundee relays.[7] Only with the opening of the Scottish Regional high-power transmitter in 1932 would reception be substantially extended.

Year Scottish total Glasgow Aberdeen Edinburgh Dundee Comments
October 1927 30 37 4 0
1933-34 273[8]
September? 1935 487[9]
September 1936 692[10]
December 1936 763[11] Based on schools registered as regularly taking one or more courses, of which there were 21 broadcast in 1936.

Official recognition of schools broadcasting

At a meeting of the Scottish Sub-Council for School Broadcasting on 8 May 1935, it was reported that HM Inspectors had been requested to listen to broadcast lessons whenever possible with a view to compiling a general report on their experiences. Melville Dinwiddie hailed this as a significant development that amounted to official recognition of the value of school broadcasting. It followed the Sub-Council's approach to the Scottish Education Department, whose interest in the maintenance of proper conditions for listening was also of far-reaching importance. Another important development was the decision of Ayrshire Education Committee to provide all schools in the county with wireless sets if teachers desire it. The initiative was considered a 'gift' to the schools to commemorate King George V's Silver Jubilee year.[12]

In January 1936, the Scottish Education Department issued a circular to education authorities with recommendations on school broadcasting. It was recommended that authorities should take steps to secure a very high standard of accuracy in reception and reproduction in all schools in which wireless apparatus had been installed.[13]

At the end of 1943 plans were being made for a course of lectures on the use of school broadcasting in the classroom to be given in the six teachers' training colleges in Scotland.[14]

Second World War

During the war there were two 20-minute periods available each week for Scottish schools — and they were not afraid of using dialect. In 1944, the Scottish Heritage series drew freely upon history, literature, music, nature study, and, on occasions, geography. And there was a series for rural schools which was aimed at children who had little contact with the outside world.[15]

Courses for primary schools

Until 1935, the majority of broadcasts had been designed for children at the adolescent ... [16]

Other main developments


  • Number of listening schools almost doubled.
  • Increasing demand for pamphlets – 21,863 sold in summer term; 48,593 in autumn term.
  • HM Inspectors of Schools at the Scottish Education Department asked to report, whenever possible, on the value of broadcasting as an educational aid. Melville Dinwiddie considers this to be an official recognition of the value of schools broadcasting.[17]
  • Ayrshire Education Committee decides to equip all schools in the county with wireless sets if teachers desire it. The initiative was considered a 'gift' to the schools to commemorate King George V's Silver Jubilee year. [18]
  • Scottish Sub-Council for School Broadcasting decides to institute educational programmes for primary school children.[19]

1935/36 school year

  • 18 courses available, with new subjects including 'Speech Training', 'The Scottish Countryside' and a schools news review.[20]
  • Provision of courses for primary school children; one specially designed for rural primary schools and the other a weekly news review for young children. Proposals to simplify courses in geography and nature study so that they might be well within the reach of children aged 9-12. Up until this point only a music course had been specially designed for children below the age of 11.[21]
  • Scottish Education Department issued a circular to education authorities with recommendations on school broadcasting.[22]


  1. BBC Handbook 1928, 172.
  2. 'BBC talks and public libraries', Glasgow Herald, 10 October 1927, 8.
  3. 'Schools Broadcasting: New Scottish Council, Scotsman, 5 December 1929, 13.
  4. 'Economy in the Scottish Region', Scottish Regional Director to Director General, 22 September 1931, BBC WAC R13/369/2.
  5. 'Wireless in schools: Scotland behind England', Scotsman, 12 January 1928.
  6. 'Wireless: its place in the school: BBC's work in Scotland', Glasgow Herald, 6 October 1927, 3.
  7. Scotsman, 5 December 1929, 13.
  8. 'Broadcasting in schools', Glasgow Herald, 12 July 1935, 10.
  9. 'Broadcasts to Scottish schools', Glasgow Herald, 18 September 1936, 9.
  10. 'Broadcasts to Scottish schools', Glasgow Herald, 18 September 1936, 9.
  11. 'Broadcasting in 1936', Glasgow Herald, 28 December 1936, 10.
  12. 'School broadcasting: Ayrshire's notable lead', Glasgow Herald, 9 May 1935, 12.
  13. 'School broadcasting: department's circular to authorities', Glasgow Herald, 31 January 1936, 8.
  14. BBC Handbook 1944, 66.
  15. BBC Handbook 1945, 81.
  16. 'Broadcasts to Scottish schools: developments to affect primary divisions', Glasgow Herald, 4 July 1935, 9.
  17. 'School broadcasting', Glasgow Herald, 9 May 1935, 12.
  18. Ibid.
  19. 'Broadcasts to Scottish schools', Glasgow Herald, 4 July 1935, 9.
  20. 'School broadcasting in Scotland: education department's growing interest', Glasgow Herald, 22 January 1936, 8.
  21. 'School broadcasting: "Scotland's Lead to England"', Scotsman, 9 May 1935.
  22. 'School broadcasting: department's circular to authorities', Glasgow Herald, 31 January 1936, 8.