The Early Years of the BBC’s Broadcasts to Schools


Sketch from the BBC Pamphlets by David Bassedone (photographed by Julia Rasmussen)

One could say that ‘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  (Crook, 2007, p. 216). According to David Crook, “… the transmission included a talk about the place of ballad in literature, a reading in French by a professor from Glasgow University, and the performance of a violin piece” (Ibid.).

By the time the BBC received its Royal Charter as the Nation’s broadcaster in 1927, the Education Committee  was well-established under the leadership of J.C. Stobart who had been an HMI for the Board of Education before being recruited by the BBC’s first Director General, John Reith.  In the same year the Schools Broadcasting Committee, a subset of the Education Committee, approved the publication of pamphlets to accompany the broadcasts. However, not all was smooth sailing for the BBC as some teachers and also some Local Education Authorities (LEAs), particularly the London County Council (LCC), were opposed to the Corporation interfering in what they saw as the teachers’ domain. The LCC’s anti-BBC stance was problematic for the negativity spread to the other LEAs. The BBC took pains to emphasise that the broadcasts were to ‘supplement’ the school curriculum rather than to replace the lessons taught in schools. By 1928, following an experiment with the schools in Kent which resulted in a report on the quality of broadcasts both in terms of the aural reception and the impact of the broadcasts on the school curriculum, the BBC made significant changes to the way in which the programmes were made.

Continue reading

Posted in Library and Archives, Special Collections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Adventures of the feathered kind

Two recent additions to the Education in Literature Collection  both feature birds – a pair of Tawny Owls and a Magellan penguin!

Two Owls at Eton by Jonathan Franklin was originally published in 1960 whilst he was still a pupil at Eton School. Jonathan’s great interest in ornithology was well known and he was not surprised to be offered two orphaned Tawny owlets by a neighbour. He was surprised when his then House Master, Mr.Hill, gave him permission to keep the birds at Eton. Thus began his great adventure in trying to raise (Tweedle) Dum and Dee in his tiny room. Fellow pupils and staff were fascinated and helped him by finding beetles, worms and mice with which to feed the ever hungry birds.

ETONJonathan admits that his academic work suffered, but  he eventually taught the owls to fly and to hunt for themselves and released them into the countryside near his East Anglian home. Jonathan became known as ‘Owls’ and admits he was lucky to be a pupil at an Eton School which was still stuffy and formal in some ways but liberal enough to allow him to walk around with two owls on his shoulders. The surprising popularity of the book upon its original publication generated positive publicity for the school which was appreciated by the Headmaster, Robert Birley. The book’s appeal is enhanced by photographs and  lively line-drawings by his friend and fellow-Etonian Simon Radcliffe.

Some very different insights into life at Eton and other schools and colleges across the UK may be gained from the resources in our  School and College Histories Collection. School histories cover a wide range of schools from small village schools (A history of Swanbourne Village School ) to famous Public Schools. The latter of course includes Eton College. There are a range of titles about Eton including Eton Renewed by Tim Card and a different perspective on life at Eton is described in A girl at Eton by Elizabeth Heygate.

In the 1970s the life of another young British male became entwined with that of a bird but this time in Argentina. In The Penguin Lessons , Tom Michell describes how  a ‘country boy from the gentle Downs of rural Sussex’, found himself ill-prepared for life as an Assistant Master at St George’s College, a boys’ boarding school, in Buenos Aires.

Whilst on holiday in Punta del Este in Uruguay he found an oil-drenched penguin on a beach. Tom cleaned the Magellan penguin and tried to release him  but he would not leave Tom. With only a little trouble Tom was able to smuggle the penguin into Argentina and back to his school.PENGUIN

At the school the penguin, by now known as  Juan Salvador, became the mascot of the rugby team, swam in the freshwater school pool, co-hosted Tom’s parties and became a confidante of lonely pupils and the housekeeper.

Jonathan and Tom’s experiences of caring for their unexpected avian companions and the effects upon their respective schools reflects how rich and surprising the educational experience can be. The Education in Literature Collection contains novels, plays, poetry and DVDs as well as autobiographies and it is located at the back of the Teaching Room on the fourth floor of the Library.

Posted in Education in Literature Collection, Library and Archives, Special Collections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Learning outdoors and open-air schools

Rudd book on Enid BlytonI am writing this on a beautiful sunny day with the temperature is forecast to rise to 17 degrees. I can’t help but think there will be a lot of outdoor learning taking place in schools throughout the country.   It is therefore timely that we are celebrating ‘learning outdoors’ with a mini-exhibition on open-air schools featuring the open-air schools opened by the McMillan sisters and on Enid Blyton.  I wrote about Blyton the educationalist some time ago – you may want to read about her as a qualified teacher and member of the National Froebel Union. The materials on display in the Library are Blyton’s handbooks for teachers that emphasise the importance of learning outdoors. More information on these collections can be found here.

Blyton is also known as a writer of fiction for children.  One of the most popular of her creations for children was the Famous Five series, and the first title, Five on a Treasure Island, was published 75 years ago this year. Like other titles in the series the plot involved four children and a dog thwarting crime and solving mysteries. ‘Indoors’ was boring and restricted but ‘outdoors’ represented freedom and adventure.

Blyton has been a controversial figure, popular with children but at times disapproved of by adults or considered too politically incorrect. However the extensive re-packaging of her work for the 75th anniversary and the popularity in recent years of ‘Enid Blyton for Grown ups’, shows that her influence lives on.  The excerpt below is from an article by Tracy Hayes (1977) who described a conversation with a colleague on swapping childhood stories:

“Enid Blyton made my childhood” …. Her colleague responded with “Me too!”.  We laughed, acknowledging that it was not ‘cool’ to admit this!  For her it was the boarding school stories, midnight feast and mysteries that appealed; for me it was the magical folk, enchanged woods and faraway trees, and the overwhelming sense that life was an adventure. I spent many happy hours playing with my twin sister in our backgarden, looking for pixies, pretending to be a fairy, concocting magic potions from petals and rainwater. The world described by Blyton came alive in our garden and in our imaginations….

Displayed in the Library is a selection of books by and about Enid Blyton which our Curriculum Resources Librarian, Sally Perry, has selected.  There is also a IOE LibGuide on Outdoor Learning.

Open-air Schools

Margaret McMillanThe history of outdoor education goes back a long time but it was formalised in the early part of the 20th century in England with the opening of the first open-air school in Deptford in 1911 by the McMillan sisters, Margaret and Rachel.  Open-air schools were one way  to combat the spread of diseases, mainly influenza and tuberculosis,  though the mother’s poor health in pauper families also had a detrimental effect on  infant mortality rates. Children who survived often suffered from heart diseases, ear discharges, swollen glands, bronchial catarrh, spinal curvature, as well as nervous conditions usually from malnutrition and neglect.  According to Cruickshank , they were often “anaemic, stunted in growth, pallid and rickety. As a result, they appeared to be dull and backward” (1977, p. 63). This was further compounded by the pollution caused by industrialisation the impact of which was that “children rise in the morning stupid from the poison which they have been breathing all night and without appetite for food or inclination for the heavy morning’s work in school” (Medical Inspection of School Children in Blackburn during 1910, p. 157 quoted in Cruickshank).

The McMillan sisters recognised the importance of hygiene and nutrition as being fundamental to children’s health and well-being.  They also emphasises outdoor play which they believed facilitated the development of the child. Margaret McMillan is best known for her work in ensuring medical inspections and free meals were introduced in state-funded schools.

Do come and have a look at the display of materials from the Curriculum Resources, the Special Collections and the Archives.  There are some wonderful images of open-air schools which the Archivist, Jessica Womack, has displayed.


BBC Radio Archives.  (Various) Programmes on Enid Blyton

Bradburn, E. (1989). Margaret McMillan: portrait of a pioneer. London: Routledge.
Cruickshank, M. (1977). The open-air school movement in English education. Paedagogica Historica, 17 (1), 62–74.

Hayes, Tracy (2015) Developing an academic identity: what’s the time Mrs Wolf?  In: RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2015: Geographies of the  Anthropocene, 2-4 September 2015, Exeter, UK.

Margaret. McMillan. (1906). Infant mortality / by Margaret McMillan. London: Independent Labour Party.
McMillan, M. (1901). Early childhood. London: Swan Sonnenschein.
McMillan, M. (1911). The child and the state. Manchester: National Labour P.
McMillan, M. (1917). The camp school / by Margaret McMillan. London: Allen & Unwin.

Rudd, D. (2000). Enid Blyton and the Mystery of Children’s Literature Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Posted in Archives, Curriculum Resources, History of Education, Library and Archives, Special Collections | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Changes to how visitors get IOE Library cards coming into effect 1st July 2017


The number of visits to the IOE Library has increased by 70% since the merger of IOE with UCL. While it is fantastic that our library is so popular the huge increase in visitors has inevitably meant we have had to review how we deliver our services so that we can maintain the levels of excellence to which we aspire. One of these is to provide a safe and secure environment within the library and ensure everyone visiting is a bona fide user. This means there are some changes in the procedure for issuing IOE Library cards.

From the 1st July 2017 we will only make IOE Library cards at the Membership Desk on your first visit if you have emailed us in advance:

  1. If you email giving one full working days’ notice we will ensure that there is a card waiting for eligible users when you arrive at IOE Library
  2. If you haven’t emailed before you visit us we will check your ID, ask you to fill out an application form, and then give you a paper reference day ticket giving you immediate reference access to the IOE Library – your IOE Library card will be ready when you next visit us.
  3. This means that if you are eligible for a borrower’s card and you want to borrow the first time you come to the IOE Library you need to email us in advance

See the details of our membership categories and what ID and proof of address you may need to bring here. Please remember that once you get an IOE Library card, you must bring it with you to access the IOE Library.



You can fill out an application form and get a day paper reference ticket and pick up your IOE Library ID when the Membership Desk is open. The IOE Library Membership Desk is open:

Monday – Friday: 8:30am – 6:50pm

Saturday: 9:30am – 4:50pm



Thank you,

IOE Library Membership team

Posted in Library and Archives | Leave a comment

Disruption to Library Systems

Disruption to library systems, 5th May 2017

Updated 16:30

Following the major outage to one of the ISD datacentres on Friday 5 May, affected library systems are being migrated to an alternative datacentre. If you experience further problems with IT systems over the weekend, please refer to ISD’s news page ( ) or the ISD Twitter feed (

In the event of an outage of the SFX service, please refer to these alternative routes for accessing ejournals ( ). We apologise for any inconvenience caused by this incident.

Posted in Library and Archives | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How learning languages makes you smart, successful – and a better citizen

Speaking foreign languages has obvious practical and intellectual advantages, and most of you will have noticed press reports that it is also beneficial for your brain, possibly even staving off dementia.

Reading_French_BordeauxThe effects on your cognitive ability and memory are easy to believe: the more you study languages, the easier it gets, whether they are related or not, and the more smoothly learning in general will grow.

Beyond that, recent research has shown that multilingual people are more creative and innovative! As teachers and social scientists, you probably agree with Amy Thompson’s article in The Conversation (12 Dec 2016) without hesitation.

But would you have thought that the study and, crucially, the practice of foreign languages increases your tolerance, as Thompson suggests?

Well, through enhanced cultural competence, obviously – each one of us can tell stories of being baffled by black tea of a murky white, black tea of a transparent red, cold coffee specialties, or the desperate search for soya milk… Good move also not to ask for a Turkish coffee in Greece or a Greek coffee in Turkey!

Beyond that, the tolerance of living with the unknown apparently improves your tolerance overall: If you can bear the stress of a conversation in which you do not understand every word – in real life or in a classroom – your skills will rocket, so will your self-esteem, so will your ‘tolerance of ambiguity’, as Professor Thompson puts it.

What about material advantages of mastering several languages? In her brief and engaging book Linguanomics : what is the market potential of multilingualism? (2017), available at the Newsam Library, Gabrielle Hogan-Brun discusses the benefits of foreign language skills for people’s career prospects and social life. She also depicts drawbacks or disasters where communication goes wrong — in the worst case in a plane crash.

Hogan-Brun also glimpses at the language practices and policies in many parts of the world and even in ancient times, beginning with the seafaring Phoenicians and the caravans along the Silk Road. She concludes that studying another language ‘is an ongoing journey of development, interaction and discovery’.

Linguanomics reports that the Swiss canton of Zurich has switched from French to English as a second language in 2006/07. Naturally, the second language will not be the last one: children are taught English from the age of 7 and French from the age of 10.

Tall blue volumes on library shelves.The German region bordering on France aims to make all its younger citizens fully bilingual by the middle of the 21st century. Saarland wants to be a gateway to France, while English will naturally also be spoken.

In fact, it is EU policy to teach children a third language, which makes the English term ‘second language learning’ incomprehensible to Europeans.

The Comparative Education Collection at the Newsam Library  holds a raft of books about ‘tertiary language learning’ and ‘multiliteracy’ in Europe. The EU’s guide to plurilingual education (2007) extols diversity and citizenship — and warns of merely economic preferences for a national language and, above all, for English.

Should the United Kingdom really leave the European Union, the number of native English speakers will, as one of our recent books alerted me, drop to 1%! Do you think that in the EU of the future, 99% of citizens will speak English anyway, whether as their first, second, third, or fourth language?

The languages you use will strongly influence your individual and collective identity. The Institute of Education holds books on language and identity in, for example, Switzerland (Langues à l’école : quelle politique pour quelle Suisse?, 2007), France (Identity, insecurity and image : France and language, 1999), and Germany (Language, Discourse and Identity in Central Europe, 2009, online).

In a previous blog post, I recommended Reading aloud as a way of learning a language as the next best thing after speaking, based on my personal experience. Now I add: As soon as you get the gist, read on without consulting a dictionary; in the same way, as soon as you can communicate at all, take a deep breath and speak.

BlogEdinLibYou may be interested in the Curriculum Resources section of the Newsam Library at the IOE, complemented by Mandarin books and CDs and constantly updated.

Do browse our Education in Literature Collection: behind the  children’s reading corner, novels from all over the world (in English) and films in foreign languages with subtitles wait for you.

For academic material, head to the Main Collection and have a look at classmarks ‘Men’ for foreign language learning and teaching. ‘Men Bat’ stands for cross-cultural competence, ‘Men Jab’ for language acquisition, and ‘Men Mar’ for applied linguistics. Consult the Explore catalogue straight away for thousands of resources available across UCL libraries and online.

weimar_goethe_wohnhaus_salve20150930The UCL Centre for Languages & International Education (CLIE) runs language classes and summer schools. I have also found the nearby private college, the City Literary Institute (‘City Lit’, est. 1919), helpful for language tuition and conversation.

As regards research in bilingual and multilingual language acquisition, education, and competence, some is conducted right here, at the UCL Institute of Education.

Let me end with a statement by Goethe, who, incidentally or not, was proficient in six languages: “Who does not understand other languages, knows nothing of his own”!

Illustrations: Sculpture by Jaume Plensa. Photograph: Christina Egan. — ‘Datenhandbuch zur deutschen Bildungsgeschichte’. Photograph: Christina Egan. — Education in Literature Collection, Newsam Library, UCL IOE. Photograph: Beverley Hinton. — Goethe’s house in Weimar, Germany, with Latin greeting on the threshold. Photograph: Hajotthu at the German language Wikipedia.

Posted in Curriculum Resources, Education in Literature Collection, International education, Main Education Collection | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shock, horror … no money for some libraries

Informally when I visit other libraries, I view lean, striking modern designs or historic, revered rooms that are well-stocked and proudly displayed. In contrast, during my visit here in Lisbon, it was a bit of a shock to visit the Instituto Politecnico de Lisboa education library and to be informed by the librarian that they have had no funds for resources for the past six years.

On the shelves, I saw Portuguese and English language texts including IOE authors below, but nothing had been added for years including journals.  I was hoping there was better news about databases and I was told that the only database that students have access to is b-on which does not necessarily provide full text resources.


The school of education here has about 2000 undergraduate education students and 300 Masters students. They come to this lovely building below, but I’m perplexed how they can function without current resources although, no doubt, the Portuguese funding  situation is a complicated one that reaches far beyond education.

I came away feeling despondent until I realised that UCL may be able to provide some kind of support. Firstly, there are our dependable IOE LibGuides which are freely available to all and include a great deal of open access information. Secondly, there is the excellent UCL Press.

UCL Press is the first fully open access university press in the UK seeking to make its publications available freely to a global audience.  Wi-fi seems decent in Lisbon so as long as students want to or can read English, ebooks and ejournals can be accessed by anyone.

UCL Press has been very supportive of my Erasmus visit by providing me with UCL mementoes. Today, I’ll be distributing UCL Press bags with this quote from Daniel Coit Gilman (1878): ‘It is one of the noblest duties of a university to advance knowledge and to diffuse it … far and wide’.  I can only hope that the diffusion of knowledge will reach students in Lisbon.




Posted in Library and Archives | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment