Schools programmes: why did they have to 'follow shortly'?

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Mike S
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Schools programmes: why did they have to 'follow shortly'?

Post by Mike S »

This has only just struck me. Why were schools programmes always preceded by a 'follows shortly' caption-card, and then a 60-second countdown? What was the point? Why was there so much dead air that needed padding out?

Yes, it was the pre-VCR era and most of the cross-legged audiences would have been watching live. The teacher needed to know when things were about to kick off. But...why the wait? Why didn't the programmes follow immediately on from one another?

And what purpose did the count-down clock serve exactly? Who needed to know the precise second that Words and Pictures was about to start?

I'm sure I'm missing something obvious, though. Perhaps there's some 'teachers' notes' which explain it...

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Post by nickgilbert »

Think about a teacher trying to settle a crowd of kids. Thy don't want anything too distracting on the screen plus they have a chance to say 'Johnny be quiet it starts in a minute' - kids need at leasst a minute to settle. What happens if the previous programme is unsuitable for the class. And how about having to roll the TV to another classroom?

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Tilt Araiza
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Re: Schools programmes: why did they have to 'follow shortly

Post by Tilt Araiza »

Mike S wrote:Perhaps there's some 'teachers' notes' which explain it...
There were notes issued in 1962 and 1963 for the BBC schools broadcasts that show the tuning symbol and explain that this gives the teacher time to adjust the TV controls and to "try to avoid making any adjustment to your receiver in the last minute before the programme when the minute clock is on the screen".

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Re: Schools programmes: why did they have to 'follow shortly

Post by ian b »

Not all schools would have been able to move the television they had between class rooms, so the longer gaps between school programmes gave time for one class to move out and another to move in.

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Post by mikew »

It also meant us kids could sit with our cowboy guns and shoot the points off the countdown clock while we were waiting.

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Post by Brock »

During the interlude my grandmother used to say "if the next programme follows shortly, this must be Shortly" (though I'm not sure why she was watching schools programmes in the first place!).

One thing that struck me was that they often had irregular start times like 9.38am or 10.22am, presumably so that a 20-minute programme could be followed by a two-minute interlude. You'd have thought they'd have made the programmes 18 minutes long (or whatever) to accommodate this.

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Post by colourzoom »

And having to cater for all age groups from infants to sixth-formers might have meant that in some cases, the closing moments of the preceding programme might not have been suitable for a younger audience. Placing a suitable buffer between shows aimed at different age groups could have helped ensure that small children weren't exposed to anything they shouldn't see or that could cause them to ask awkward questions; say for example an episode of "Living And Growing" followed by "Stop, Look, Listen".

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Re: Schools programmes: why did they have to 'follow shortly

Post by Nick Cooper 625 »

ian b wrote:Not all schools would have been able to move the television they had between class rooms, so the longer gaps between school programmes gave time for one class to move out and another to move in.
There was certainly a dedicated TV room in each of my three schools, although in at least the primary there were cable points for Hull's narrowband system in most classrooms and the main hall. There were also a number of large speakers that could be plugged in for sound only/radio channels, although I don't recall them ever being used by the time I was there.
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Re: Schools programmes: why did they have to 'follow shortly

Post by Nick Cooper 625 »

mikew wrote:It also meant us kids could sit with our cowboy guns and shoot the points off the countdown clock while we were waiting.
That as well!
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Re: Schools programmes: why did they have to 'follow shortly

Post by Bob Richardson »

As others have said, it was to allow one class to leave the main hall (where the TV was in my school) and another to take their place for the next programme - at least that's what we did in my teaching days.
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Post by Mike S »

Thanks, chaps - knew I was missing something fairly obvious.

I'm old enough to remember them using projectors anyway. One teacher, by way of a treat, played the whole of that day's Stop Look Listen backwards - still one of the most thrilling days of my life.

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Post by SteveBoyce »

What was the music that accompanied that? If I'm remembering right, it went
Doo,doo,doo, do-do-do-do-do-do, doo, doo,doo, and so on
I think that's enough to be recognisable for anyone who knows the answer ;-)
Maybe I should try humming it to SoundHound!

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Post by Mike S »

There's the 1979 titles on YouTube, but the Stop Look Listen I remember featured a freeze-frame of some kids in a playground and a close up of an eye. Or was that something completely different? It's a hard thing to Google, because variations on the title have been used for many different things.

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Post by DMatthews »

Mike S wrote:There's the 1979 titles on YouTube, but the Stop Look Listen I remember featured a freeze-frame of some kids in a playground and a close up of an eye. Or was that something completely different? It's a hard thing to Google, because variations on the title have been used for many different things.
I don't recall the eye but you're right about the playground. The title theme was different, too - Don Jackson's "Cock of the Roost".

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Post by Roll ACR »

I don't remember the children in a playground titles. I only remember the animated versions. One had the words against black, flying forward with a trail effect - individually and then all together. Then there was the one with the cartoon face featuring an ear and an eye looking about and then the spectacles turned rainbow striped and the words "Stop Look Listen" appeared.

At primary school when the ITV schools countdown clock appeared, we used to count down from 60 to 0 in French.

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Post by SteveBoyce »

Tune I'm asking about is from BBC in the 60s
In the meantime, I couldnt find it on youtube either, and soundhound doesnt know it at leastnot from my humming.

Oh well, I would be curious to know what it is....

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Post by GarethR »

Nick Cooper 625 wrote:There were also a number of large speakers that could be plugged in for sound only/radio channels, although I don't recall them ever being used by the time I was there.
My primary school had several loudspeakers with a jack socket and volume control on the side, which I presume were for the same reason. I have a very vague memory of some rooms having a wall-box that they were intended to be plugged into, and I think the master radio was in the corner of the TV room - recollections of a very "Sixties government issue" battleship-grey thing with dials. We only ever heard radio programmes played back from cassette, though.

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Re: Schools programmes: why did they have to 'follow shortly

Post by Bob Richardson »

SteveBoyce wrote:What was the music that accompanied that? If I'm remembering right, it went
Doo,doo,doo, do-do-do-do-do-do, doo, doo,doo, and so on
I think that's enough to be recognisable for anyone who knows the answer ;-)
Maybe I should try humming it to SoundHound!
Do you mean Sara's Tune? (Written by David Lord, played by The Prime Ensemble). It was used for BBC Schools Programmes countdowns for many years.

The other BBC interval tune which is a real ear-worm is Roger Limb's "Swirley", but I think that was used for Transmitter Information. I think it was commissioned by my old colleague Shirley Edwards, hence the name of the piece.
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Re: Schools programmes: why did they have to 'follow shortly

Post by TK-JaKe »

To give those who preceded me time to leave the public house in the Uxbridge Road and run down Lime Grove -

or so I was told!

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Post by KennyG »

Another issue could be that there were substantial variations in the running times for some schools series. When I did research into UTV's schools series, Let's Look At Ulster, I found that the longest episode from its 1973 screening was 24:30 while the shortest was 16:50. The programme was officially shown in a 20 minute slot. Some form of buffer to the following programme would have been necessary to accommodate such variations.

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Post by Mark Wright »

colourzoom wrote:And having to cater for all age groups from infants to sixth-formers might have meant that in some cases, the closing moments of the preceding programme might not have been suitable for a younger audience. Placing a suitable buffer between shows aimed at different age groups could have helped ensure that small children weren't exposed to anything they shouldn't see or that could cause them to ask awkward questions; say for example an episode of "Living And Growing" followed by "Stop, Look, Listen".
That's what I used to think: we don't want the kiddywinks seeing something they shouldn't, but I wonder how likely that was? I can remember our supervising teachers being barely able to operate the equipment and would switch on shortly before the programme in question was due to start and switching off while the credits rolled.

I suspect that, quite simply, the clumsy BBC schools sequences were made to be deliberately unpalatable for the casual viewer. ITV followed suit. Which made them all the more fascinating for us :-)

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Post by GarethR »

Mark Wright wrote: I suspect that, quite simply, the clumsy BBC schools sequences were made to be deliberately unpalatable for the casual viewer. ITV followed suit.
Assuming you're being serious, that's fairly odd reasoning. What possible reason would the BBC and ITV have had for feeling the need to make them "unpalatable for the casual viewer"?

As has been mentioned, it really was to facilitate getting classes into the TV room and settled before the programme and out again afterwards, and additionally to allow time for the teacher to make any adjustments to the set - including the whole performance of unlocking and opening the shutters, warming it up and setting the volume.

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Post by Mike S »

I still wonder why they needed an exact countdown, rather than just a 'Words and Pictures starts in one minute' caption or whatever. Maybe it was just for fun.

Also, surely the duration of the interlude was nowhere near long enough to get a classful of kids out of the hall and another class in.

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Re: Schools programmes: why did they have to 'follow shortly

Post by Bob Richardson »

Mike S wrote:I still wonder why they needed an exact countdown, rather than just a 'Words and Pictures starts in one minute' caption or whatever. Maybe it was just for fun.

Also, surely the duration of the interlude was nowhere near long enough to get a classful of kids out of the hall and another class in.
The next class would be queueing outside in the corridor with their teacher if the interlude was short. We WERE pretty well organised in my schools, and it was normally more than two minutes - there was a slide with music prior to the countdown. Even when we bought a reel-to-reel Shibaden recorder the staff still preferred to use programming "live" because very few could operate to video recorder.

The countdown helped because I was able to get the kids to settle down just before the programme started. A "one minute caption" wouldn't really have helped much. Can you imagine trying to get 35 nine-year-olds to keep quiet for more than 10 seconds if there wasn't anything to look at apart from a 12" x 9" caption stating that the next programme would follow in a minute? The interludes worked well in my experience as a former teacher of middle-school kids (9-13 year olds).
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Post by GarethR »

Bob Richardson wrote: The next class would be queueing outside in the corridor with their teacher if the interlude was short. We WERE pretty well organised in my schools, and it was normally more than two minutes - there was a slide with music prior to the countdown. Even when we bought a reel-to-reel Shibaden recorder the staff still preferred to use programming "live" because very few could operate to video recorder
It was the same in my primary school - we got the government-issue N1500 VCR in the late 70s, but we still watched many programmes live, not least because the VCR seemed to be always breaking down. And as you say, the interlude before the countdown was usually 3-4 minutes and sometimes longer.

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Post by Roll ACR »

This thread prompted me to search on the YouTube for some ITV schools programmes junctions and it's amazing how hearing the various slide and clock music from the various years/terms, within a few seconds I'm humming along and can actually remember every flourish of the pieces concerned. It's like "Name That Tune", hearing the first few notes triggers total recall.

I'm also marvelling at Ron Geesin's sig tune output.

There's a "Leapfrog" on there which is very surreal. I really think Network ought to do a compilation of such stuff.

The whole psychology of the slide followed by the countdown clock was perfect. We would file into the TV room. Teacher switched on the set and as it warmed up the credits of the preceding programme would be seen or the slide and music. We would be chatting in hushed voices with the occasional "ssshhh!" if we got too loud. Then when the clock appeared we had been drilled by Sister Rose, a French Nun at the Convent School I attended, to count aloud en masse from soixante to zero as the points of the clock disappeared. Then silence for the duration of the programme.

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Post by Mike S »

Roll ACR wrote:Then when the clock appeared we had been drilled by Sister Rose, a French Nun at the Convent School I attended, to count aloud en masse from soixante to zero as the points of the clock disappeared. Then silence for the duration of the programme.
It would be great if people still did this today, but in cinemas.

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Post by SteveBoyce »

Bob Richardson wrote:
SteveBoyce wrote:What was the music that accompanied that? If I'm remembering right, it went
Doo,doo,doo, do-do-do-do-do-do, doo, doo,doo, and so on
I think that's enough to be recognisable for anyone who knows the answer ;-)
Maybe I should try humming it to SoundHound!
Do you mean Sara's Tune? (Written by David Lord, played by The Prime Ensemble). It was used for BBC Schools Programmes countdowns for many years.

The other BBC interval tune which is a real ear-worm is Roger Limb's "Swirley", but I think that was used for Transmitter Information. I think it was commissioned by my old colleague Shirley Edwards, hence the name of the piece.
Hi Bob, thanks for trying, but it's neither of those! It took me a while but I found both on the internet in the end and actually I didn't recognise either!!! I think they are both from the 70s which is after my time...

The one I want starts off beating the rhythm tick, tick, tick, tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick, tick tick tick, tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick, (i.e. 3 quavers, 6 semi-quavers 2 tones higher) and then goes into the melody which has the same rhythm something like ACE slow,EFEDCB fast, ACE slow, etc etc

Any other ideas very gratefully received!

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Post by GarethR »

SteveBoyce wrote: The one I want starts off beating the rhythm tick, tick, tick, tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick, tick tick tick, tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick, (i.e. 3 quavers, 6 semi-quavers 2 tones higher) and then goes into the melody which has the same rhythm something like ACE slow,EFEDCB fast, ACE slow, etc etc

Any other ideas very gratefully received!
I think the track you want is called "Guadalajara" by Leonard Salzedo. If you search on YouTube you can find a mock schools pie chart sequence (in colour) that features a reasonably close modern recreation of it, plus an authentic 1972 off-air (recorded from a CV2000 or similar, so full of dropout and in B&W) with the original version.

If that's not it, the other BBC schools interval music that starts with the rhythm being tapped out is "A Tune For Lucy", but that was from later in the 70s. There's at least one original 1974 schools diamond sequence on YT that features it.

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Post by SteveBoyce »

Gareth, you are spot on. Huge thanks for that. At last I know!
The modern recreation is not very good sadly but same dodgy video on youtube of the original is available in better (or less bad) quality here
http://www.sub-tv.co.uk/bbcschools.asp

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