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ITV and Channel 4/S4C Schools Continuity until the late 70s

Britain's first regular broadcasts for schools, broadcast by ITV, began on 13th May 1957, the first programme being Associated-Rediffusion's Looking and Seeing. Associated-Rediffusion installed 200 sets in London schools.

Rediffusion networked schools programmes at the start, although it appears ATV won the contract to supply the schools presentation later on. More on this follows shorty (to coin a phrase).

Rediffusion and ABC formed a new company (they did not merge - the parent companies continued on) as a result of the 1967 franchise awards, Thames, which began broadcasting on 30 July 1968.

The 'Lightspots' caption below, it is thought, was transmitted from November 1969 (possibly the 17th, as this is the first weekday after ITV first began broadcasting on 625 lines UHF colour) and is believed to have been networked from ATV in Brimingham (due to its similarity to the ATV Zoom ident). The announcers in the late 70s/80s were from ATV - I remember Mike Prince doing some links very clearly.

I don't have many captions from before this. Can anyone help me out here?

Can anyone shed any light on the dates/franchisees involved, or even supply any captions?

ITV Schools from the 70s always had an interval card, which remained on screen until a minute before the programme was to begin.  The card was accompanied by some music, which was always nicely timed to end just before the countdown clock appeared, which meant that the programme was soon to start.

If you can add more information, any help would be much appreciated!

This is a rare, off-screen shot of the ITV Schools interlude caption used in the 1960s, from the Transdiffusion archive.

Chris Bowden-Smith writes: "The slide was used for all the general interlude music between schools programmes, and for the first 60 seconds of the 2 minute countdown piece [contrast this with the later, separate, 1 minute clock music].

"The vision cut to the countdown clock for 60 seconds over the last 60 seconds of the countdown piece, which lasted 1 minute 55 seconds in total.

"There was no vision change at 2 mins before the programme, just the start of the countdown music as if it were the next interlude piece. The first change in the vision was the countdown appearing in vision 60 seconds before the programme, and half way through the music. The clock had no hands, just a disappearing rim, with one-second gradations similar to the later ITV colour one."

Sadly we don't have an original shot of the clock. If you do, please let us know! However, below you can see an animated reconstruction.

As the above shot is indistinct in areas, Dave Jeffery has re-created it so it can be seen more clearly.

You can download an MP3 of a piece used to accompany this slide, Finale to a Dance Suite by Thomas Arne recorded off-air. There's another, clearer version of the same tune here. The music used pre-1968 was used for extended periods of time and not changed termly as it was later.

There's an 'end of schools programmes' announcement from the 60s available here, where the announcer reads the schedule for schools the following day and leads in to a short stab of the ATV station music Sound and Vision, which Chris Bowden Smith says was used to close ATV after schools programmes had finished.

Chris adds "[The end of schools clip] is from the early 60s, I think. Only three schools programmes [were] common then, as it was in the mid sixties that schools TV expanded as more schools got TVs!

"The Sound & Vision clip signalled a formal closedown, and ATV Midlands going off air again till 4.45. It was traditional throughout the network for morning and afternoon closedowns to use the final bars / final verse (depending on time available) of the startup theme to close with."

This clips would have been followed by 5 mins silence & black screen, before reverting to Test Card C and tone / music.

(Thanks to Trevor Wells and to the Test Card Circle for additional information about the caption)

This is a reconstruction of the ITV Schools clock from the 60s, which accompanied the static slide above.

Despite not having a photograph to work from, Dave Jeffery and Rory Clark have reconstructed it with the help of Chris Bowden-Smith. It consists of the still slide cutting into the clock, accompanied by Arne's Finale to a Dance Suite.

Shift-click to download the MPEG. This time though, I recommend you download the RealVideo version below, it's inexplicably of better quality!

RealVideo - 1.56Mb

Video available.

ITV 60s Schools Clock - MPEG: 2.5Mb
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Andy Simpson believes that this and the following two captions, ran (not all at the same time though!) from November 1969 until the end of the academic year 1974/5.

The ITA first started to transmit in colour on Saturday, 15th November 1969, so perhaps its first transmission was on the Monday, the 17th.

This slide is the first variant.

Another school of thought (excuse the pun) is that this was an opt-out slide, used in regions broadcasting their own schools programmes. Can you confirm/disprove?

This is the second variant of the first version of the Lightspots caption. Note the the word "FOR" is in larger text than before.

Whether the slide's background colour is different than variant 1 or the colour change is a video artifact is not known.

Thanks to Dave "Eagle-Eyes" Jeffery for spotting that one!

An MP3 example of some interval music that accompanied this slide can be downloaded here.

There were two versions on the light-spots interval caption.  There was this one, which says "ITV for Schools and Colleges" in a serif typeface, ...

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... and this one, which uses a sans-serif typeface. 

Andy believes that this caption ran for one year only, in the academic year 1975/6, then replaced by the picture captions (see below).

As an aside, these cards could also be classed as tuning signals.

Yorkshire Television would sometimes show Picture Roll, which consisted of a roll of black paper with pictures drawn by children on it.

The roll continually scrolled up the screen, looping around as it got to the end.

Click on the picture for an MPEG.

(With thanks to Neil Page for YTV info)

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Here's another Picture Roll caption. I'll have to grab some actual Picture Roll at some point!


Tony Currie says that between 10.30 and 11.00 each morning schools' programmes were suspended. Each ITV contractor had their own set of interval slides and music which were broadcast locally during this time.

This slightly-dodgy slide would have been used as an announcement was being made in sound, and probably remained on-screen whilst some music was played.

The ITV network was used in this half-hour to distribute last-minute advertisements to all the contractors.

This slide must be from the early 70s, judging by the font! Can anyone add anything?

Andy Simpson says that he vaguely recalls that YTV used "a white on green caption saying when schools programmes would resume (whether this originated from YTV, I'm not sure).

"However there would be an exception on a Friday when I saw a caption which showed only the light spots part of the ITV schools caption (no greyscale either at top or bottom) and a message saying "Resumes 11.00" above the light spots."

Andy wonders if this different caption was networked - perhaps when there was no material to distribute around the network there was no need to opt-out.

He continues: "This occurred every Friday throughout the use of the light spots caption. When they used the sans-serif caption, they just used this and superimposed the 'Resumes 11.00' caption just above the light spots pattern."

I suspect that opting-out only took place during the Seventies as I cannot remember it - I only have detailed memories of the 80s. Hey, if you can remember the 70s you weren't really there, right ;-)

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Dave Jeffery says that since 1975 (maybe earlier, can anyone add anything?) Westward always used their slide, instead of the light spots one, i.e. not just during the half-hour break. On the other hand, HTV's slide, a black slide with psychedelic purple lettering, was only used during the half-hour interval; they transmitted the light-spots during other times.

Dave adds that although the half-hour break had ceased by the 80s, there was still a longer-than-usual interval, which was a good time to catch the music in full!

Dave has created a tremendous Flash reconstruction of a Westward opt-out which you can see in full slide / clock and musical glory by going here.


Here's a Westward opt-out slide, of a different type to the one above. Question is, which order should they be in, chronologically speaking?

Here's another Westward opt-out caption, from around 1976/77. Does anyone know any more about this one?

Nicholas Willmott says: "I can only remember [this opt out caption]. The first time I saw this on Westward TV was circa 1977, and lasted until the last schools programmes day of the Autumn Term 1981 (the Friday of Week 10), i.e. prior to the final day of their franchise, New Year's Eve 1981. They ONLY showed this one at 9:28 am, prior to the first schools programme of the day.

"This was the regime:

"Nothing (or coloured bars - albeit greyscale in my case! - with tone)
Opening Film: Westward Coda (film of south west with music)
9:28 Westward TV Schools & Colleges Opt-Out Slide
9:29 Countdown Clock
9:30 Company logo (ATV, Thames, Granada, Yorkshire as the case was) and start of programme.

"All subsequent programmes thereafter the remainder of the morning Westward showed the standard national slide.

"I cannot remember the preceeding two Westward opt-out slides with the ship in the centre of the screen (Westward TV and WTV), so I am unable to answer which order those two were in. Both though must have been before the third one I've just described.

"Spring Term 1982 Week One (after Television South West - TSW - took over Westward on New Year's Day 1982) TSW showed their static logo with "Schools & Colleges" under it. Just like Westward, this was ONLY shown for the FIRST schools programme of the day. All subsequent ones featured the national slide, just like HTV and the rest of the network."

An interval caption - was this used as a 10.30 opt-out slide by STV? There is no mention of schools programmes on it.

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 An STV opt-out slide - used when STV opted-out from the network and had time left before the national continuity appeared.

Does anyone have any other examples of opt-out slides that they'd like to contribute?

The interlude caption (or the Picture Roll) was followed by the clock.

Although appearing on-screen in blue and white, I would imagine that the mechanical model would be black and white and that the colours were added electronically, as the BBC did with their mechanical globes.

This would make changing the colours used very easy.

Andy Simpson believes that this clock was superceded for the start of the Autumn term 1978.

Click on the image for an MPEG movie of the clock.


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This particular clock is from no earlier than 1977. If you can date the usage of this more precisely, please let me know.

Rory Clark says that the top image is a HTV Wales opt-out clock. This may explain the cyan foreground - the bottom clock is clearly white on blue.

Notice the difference between this clock and previous ones with regards to the clock circle. This clock is believed to be an opt-out version.

The caption at the bottom says "Independent Television for Schools" - this is thought to be an early version as the words "and Colleges" are missing on the clock, as they are present on the accompanying light-spots slide!

Instead of the clock disappearing continuously, the dots on this clock vanished immediately in a 'digital' fashion.

On the footage, the clock background wobbles, whilst the "Images" text is stationary, which leads us to think that this is a film clock (as opposed to a mechanical model) with the text "Images" superimposed over it. Additionally, the background clock blanks leaving the word 'IMAGES' in vision, proving that it is a superimposition.

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Whilst I was here, I couldn't resist putting these marvellous titles on - check out the wacky music with the amusing sliding trombone.

Comes complete with a Yorkshire ident (Ilkley Moor bar 'tat!).

Click the image to see the movie!

When schools programmes go wrong...

Why would schools programmes be temporarily suspended?

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6th April 2005

This sort of caption would be used in the event of something like a union strike, or a breakdown on the network.

Charles Faulkner: "I remember seeing that when I was at school - I was about 6 or 7 which would mean that it was in use up to either 1983 or 1984."

Here's another one. I wonder what went on here?

Can anyone date any of these three disruption captions?

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Something really bad must have happened when the catch-all caption was shown!


We also have some MP3s of ITV schools interlude music.

On to ITV Schools - the late 70s and beyond
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