Britain’s newest TV channel 

19 February 2018

A rehearsal scene for a school play “Reigate in the Middle Ages.” The performers are, from left, Iain Rodger, Alexandra Langham and Julie Bignall

From the TVTimes Anglia for 25 November – 1 December 1967

Ten-year-old Timothy Ward watched the audio panel in the studio control room. He adjusted the sound level and watched the activity through the thick glass that separated him from the studio.

He is the sound director, and when necessary director or cameraman of Channel Five, the closed-circuit television network of Holmesdale Primary School at the bottom of Reigate Hill in Surrey.

The studio was once a playground shelter. It stands in the middle of a bleak, cement yard, a symbol of progressive thinking, and a stimulant for the educational system. The idea of using closed-circuit television as a primary school aid is unique, and it belongs to the schools headmaster, Mr. Clifford Price.

He has been at the school for 15 years. There are 400 boys and girls at the school, aged between five and 11.

“Two years ago Surrey Education Committee made arrangements for every school in the county to have a television set to watch the Schools Programmes,” he said. “It was most useful, but as our classes are run in parallels, with the same teacher for all lessons, we needed more sets.

“It occurred to me that it would be educationally sound to run our own station and beam individual lessons into all seven of our classrooms. Parallel classes could then be taught selected lessons at the same time. It would benefit both pupils and teachers.”

So Mr. Price called a parents’ meeting, and local businessmen were approached.

All were enthusiastic and promised support for the scheme. The setting up of a studio became the school’s major project.

Building began last Easter. The playground shelter was open sided but with a sound roof, 27ft. by 15ft. By encircling it with a brick wall, they had the beginnings of a studio. A local firm donated 4,000 bricks and with the help of a teacher and one pupil’s father, the wall was built.

Inside, they built a control room out of chipboard separated from the studio by a glass panel, and laid a smooth cement floor. Two walls were left windowless for backdrops and studio curtains.

A parent did the wiring, then came the equipment … two television cameras, one with zoom lens and both on homemade dollies with small monitors; two large monitors; studio lighting; a five-way mixer and an ex-cinema amplifier. Total value of equipment and installation is estimated at over £800. [£13,700 in 2018, allowing for inflation]

“On the air”… Junior mistress Judy Gillander holds the microphone while Elizabeth Banky faces the camera. She can watch herself on the screen. Behind the camera on the left in this scene is David Bondi; centre is Iain Rodger and behind the other camera is Alexandra Langham

Channel Five was ready for transmission in July, but it wasn’t until the official opening, early in October, that regular programmes began.

“I believe Holmesdale is breaking new ground,” said Mr. Price. “Operating a television channel on this scale with children as young as ours has never been tried before. It is proving a very interesting experiment. I find they are all extremely interested and very willing to take part.”

Every classroom now has its own set. Television plays an important part in primary education. Each class takes an ITV schools programme at least once a week. The World Around Us and Picture Box for the older children, and Finding Out for the seven-year-olds. For the infants this term there is a programme catering exclusively for them for the first time. It is Seeing and Doing.

The television lessons are included as part of the school timetable.

“We find the children concentrate much harder on a television lesson. They seem to grasp the subject more firmly and their attention seldom wanders. It’s terrific,” said Mr. Price.

Channel Five is beginning modestly … only three lessons a week are transmitted from the studios. Teachers demonstrate subjects like practical mathematics, French with visual aids, history with paintings and photographs, and there will be a regular magazine programme. The station will not be used for entertainment, but purely for educational purposes.

Mr. Price is studio controller. He was the only teacher with any practical experience of dealing with television equipment and this he gained from a day’s instruction at an ITV studio.

He passed on his knowledge to a group of teachers and pupils and was amazed at the speed and efficiency with which the children developed new skills.

The children are eager, and alert, composed and intent on their work. It is important to them that they make no mistakes.

Most days a teacher takes morning prayers. The small service is beamed from the studio to the entire school. Today, prayers will be taken by junior mistress, Judy Gillander.

She sits at a desk in the middle of the studio. Around her the children are organising the set.

Stephen Jones, 10, pulls the curtain backdrop into place. He is the scene shifter and takes his work very seriously. “I wouldn’t like to be in front of the cameras,” he said shyly, “I would rather be where no one can see me.”

Alexandra Langham, nine, and Iain Rodger, 10, stand beside their cameras. Iain’s brow furrows with concentration as he adjusts the focus.

On duty in the studio control room of Channel Five, 10-year-old Timothy Ward

Mr. Price has adjusted the lighting and stands by with a watchful eye. In the control room young Timothy is satisfied that the sound level is perfect, and in the studio his friend, David Bondi, nine, sits tense and waiting. In his hand is the large switch that punches up the pictures. Today he is the director.

A small girl from the infants class, her brown eyes large with awe and importance creeps into the studio to sit beside Judy Gillander. Her name is Elizabeth Banky and she is six-and-a-half. After prayers she will talk with the teacher about “Hands Together.”

A card with hands folded in prayer on it stands on a pedestal. It was painted by one of the parents and will be used to illustrate the talk.

Mr. Price calls for his crew to stand by, and morning prayers is on air. A tape recording of a hymn fills the studio. Camera Two zooms into the hymn sheet pinned to the wall and in the classrooms the children sing the words.

They pray for their school and the day ahead, and David Bondi switches to Camera One.

Miss Gillander and Elizabeth talk about all the things we can do with our hands. Hands are for helping they say. Elizabeth’s voice is sure and clear.

And when the day’s transmission is over, the children clear the studio with the help of a teacher. They store the cameras and equipment in the control room.

The studios of Channel Five are now a classroom, where mathematics are taught by practical methods … weight and quantity by filling containers with water and solids.

The studio is a serious and important part of Holmesdale Primary School’s education. It is a small room, but it is the heart of the school.

You Say

2 responses to this article

Joanne Gray 20 February 2018 at 5:58 am

I wonder if “Channel 5” is still a part of daily lessons at Holmesdale School? It would be interesting to find out.

Philippa Williams nee Jones 2 April 2020 at 4:16 pm

The girl working the 2nd camera is not Alex Langham, who was my best friend at Holmesdale and I am still in touch with, but Jane Scanlon, who was my partner in the 3-legged race that we won at break-neck speed, having spent every playtime practicing!!!

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