10 Schools Programmes You Will Love To Remember

4. Geordie Racer

Geordie Racer was an educational BBC Look and Read production, which was first aired on BBC Two from 12 January to 22 March 1988.

The story was set in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and the surrounding area, and featured pigeon racers and runners competing in the Great North Run. The main character is Spuggy Hilton (Spuggy being a nickname – the Geordie word for sparrow), who isn’t a runner like the rest of his family, but is a keen pigeon fancier and owns ‘Blue Flash’ – one of the best birds in Newcastle. He and his friend Janie observe some suspicious activity, and link a spate of local art robberies with obscure messages they find on some of the pigeons, but find they have even more problems when they go to spy on the crooks.

Geordie Racer was praised for attempting to bring a grittier edge to educational programmes shown in primary schools. The series also featured Geordie actor Kevin Whately as Spuggy’s father. Whately, who went on to star in Inspector Morse, was joined on screen by his real-life wife, Madelaine Newton, who played his on-screen wife. This was not an intentional decision, but merely an accidental coincidence


5. Zig Zag

The thing i remember most about Zig Zag was the futuristic title sequence it was very sci-fi and i loved it! The actual content of the programme is a bit hazy!


6. How We Used To Live


Series 1 centred on the late Victorian era. It was first broadcast in 1968. Some additional episodes were added to this series in 1972/73 but this was not a separate series. This series uniquely featured on-screen presenters including Geoffrey Wheeler (broadcaster) and Redvers Kyle.

Series 2 covered the periods 1908-1918 (autumn term 1975) and 1925-1945 (spring term 1976). The first half of the series centres round the Ackerley family. Albert, the father, is an assistant at a printing works. He earns 22/- per week. His son Harry takes a job as a grocers boy, earning 5/- per week. The rent of their terraced house, with gas and water laid on, is 6/- per week. Albert’s wife Daisey must make the rest of the income cover food, fuel and clothing. Jane, their daughter, is still at school until the age of 14 when she goes to work as a housemaid in a middle class home. The later episodes (1925 onwards) see the Dawson family move into the house occupied by the Ackerley family. Stanley Dawson, the father, works as a stores clerk in a factory, earning £3/2/6 per week. He becomes unemployed in the thirties and he, his wife Doris and son Gerald are forced to rely on the earnings of daughter Marjorie, who works as a library assistant. The Boothroyds move into the terraced house just before World War Two. Later programmes in the series describe how they cope with the varied hazards of civilian life in wartime Britain.

Series 3 covers a thirteen-year period, namely the years 1874-1887. This series was first broadcast in 1978/1979. This series contrasts the fortunes of three families that although linked, have very different lives. Dr Hughes has a successful medical practice in middle-class Upper Bradley. His fee-paying patients live in the better of town, or in the country houses on the outskirts. He gives some of his time to the Bradley Free Hospital, and, as Medical Officer of Health, is appalled by conditions in poor working-class areas. His wife, his son and youngest daughter live comfortable lives in a large house with their every need taken care of by the hired help- namely housekeeper Mrs Tandy, Annie Fairhurst and Nanny. The Hughes eldest daughter, Dora, is married to Captain Bertram Selwyn. His father is the squire of Westmoor (a role Bertram is required to fulfil after the death of his father). They have two children: Humphrey (born in 1874) and Sophie (born 1881). The lifestyles of the middle class Hughes and mildly aristocratic Selwyn families is in sharp contrast to that of the Fairhurst’s. Ben and Mary Fairhurst are poor working class mill workers with more children than they can afford to feed. Annie, the eldest, is in service for Dr Hughes. Among the other children are Matt, Flo, Maudie, Tommy, Dinah as well as the others who died young.

Series 4 covered the period from 1936 until 1953. It centred on the lower middle-class Hodgkins family. First broadcast in 1981/82, this series embraces the events during the reign of George VI as they affected the family of Arthur Hodgkins, a railwayman living in Bradley. Along with his housewife Mabel and his four children, Patricia, Jimmy, Avril & Edward, they endure the hardships of the Second World War and the subsequent austerity period. The series climaxes with the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Series 5 was first broadcast in 1984-85. It covered the major events and social changes from the end of the Boer War in 1902 to the General Strike of 1926. The series tells the story of the friendship between two families of children who meet in Sunday school. The Holroyds, Maurice, Charlotte and Alexander are middle class. Their father owns the local textile mill. The Selbys, Maggie, Tom, Freddy, Albert & Alice are poor. Their father is a drunkard, their mother works long hours in the mill to support them. As they grow up into young adults, their lives become intertwined and the relationship, sometimes strained, shows the huge social changes which affected people in Britain during this time.

Series 6 covered the period 1954-1970. It was first broadcast in 1987-88 and centred on the Brady family. Michael Brady, the father of the family, was a character originally introduced in series 5 when he was born to Maggie Selby and Patrick Brady. The series begins with he and his family (wife Joan and children Susan, Roger & Beverley) moving back to Bradley. The series also features Michael’s Uncle Albert & Aunt Bertha (Selby) who were also in the fifth series. Characters introduced in the fourth series, Jimmy, Eileen and Edward Hodgkins and Laurence & Avril Butterworth, are also regulars, and the characters of Tom and Charlotte Selby from Series 5 and Esme Birkett from Series 4 also make guest appearances.

After this point How We Used To Live changed its direction (largely because of the National Curriculum). The drama format was expanded in order to take in documentaries, and series became shorter than the usual 20 episodes.

Series 7 was in two halves. The first 10 episodes were called Victorians: Early and Late. These were first broadcast in 1990. In spring 1991 five programmes, under the title Expansion, Trade and Industry, followed the experience of a merchant family.

Subsequent series were In Civil War (first shown spring 1993), A Tudor Interlude (first shown autumn 1993), Isaac Newton: Under the Stuarts (first shown spring 1995) and From Iron Ways to Victorian Days (first shown spring 1996; the Iron Ways section was new, and the last series of HWUTL to be written by Freda Kelsall, but the Victorian Days section was a rerun of the first half of Victorians: Early and Late). Britons at War (first shown spring 1997) and The Spanish Armada (first shown autumn 1998) were still produced by Yorkshire Television, but the remaining four units were made by independent companies – All Change (first shown autumn 1999, and dealing with the 25 years after the Second World War in the UK), and Tudor Times, Tony Robinson’s Local History Search and A Giant in Ancient Egypt (all first shown spring 2002). The last of these units was still regularly repeated until Channel 4 stopped showing schools programmes in 2009.

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