11 Jan 2021

The BBC's DG Tim Davie: Why it's important we help children in lockdown

BBC Education Hall: Bett Hall Stand: NA41
The BBC's DG Tim Davie: Why it's important we help children in lockdown

"The latest phase of the Covid crisis is affecting everyone in ways that were barely imaginable only one year ago. School closures and a full lockdown in particular bring untold pressures on parents, pupils, and teachers alike. But it has been heartening over the last week to see how the whole of society is once again stepping up to support our children’s educational lives. I’m so pleased the BBC is playing its part too.

Helping to educate the nation’s children has always been a major part of our public service responsibility. Even before the Covid crisis struck, our Bitesize service was used by more than seven out of 10 secondary school pupils, with more than six out of 10 saying it helped them achieve better grades. Over 80 percent of under-16 users say it has helped them understand their learning more.

During the first lockdown we worked alongside a host of others in the sector to massively enhance our Bitesize offer. Last summer term we produced 2,000 daily lessons which were viewed online 70 million times, with much of that material still available as part of our Lockdown Learning portal. The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive. The one plea we kept hearing from parents was that we extend that support to our TV channels.

This time around, I’m pleased we are able to deliver just that. The biggest educational offer in our history will not only be available online and via BBC iPlayer but on TV too.

Ofcom research shows that up to 1.7 million children across the country do not have home access to a laptop, desktop or tablet. Many more have to share limited resources with siblings or parents who are also working from home. And almost 900,000 children live in a household with only a mobile internet connection.

This issue of the digital divide is such an urgent one, with profound implications for our society. Covid now threatens to entrench it even further. It’s our hope that by shifting so much of our educational support onto our daily television schedules we will reach more of the pupils who need it most.

From today every child in every age group will be able to access daily, curriculum-based programming from the BBC. Each weekday, three hours of primary school programming will start at 9am on CBBC. It will include our teacher-led Bitesize Daily TV shows as well as other educational programming such as Our School and Celebrity Supply Teacher, plus favourites like Horrible Histories and Operation Ouch.

Meanwhile, BBC Two will cater for secondary students. It will have at least two hours of educational programming every day, starting with our Bitesize Daily secondary shows. And it will draw on the best the BBC has to offer more broadly, including classic drama adaptations, outstanding documentaries like Professor Brian Cox’s Planets series, and much more of our award-winning factual programming.

All this will also be available on demand too, via a specially curated Lockdown Learning space on BBC iPlayer, as well as on the Red Button. And it’s important to stress that it covers the curriculum in all four UK nations, with Bitesize Daily Scotland also available at 10am tomorrow on the BBC Scotland channel.

This is more than simply a worthy ambition for the BBC. It’s fundamental to our responsibility to support and offer value to everyone. That includes every child, whoever and wherever they are. It includes parents who are battling lockdown pressures on multiple fronts, with many trying to balance homework with home-working. It includes the thousands of teachers who are working so tirelessly to keep their pupils learning remotely.

Schools will always be the best places for children to learn. The BBC could never stand in for teachers or the wider sector in educating the nation’s children. But we can play our part as society as a whole steps up in a time of great need. And because the BBC has a duty to serve everyone, we can do our bit to make sure that no child, whatever their circumstances, is left behind."

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