BBC wants to play a bigger role in children’s education

Christel Deskins

James Purnell – Paul Grover The BBC should take a greater role in children’s education and replace some of the “traditional” elements of teaching, one of its senior executives has suggested. James Purnell, head of radio and education, said the BBC had created such excellent online content for schoolchildren during […]

James Purnell - Paul Grover
James Purnell – Paul Grover

The BBC should take a greater role in children’s education and replace some of the “traditional” elements of teaching, one of its senior executives has suggested.

James Purnell, head of radio and education, said the BBC had created such excellent online content for schoolchildren during the Covid-19 crisis that it had changed the game.

The BBC now has “a huge opportunity” to increase its reach in the education field, he said.

“I wonder if a Rubicon has been crossed now. I think for lots of us who grew up in a more traditional educational environment, we thought school was something that happened in a classroom with people talking.

“And that’s always going to be there but I think we’re going to have a mix of the two,” Purnell said during a virtual event for the Royal Television Society.

“Are we going to have a world… where students are getting the ability to have online lessons, and then the teachers and assistants are freed up to do what only they can do in terms of extra help, pastoral care, inspiration, teaching the curriculum in ways that can’t be done through a computer?”

The BBC expanded its Bitesize coverage when schools closed, providing daily lessons for children of every year group.

The challenges of home schooling led us to “love and admire teachers more than we did before”, Purnell said, “but we can also see the role that we can play. So I think there’s a huge opportunity to get the best of both worlds out of blended learning.”

He added: “Can we provide the spine of that content, so that when kids turn on their computer or mobile phone or iPad you can have a guarantee of high class education for all of the curricula, for all of the exam boards? We’re keen to do that.

“We definitely don’t want to replace the role of schools – the people best placed to deal with pupils – but we would like to provide the content to make sure we get the best of both worlds.”

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