British Universities Film & Video Council

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National Schools Radio Network

SchoolsRadio aims to foster interest in radio particularly for dyslexic students and the visually impaired. Peter Thompson provides an overview of this project’s development and initiatives.

First published in Viewfinder 70.

The Vision Charity ( is a volunteer organisation created in 1975 within the visual communications industry, which at that time was entirely involved in broadcast and business television. The objective was to generate funds to provide equipment and services to help dyslexic, visually impaired and blind children, through a series of fundraising events, culminating in the annual Vision Charity Ball. Since that time the charity has raised more than £3 million, all of which has been spent directly on these disadvantaged children.

The original idea for ‘schools radio’ goes back to the early 1990’s when Vision teamed up with the Radio Academy, an organisation founded by the BBC and independent broadcast radio providers, to develop training and education standards within the radio industry. The project was to create a series of workshops and lectures in schools and colleges around the UK designed to help raise interest by a new generation in the art of radio.

These workshops, which covered both creative and technical activities involved in radio broadcasting, were very successful. At that time we were dealing with analogue technology. Exceptionally talented students were invited to the annual Radio Academy Awards and Conference, then held in Birmingham. Many of these workshops were held in schools and colleges, including, among others, the Royal National College for the Blind, in Hereford and New College for the Blind in Worcester. Vision funded the visually impaired students, to enable them to take part in this project.

With the arrival of the internet, community web platforms with simple and easy access, digital audio and the increasing popularity of radio, it was felt opportune to develop the idea to that of encouraging schools to make their own podcasts/audio files or as we prefer, ‘radio programmes’, directly onto a PC or MP3 device and then upload the file onto their preferred web platform. At the same time, details of the programme are logged onto the schools radio website ( by the teacher responsible for the ‘production’, the information to include the name of the programme, description of content, the length and the URL (as a hot link). Teachers will be provided with information to help them get started and ultimately this scheme aims to make writers, technicians and presenters available to help develop skills and techniques required to be successful in any part of the radio business.


Ed Balls and James Purnell, former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, pressing the ‘on-air button’ to mark the moment of launch. (image: Vision Charity)

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