Rupert Murdoch's history of Britain: BSkyB to launch major educational initiative inside UK classrooms


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The Independent Online

Children will be taught the history of Britain according to Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB when the broadcaster launches a major educational initiative inside British classrooms.

Schools will be given free lesson plans, teaching resources and video clips to accompany The British, a documentary series which promises to cover 2,000 years of British history inside seven hours, when it airs on the Sky Atlantic channel this Autumn.

BSkyB, in which Mr Murdoch’s News Corporation holds a 39.1% stake, will give schools “free, flexible teaching and learning resources for ages 7-11 and 11-14, which will be specifically tailored towards each episode of the seven-part series.”

The British will tell the history of Britain and Ireland from the Roman invasion to the birth of television and the Coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953.

It will use drama and CGI effect to bring to life key events for “a generation used to feature films and computer games.” Celebrities will give their views on what the history of Great Britain means to them.

Schools across the UK and Ireland will be encouraged to “begin a dialogue in classrooms about the history of this nation, in detail and on a broad scale” using the BSkyB materials.

A DVD box set of the complete series will be given to the first 5,000 schools that complete the registration process for the materials on the Sky Skills website.

The history according to BSkyB will cover subjects including the Roman invasion of Britain, The Domesday Book, The Caxton Printing Press, and The Great Fire of London. The cut off date off 1953 means the lessons will not as yet incorporate the creation of Sky Television in 1989.

The lesson plans are "designed to equip every student with key facts and information regarding the history of Great Britain", a regular demand of education traditionalists.

Mr Murdoch has long sought to gain a foothold in British schools. News International expressed an interest in applying to set up a free school, after plans to establish an academy in east London fell through, it emerged at the Leveson inquiry. Mr Murdoch and other News Corporation held meetings with Michael Gove the education secretary, to discuss the project.

Celia Taylor, head of Factual for Sky, said: “This is an epic, beautiful and dramatic retelling of our nation’s history and the heroes and heroines who made us who we are today. To be able to give this opportunity to every school child in Britain is something I will be proud of for a very long time.”

BSkyB’s first venture into high-end historical documentaries is also a shot across the bows to the BBC. BSkyB has vowed to increase its investment in UK original programming to £600 million and The British is produced by Nutopia, a company founded by Jane Root, a former BBC2 Controller. Ms Root said: “These opportunities, and these types of educational resources, don't come along very often.”