In my 16 July 2007 blog entry, I referred to the Creative Future tighter audience targets for CBBC as being a foolish idea from the start, because all people develop at different rates. I said that it was misguided to further narrow the target age limits for children's television.
Now a leading academic, Professor David Hargreaves, has said pigeonholing children by age is "an extremely crude measure". He was referring to year grouping in schools, but there is a distinction to be made between schools and TV audiences. As John Dunford of The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said: "..schools are dealing with teenage children who are much more conscious of their age in relation to that of their peers."
Historically BBC kids' TV seems to have been aimed at younger kids. For example 'Blue Peter - The Inside Story' (at page 11) mentions the 'entire age range' as being 'from five to twelve-year-olds,' although paradoxically Appendix 1 (at page 231) makes clear that, for audience research purposes as measured by the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board owned jointly then by the BBC and ITA, children were regarded as being from age four up to fifteen years old. In the past these boundaries seem to have been regarded merely as guide age limits, since as we saw in an earlier blog entry 1980s programmes such as 'The Lowdown' and 'Newsround' weren't afraid to tackle issues relevant to older kids.
In a leading article, The Indepependent said Hargreaves has got it mostly right. The paper was commenting on the idea that the different phases of education – primary and secondary – would cease to exist as more institutions capable of delivering an all-through education from age three to 19 were created, so that the brightest pupils could be more stretched because they would be allowed to move up the system at a faster rate than less able children of the same age group.
For children's TV even more so, there needs to be a fresh approach. The present narrowly targeted programming cannot withstand scrutiny.