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Top of the Form was a BBC radio and television quiz show for teams from secondary schools in the United Kingdom which ran for 38 years, from 1948 to 1986.
|Running time||30 mins|
|Country of origin||UK|
|Home station||BBC Radio 4|
|TV adaptations||BBC 1 (1962–75)|
|Original release||1 May 1948 – 2 December 1986|
|Opening theme||Marching Strings|
|Other themes||Fanfare for the Common Man (ELP prog rock version)|
The programme began on Saturday 1 May 1948, as a radio series, at 7.30pm on the Light Programme. It progressed to become a TV series from 1962 to 1975. A decision to stop the programme was announced on 28 September 1986 and the last broadcast was on Tuesday 2 December. The producer, Graham Frost, was reported to have said it had been cancelled because the competitive nature of the show jarred with modern educational philosophy.
- Wynford Vaughan-Thomas
- Lionel Gamlin
- Richard Dimbleby
- David Dimbleby
- John Ellison
- Robert MacDermot (died on Saturday 21 November 1964 at Central Middlesex Hospital aged 54, after tripping and falling at London Airport, fracturing bones)
- Kenneth Horne
- John Edmunds
- John Dunn
- Tim Gudgin (1965–86)
- Bob Holness (1974–76)
- Paddy Feeny (1965–86)
- Bill Salmon (Australia 1967–1968)
- Geoffrey Wheeler (1962–75)
Each school fielded a team of four pupils ranging in age from under 13 to under 18.
- BBC Light Programme from 1948 to 1967
- BBC Radio 2 (sometimes simulcast on BBC Radio 1) 1967–70
- BBC Radio 4 from 26 September 1970 – 1986.
The programme was first aired on TV in two special experiments. The first was on 25 April 1953, featuring Sheffield High School (girls) v. Marylebone Grammar School (boys). A second TV broadcast was performed in 1954 featuring Lady Margaret High School for Girls (Cardiff) v Solihull School for Boys. The programme fully migrated to TV later. It ran from 1962 to 1975, and was called Television Top of the Form. It began on Monday 12 November 1962, when the Controller of BBC1 was Stuart Hood (Scottish).
The questions were set by polymath and author Boswell Taylor on behalf of BBC TV and he was assisted by the BBC's Mary Craig who doubled as the scorer and electronic score board operator. In order to set appropriate questions the selected contestants from each school filled in a questionnaire listing their interests, books recently read and favourite music. The teams from co-ed schools usually included two girls and two boys.
Compared to many television quiz shows in recent years, Top of the Form had a resolutely grandiose outlook; nothing would ever be dumbed down. Consequently, on Monday 18 June 1973 it had its first bilingual competition, with Paris v London. The competition on Monday 25 March 1974 was all in the Welsh language.
In 1967 UK schools took on Australian schools in Top of the Form: Transworld Edition. The following year this was renamed Transworld Top Team, under which title it ran until 1973. Each series involved teams from the UK taking on teams from another country. Countries participating over the course of the run included Canada, The Netherlands, the US and Hong Kong.
In 1975 the TV version moved to 4.10–4.35pm on Sundays, then from 3.55 to 4.20, with the last final on 9 August 1975. One of the producers of the TV version was Bill Wright, who would later devise Mastermind in the early 1970s.
The tune Marching Strings (composition credited to "Marshall Ross", a pseudonym of Ray Martin) was the theme for many years, though for the last few series, Emerson, Lake & Palmer's recording of Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man was used. Earlier, Debussy's Golliwog's Cakewalk, from his Children's Corner suite, had introduced the radio series.
Marching Strings had been featured in the popular 1956 British film It's Great to be Young! where a music teacher's job was saved by the efforts of his students.
Producers have included:
The series tended to feature grammar schools; in later years, as these schools became less numerous, comprehensive schools sometimes featured, but less often, and there was an increasing dominance by independent schools.
Top of the Form finalistsEdit
- 19 December 1948 High School for Boys, Cardiff v Royal High School, Edinburgh (winners: Karl Miller - editor of The Listener (magazine) from 1967-73, John Robson, Derek Pringle, and Anthony Inglis)
- 9 January 1950 Elgin Academy for Boys, Moray (winners: Captain – Donald McDonald – English 1952–55 University of Aberdeen and President from 1955 to 1956 of the Scottish Union of Students – NUS Scotland and General Secretary for three years, John Nash, Alisdair MacLean, and Clifford Hance) v Grove Park Grammar School for Girls, Wrexham, Denbighshire
- 9 January 1951 Manchester High School for Girls v Robert Gordon's College, Aberdeen (boys, winners: captain Bruce McConnach aged 18, the son of Chief Constable James McConnach of Aberdeen City Police, played in the school orchestra; William Innes aged 16, sang in school choir, from Ballater, joined the RAF, flying Canberras at RAF Coningsby; George Tait; and Jonathan Foster aged 12, his father taught English at the school, who studied Classics at Aberdeen, then at Balliol College, Oxford)
- 19 January 1952 St. Dominic's High School for Girls, Belfast v Morgan Academy, Dundee (winners: Belfast were beaten 25-17)
- 1952 Bangor County School for Girls (The School for Girls), north Wales (winners) v Leyton County High School for Girls
- 21 January 1954 The Methodist College, Belfast (boys, David Moore aged 12, Michael Skinner aged 14, Brian Templeton aged 15, captain Cedric Thornberry aged 17) v The Nicolson Institute, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis (boys, winners: Alisdair Maclean aged 14, son of a teacher, he wanted to study industrial chemistry, from Aird, Lewis, he later studied Technical Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh; Billy McTaggart aged 12, son of Stornoway cinema manager, he wanted to study Law, and was originally from Paisley; and Ian Mackay aged 13; all three were patrol leaders in the Stornaway scouts; and captain Ronald Urquhart aged 16, his father was deputy headmaster, and he wanted to be a doctor) Stornoway beat Belfast 30-28; it was the first year that islands off the coast of the United Kingdom were entered, and one of those teams reached the final
- 9 January 1955 The Academy, Dumfries (girls) v Grove Park School, Wrexham (boys, winners: Michael Burke, Martin Thomas, Eric Stansfield, and Colin Bowen)
- 9 January 1956 Newtown Girls' Grammar School, Montgomeryshire (winners: Elizabeth Lewis aged 12, Ann Humphreys aged 13, Noelyne Hopkins aged 15, captain Isabel Stoner aged 16) v The Royal School, Armagh, Northern Ireland (boys, captain Bruce Cantlon aged 16 from Armagh, David Hammond aged 14 from Belfast, and Donald Stewart and Gordon Corrigan, both aged 13 from Omagh); Armagh were beaten by one point; Newtown played the girls of Falkonergårdens Gymnasium of Copenhagen, and Armagh later played the boys of the Prince Rupert School from Wilhelmshaven, Lower Saxony in Germany; Newtown also appeared on the TV version of In Town Tonight at Lime Grove Studios on Saturday 16 January 1956 with their Physical Culture teacher Mrs Kathleen Arthur
- 7 January 1957 Glanmôr County Secondary School for Girls, Swansea v Sutton Coldfield High School for Girls (winners: Brenda Emery captain and head girl aged 17, Angela Clifton aged 14, Diana Herd aged 13, and Margaret Scaife aged 12); it was the first victory for an English team since the radio competition had begun; the finalists played teams from Denmark, Holland and Germany, as would happen the following year; Sutton Coldfield v of Netherlands on Monday 14 January 1957, Sutton Coldfield were beaten 37-36; Glanmor played of Antwerp on Monday 21 January 1957
- 2 January 1958 Wycombe High School, High Wycombe (girls, winners) v Dr Williams School, Dolgellau (girls)
- 8 January 1959 South Hampstead High School, London (girls) v The Gordon Schools, Huntly (winners)
- 24 December 1959 Rotherham Grammar School v Mackie Academy, Stonehaven (winners: captain Ian Campbell aqged 17 of Inverbervie, Gordon Shanks aged 13 of Stonehaven, James Freeman aged 15 from Kirkside at St Cyrus, David Stoney aged 12 of Stonehaven); John Bone aged 14 of Glenbervie was replaced in an earlier round as he was rushed to hospital for an appendix operation; they were taken on a night out around London by the show producer on 7 January 1960, with their teacher Mr Watt; after the final, Mackie played the Lycée Français de Londres and Rotherham played the London Central Elementary High School
- 29 December 1960 High School for Girls, Dungannon (Ann Spotswood, Elizabeth Beatty, Eileen Mullan, Christine McAllister) v Grove Park School (girls, winners: Josephine Boenisch, Gwenillian Awberry, Caroline Griffiths, and captain Veronica Lloyd); Dungannon were beaten 53–52
- 21 December 1961 Archbishop Holgate's Grammar School, York (boys, winners: Peter Waugh and Geoffrey Blunt) v Bishop Gore School, Swansea
- 20 December 1962 High School of Stirling (boys) v Hull Grammar School (winners)
- 22 December 1963 Cambridgeshire High School for Boys, Cambridge (winners)
- 20 December 1964 The Academy, Montrose (girls, winners: Morag Cuthbert, Frances Wilkinson, Helen Brett, and Patricia Mandeville) v Stafford High School; the trophy was presented on 20 January 1965 by Denis Morris, the head of the Light Programme; Stafford High were beaten 46–34, and the programme was recorded at Montrose Town Hall on Tuesday 15 December 1964
- 26 December 1965 The High School, Falkirk (boys, winners)
- 27 December 1966 The Grammar School, Bassaleg (boys, Roger Panting aged 12, James Pierce aged 13, Stephen Dix aged 15, and captain Christopher Elliott aged 17) v St Martin-in-the-Fields High School (girls)
- 7 January 1968 King's Norton Grammar School for Girls (Verity Kemp, Jane Herbert, Grace Baron, and Mary Watt), Birmingham v Greenock Academy (girls, winners)
- 22 December 1968 Leyton Senior High School for Girls v Grove Park School, Wrexham (boys, winners)
- 21 December 1969 The High School for Girls, Stroud v Queen Elizabeth Grammar School for Girls, Carmarthen
- 2 January 1971 Harris Academy, Dundee (boys) v Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys, Leicester (winners: John Peet – captain – University College, Durham Law from 1971 to 1974 – later chair from 2008 to 2012 of Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, John Vale – Lancaster University from 1974 to 1977, Andrew Leak, Stephen Walton)
- 22 January 1972 Cheadle Hulme School, Cheshire (winners) v Cardinal Vaughan School, London
- 27 January 1973 Musselburgh Grammar School v The County Girls Grammar School, Newbury (winners)
- 20 February 1974 Kirkcudbright Academy, Kirkcudbright v Broadoak School, Weston-super-Mare
- 4 January 1975 Magdalen College School, Brackley v The Grammar School, Cheltenham
- 29 February 1976 King William's College, Isle of Man v Paisley Grammar School, Scotland
- 22 February 1977 Macclesfield County High School for Girls (winners: captain Elaine Scragg later competed in the 1978 Supermind) v Thomas Magnus School, Newark-on-Trent
- 23 February 1978 Collingwood School, Camberley v Wellington School, Somerset
- 25 December 1978 Northern Ireland v North of England
- Monday 4 February 1980 Peterhead Academy (Richard Aitken aged 17, Dianne Ralph aged 12, and Donna Kinlan aged 14) v Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar School (winners, won 74-68)
- 23 December 1980 Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys (Robert Rowe, Chris Gidlow – History from 1984 to 1987 at Oriel College, Oxford), Canterbury v Wycombe High School, High Wycombe (winners: Barbara Page, Claire Wilful, Julie Bungey, Sarah Graves); the trophy was presented by Mark Carlisle, the Secretary of State for Education
- 22 December 1981 Girvan Academy (winners: Kenneth Brown, Murray Pratt, Kirsteen Browning, and Marie Walker); the trophy was awarded by George Younger, Secretary of State for Scotland)
- 21 December 1982 Seaford Head School, Seaford (winners: Fiona Hanley, Sean Hanley, Neil Dench, and Philip Barden); the trophy was awarded by Keith Joseph, Secretary of State for Education)
- 14 December 1983 Emmbrook Comprehensive School, Wokingham (winners: Sarah Lowe, Katherine James aged 12, sixth formers Jameson Wooders and David Bryant) v Colchester County High School for Girls; the trophy was awarded by Sebastian Coe; in one of the earlier rounds, Emmbrook scored the highest points total ever for the competition; Emmbrook had been coached by teacher Mrs Merise Corbett, and the programme was recorded on Wednesday 7 December, being a cliffhanging final
- 19 December 1984 Moorhead High School, Accrington v City of Leeds School (winners)
- 16 December 1985 Upton Grammar School, Slough
- 1 December 1986 Christ College, Brecon (winners: Oli Hide, Andy Li – captain, Gavin Doig, Robin Pinniger); the trophy was awarded by Sir David Attenborough in January 1987 in London
Television Top of the Form finalistsEdit
- 24 December 1962 Grove Park School for Boys, Wrexham (J Salisbury, RG Thomas, JS Williams, and D Williams) v Kingston Grammar School for Boys (winners: Ian White – Philosophy at St John's College, Oxford)
- 1 May 1963 The Grammar School for Girls, Weston-super-Mare v Royal Belfast Academical Institution (boys, winners: Hugh Gibson, Barry Stevens, Harry Cowie, and Bill Smith); Belfast won 39–33
- 23 December 1963 Brownhills High School for Girls, Stoke-on-Trent (winners: Dianne Bamber or Lawton – studied music at the University of Leeds, Lesley Steadiman, Jacqueline Bamford, and Mary Pedley) v Hull Grammar School (boys)
- 26 March 1964 High School, Stirling (boys, Hamish Meldrum – later Chairman of the BMA from 2007 to 2012) v Barnsley and District Holgate Grammar School (winners: Andrew Wood – History at Oxford)
- 10 December 1964 Portsmouth High School (a direct grant school, not independent)
- 1 April 1965 Sutton Coldfield Grammar School (girls, winners) v Paston School (boys), North Walsham
- 30 December 1965 Allan Glen's Boys School, Glasgow v Cathays High School, Cardiff (boys)
- 9 June 1966 Ayr Academy (winners)
- 28 December 1966 Hastings High School (girls) v Leamington College (girls, winners: Marie Bishop, Elizabeth Wilson, Janet Vaughan, and Vanessa Webb), Leamington Spa
- 28 December 1967 Burnt Mill School, Harlow v Kirkton High School, Dundee (winners: Fiona Anderson, Michael O'Rourke, Morag Smith, and captain Gordon Cobban)
- 12 June 1969 Chatham House Grammar School (boys) v Torquay Girls' Grammar School (winners); the trophy was given by sports presenter Peter Dimmock
- 20 June 1970 Salisbury (winners: Alison Greenlees, Andrew Parton, Diane James, and Tom Owen from South Wilts Grammar School and Bishop Wordsworth's School) v Inverness (Irene Anderson, Andrew MacDonald, Margaret MacDonald, and Charles Bannerman from Inverness Royal Academy); the finalists competed with teams from the Netherlands in Transworld; on 3 August 1970 it was recorded at Inverness Royal Academy with other teams from Aberdeen Academy and Salisbury; later competed on 5 August 1970 in Hilversum, Netherlands; the Dutch teams from The Hague, Eindhoven and Deventer; it was broadcast from 15 September 1970 with Salisbury v Eindhoven and continued until October 1970; Hazlehead Academy featured Morag Ogilvie, Raymond Berry, Christine Cook, and James Treasurer;Hazlehead Academy would be opened by the Queen on Wednesday 7 October 1970; Inverness beat Eindhoven 38-27, Inverness beat Deventer 42 to 30; a Birmingham Post review on 30 September 1970 said – 'very few programmes can boast the education quality and mental stimulus that distinguishes Transworld Top Team'
- 8 June 1971 Luton Sixth Form College v Kenilworth Grammar School (won 53-43, winners: Jane Broughton, Alison Love, Ross Beadle, and Martin Clarke); this was the 10th anniversary series, so the week afterwards, Kenilworth challenged a 'representative team' from the first series; Kenilworth played a team from Minneapolis on Transworld Top Team on 23 November 1971 Transworld would be recorded between August 14 and 1 September 1971, Kenilworth beat New Orleans 52-42,Kenilworth beat Mineapolis,Kenilworth lost to Baltimore 47-34;In the Transworld competition, Oban High School featured Mary Nicol, Anne Hay, Stuart Ross, and Kenneth MacIntyre
- 1 August 1972 Llanelli (male and female, winners: Margaret Samuel – Medicine at Barts) v Manchester (Mike Murphy, Phil Smith from St Augustine RC Grammar School of Wythenshawe, and Josephine Finan – Modern Languages at Cambridge, and Anne Heaton from Hollies Convent Grammar School); the two teams competed against Canadian teams in Trans World
- 11 June 1973 Elgin Academy (winners: Wilma Grant studied Ecology at Edinburgh University, David Knight of Duffus studied Medicine at Aberdeen University, Lynn Scott, Kenneth Lindsay, studied History and English at Aberdeen University, who was also the son of the Director of Education of County of Nairn, and later a BBC radio newsreader; filmed at Elgin on 16 May 1973, it ended in a draw 41-41, the tie breaker was won by Elgin) v Derby (all sixth formers - Anthony Kelk and Paul McCrea from Derby School, and Gillian Duckworth and Jane Sutton from Homelands School; Derby School had become comprehensive in September 1972; Derby School became Derby Moor Academy in 1989; Homelands School also closed in 1989); Elgin went to Hong Kong for Trans World, with St George's School, Hong Kong at Kowloon (servicemens children) against three Australian teams An assistant producer on Mastermind, Mary Craig, who kept the scoring total, worked on Top of the Form for ten years and met her husband, an RAF officer, in Hong Kong, on a Transworld episode, marrying in 1975.
- 17 June 1974 Loughborough (two males from Loughborough Grammar School and two females from Loughborough High School, Lucy Stein, Robert Satchwell – 1977–80 Christ Church, Oxford 1st Maths, Anna McKay, and Mark Poole) v Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College, Darlington
- 9 August 1975 Gower (Susan Raad, Michael Isaac, Alison Maull, and David Smith) v Leeds (Francis Bruynseels – head boy of his school in 1975, Jane Dougherty, Stephen Moriarty from St Michael's College)
- Film star Hugh Grant, who represented Latymer Upper School;
- Darien Angadi, whose story was told during a BBC Four documentary about the quiz programme
- Vivien Stuart (1969), later a weather presenter and television announcer.
- Hilary Benn, represented Holland Park School in 1969 who were contentiously eliminated in a second round match.
- Robbie Fields, identical twin of Randolph and now owner of Posh Boy Records, was also a member of the 1969 Holland Park School team. Fields was asked the three-point question: "I was born in Valencia in 1867, who am I?" and answered "Blasco Ibáñez", prompting presenter Geoffrey Wheeler to take a deep breath and pronounce the answer correct and leaving viewers baffled.
Top of The Form was satirised in the 1960s pre-Python television series At Last the 1948 Show.
In 2008, Dave Gorman traced the history of the show on BBC Four.
- Round Britain Quiz, BBC Radio 4's general knowledge quiz from the same era, but mainly for adults, and still broadcast regularly
- University Challenge, a similar Granada Television series for British universities, which was (likewise) taken off the air in 1987, but was brought back (now broadcast on BBC 2) in 1994
- Schools' Challenge – continuing UK inter-schools quiz, non-televised, based on the rules of University Challenge
- Young Scientists of the Year, BBC youth science competition
- Blockbusters – television school-age game show first broadcast in 1983
- Television Top of the Form at UKGameshows.com
- "Transworld Top Team". ukgameshows.com. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
- on YouTube
- Daily Record, 21 September 1967
- Sunday Post Sunday 19 December 1948, page 4
- The Herald obituary, 19 November 2011
- Aberdeen Press and Journal Monday 27 November 1950, page 6
- Northern Whig Tuesday 15 January 1952, page 6
- Bo'ness Journal, and Linlithgow Advertiser Friday 18 January 1952, page 2
- Belfast Telegraph Friday 22 January 1954, page 5
- Aberdeen Evening Express Wednesday 23 December 1959, page 4
- Aberdeen Evening Express Friday 22 January 1954. page 11
- Port-Glasgow Express Friday 26 February 1954, page 2
- Daily Record Friday 22 January 1954, page 8
- Western Mail Friday 20 January 1956, page 4
- Western Mail Monday 16 January 1956, page 8
- Belfast News-Letter Monday 16 January 1956, page 2
- Northern Whig Tuesday 10 January 1956, page 2
- Birmingham Daily Post Tuesday 15 January 1957, page 30
- Daily Herald Tuesday 8 January 1957, page 3
- Birmingham Daily Post Monday 14 January 1957, page 32
- Birmingham Weekly Post Friday 11 January 1957, page 7
- Reading Standard Friday 18 January 1957, page 5
- Aberdeen Evening Express Friday 25 December 1959, page 5
- Aberdeen Evening Express Thursday 24 December 1959, page 7
- Aberdeen Evening Express Friday 8 January 60, page 7
- Aberdeen Press and Journal Thursday 21 January 1965, page 5
- Nottingham Evening Post March 1970
- South Wales Gazette Friday 23 December 1966, page 4
- Aberdeen Evening Express Monday 8 January 1968, page 7
- Aberdeen Press and Journal, Tuesday 5 February 1980, page 11
- Aberdeen Evening Express Monday 4 February 1980, page 1
- Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald Friday 19 December 1980, page 1
- Times Thursday 28 January 1982, page 5
- Times Tuesday 22 March 1983, page 2
- Times Tuesday 14 February 1984, page 4
- Reading Evening Post Thursday 8 December 1983, page 1
- Reading Evening Post Friday 25 November 1983, page 13
- Aberdeen Press and Journal Thursday 20 December 1984, page 3
- Birmingham Daily Post, Friday 2 April 1965, page 27
- Aberdeen Evening Express Tuesday 22 September 1970, page 2
- Aberdeen Press and Journal Wednesday 7 October 1970, page 11
- Aberdeen Press and Journal Wednesday 14 October 1970, page 19
- Coventry Evening Telegraph Tuesday 12 October 1971, page 10
- Coventry Evening Telegraph Tuesday 23 November 1971, page 2
- Coventry Evening Telegraph Wednesday 9 June 1971, page 17
- Coventry Evening Telegraph Wednesday 10 November 1971, page 18
- Coventry Evening Telegraph Wednesday 24 November 1971, page 3
- Coventry Evening Telegraph Wednesday 08 December 1971, page 18
- Aberdeen Evening Express Tuesday 14 December 1971, page 2
- St Augustine's RC Grammar
- Aberdeen Evening Express Thursday 6 September 1973, page 5
- Coventry Evening Telegraph Monday 11 June 1973, page 2
- BBC Genome
- The Derbeian May 1973
- Coventry Evening Telegraph Wednesday 11 July 1973, page 20
- Belfast Telegraph, 21 Nov 1981, page 10
- Presenter: James Lipton (12 May 2002). "Inside the Actors Studio: Hugh Grant". Inside the Actors Studio. Season 8. Episode 813. Bravo. Archived from the original on 13 May 2008https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5p4KP212qo0.
|transcript-url=missing title (help)
- Donovan, Paul (1992) The Radio Companion. London: Grafton; p. 267
- Walmsley, Andy (16 January 2018). "Random radio jottings: Ed Doolan".
- Top of the Form at BBC Online
- Top of the Form at UKGameshows.com
- Television Top of the Form at UKGameshows.com
- Top of the Form at IMDb
- The Top of the Form Story at IMDb
- TV Cream