Play School was a much-loved UK kids TV show that ran between 1964 and 19778. If you were a kid then, you’ll remember Play School and the names of Brian Cant, Floella Benjamin, Derek Griffiths, Stuart McGugan, Carol Leader, Fred Harris, Chloe Ashcroft, Don Spencer et al will be burnt into your memories. You’ll probably also remember ‘the windows’, as well as the toys: Humpty, Big Ted and Little Ted, Jemima and Hamble.
Play School was cancelled in 1988 to make room for first Playbus and then Playdays. And if you’re a parochial Brit like me, you probably thought that was the end of Play School.
However, since the 1960s, the show had been franchised out and that there were different versions around the world. Norway, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Spain and Israel all made their own versions; Canada’s Polka Dot Door was an adaptation of Play School; and even Sesame Street was modelled on Play School.
Down under, New Zealand ran its own version between 1975 and 1990. Interestingly, the New Zealand version had toys with virtually the same names as the UK version, with the minor difference that Hamble was replaced by the Maori-esque Manu.
Australia, by contrast, never cancelled its version of Play School, which has run continuously since 1966, making it the second longest running children’s TV show in the world. Over that time, it’s changed considerably. Initially very similar to the UK version – indeed, Don Spencer of the UK version also hosted the Australian version and all the toys’ names were the same – it’s altered the content, style, titles, toys and virtually everything else about it. But it’s still Play School. And it’s still running.