Streaming TV is not just about fun – it can also be educational. And with another lockdown upon us and homeschooling becoming a necessity again – on-demand TV programmes and channels can be of help with that.
Luckily, there are a lot of free educational TV options out there – from the new BBC education offer, to homeschooling videos on YouTube, factual channels that offer free trials, and even free PE lessons for children with Joe Wicks.
So, to make things easier, here’s our guide for some of the best FREE educational on-demand TV offers out there. Do note that some are totally free, while others offer a free trial – after which you do have to pay, if you don’t cancel – but if you time things correctly, you can mix and match free trials for some great content over a period of several weeks.
Remember that if you want to watch these streaming services on your TV (and not just on a computer/tablet), you either need a Smart TV with the appropriate streaming apps, or a streaming device.
BBC Educational Homeschooling Content
The BBC always offers educational content on CBBC, but in light of the new lockdown, they’re set to deliver “the biggest education offer in its history”.
Some of the content will air live on either CBBC or BBC Two, and most will also be available on-demand, via BBC iPlayer. While everything is essentially free, remember that you do need a TV Licence to watch the BBC, either live or on iPlayer.
Starting on Monday, January 11, these are some of the educational blocks that will air on the BBC:
Primary School Programming on CBBC
Each weekday on CBBC will have a three-hour block of primary school programming from 9 am (and on-demand on iPlayer).
The content will include BBC Live Lessons and BBC Bitesize Daily, as well as other educational programming such as Our School, Celebrity Supply Teacher, Horrible Histories, Art Ninja and Operation Ouch.
Secondary Students Programming on BBC Two
BBC Two, both live and on-demand via iPlayer, will cater for secondary students with programming to support the GCSE curriculum, with a least two hours of content each weekday.
Content will be built around Bitesize Daily secondary shows, complemented by Shakespeare and classic drama adaptations alongside science, history and factual titles from the BBC’s award-winning factual programming units.
Just remember that throughout the day, and on-demand, BBC Two also has content that’s not suitable for young children.
BBC Educational Content Available On-Demand
In addition to the new educational blocks, students, parents and teachers can access more online content:
For primary, BBC Bitesize online has an expanded offer of structured lessons in Maths and English for all year groups – these can be used at home or in the classroom.
“This Term’s Topics” also covers other curriculum subjects and curates learning content that works for the Spring curriculum. This content can be easily incorporated into a learning plan or used to explore different topics at home
For secondary pupils, Bitesize is also home to two-week learning packs for English and Maths in KS3 (years 7, 8 and 9) as well as “This Term’s Topics” for other subjects to be used at home or to support teachers in the remote classrooms.
For students in Years 10 and 11, the Bitesize GCSE offer allows students to pick their exam board and subject to find everything they need to help with their studies.
TED-Ed YouTube Channel
Many of you are probably familiar with “Ted” – an American organization that posts inspirational talks from conferences around the world on its popular YouTube channel.
Well, they also have the “educational” version, called “TED-Ed”, where you can find a curated library of lessons and animations, thanks to a collaboration between educators and animators.
The topics range from history to science, arts and literature and even some philosophy.
The Great Courses Plus
A streaming service created by The Teaching Company, along with partners such as the Smithsonian, National Geographic and others.
Featuring some of the world’s best professors, The Great Courses Plus offers thousands of video lessons, many of which suitable for teenagers.
The topics range from literature and language, math, history and more, and there’s also a special collection of “Programs for Young Learners” that’s aimed at supplementing school curriculums.
The lessons can be streamed directly on the website, or on your TV via streaming devices such as The Amazon Fire TV Stick or a Roku.
While this is a paid subscription service, you can get a free 14-days trial. Just remember to cancel before you’re billed, if you don’t want it to continue.
Discovery+ is a new streaming subscription service from Discovery – which replaces their previous free service, dplus.
The service offers nature, history and lifestyle shows from the various Discovery brands, and includes both a free and paid tier. On the free tier, you can stream on-demand programmes.
While not everything is suitable for children, some of the nature and history programmes are quite good. If you fancy something from the paid tier (called “Entertainment Pass”), you can get it for free as a 14-days trial (and then £4.99/month if you don’t cancel).
And if you’re a Sky Q subscriber – you can get Discovery+ for free, for one year.
Educational Amazon Prime Video Channels
While not specifically aimed at children, some of the available channels are factual and educational, with factual programmes on science, history, nature and more.
As for the cost – while you must have an Amazon Prime subscription (or Prime Video), and then add the channels on top of that, you can get a free 30-days trial of Amazon Prime.
The channels themselves also normally come with a monthly subscription cost – but you can get a 7-days free trial to each of them. So if you space those trials out, you can get free content for several weeks (just don’t forget to cancel if you don’t want the subscription to continue).
A streaming service dedicated to documentaries and non-fiction, with shows about science, nature, technology and more.
If you get it as a Prime Video channel, you can get a free trial for 7 days. Then, if you don’t cancel, it’s £2.79/month.
If you do plan to subscribe after the trial – check out CuriosityStream’s own site first – they often offer special deals that make the subscription cheaper.
The Great Courses: Signature Collection
We mentioned “The Great Courses Plus” above – but if you don’t want their full library, you can also find this curated selection of top courses, as a Prime Video channel.
You get a collection of video courses from some of the top professors and experts in the world, on a variety of topics – from science to nature and history, and even chess.
Not everything is necessarily suitable for children – but most will be good for teenagers.
If you get it as a Prime Video channel, you can get a free trial for 7 days – and then it’s £5.49/month.
- Get “The Great Courses: Signature Collection” via Amazon
- Get “The Great Courses Plus” direct (the full library)
A collection of factual, drama and docu-drama programmes from the History Channel, on a variety of topics.
As with some of the other channels, not everything here is suitable for children (and there are even a few American reality TV shows that somehow made it in), but there’s also a good variety of history-teaching programmes.
As a Prime Video channel, you can get a free 7-days trial, and then it’s £3.99/month if you don’t cancel.
PE With Joe Wicks
With kids staying at home all day, education isn’t enough – and some exercise is just as important.
To help with that, popular fitness coach Joe Wicks is offering “PE With Joe” – live workout lessons for kids, which will air live on his YouTube channel.
PE with Joe is back Monday 11th January at 9am(UK time) ❤️ Please Retweet and let as many parents and schools as possible know 🙌🏽 The sessions will be live Mon, Wed & Fri’s at 9am on YouTube 📺 pic.twitter.com/mbi3wXv2Nz
— Joe Wicks (@thebodycoach) January 4, 2021
Starting January 11, The workouts will run on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 9am, and will not require any special equipment.