Throughout the academic year there are various moments that punctuate the calendar: exams, coursework deadlines, sports day, and those glorious end of term days. But there has been another event which keeps returning to the calendars of hundreds of schools across the UK for the past decade: BBC News School Report.
In the 3 schools I have taught in, this scheme has been a central focus of the year. It is a day that staff and students look forward to, and gives a welcome break from the focus on exam preparation and coursework deadlines.
The scheme aims to give a voice to young people and teenagers, an opportunity for them to tell their stories and consider the way news affects them. Students work with teachers to develop the core skills of journalism using free BBC lesson plans and resources. The preparation culminates on News Day where students have one day to write, edit and broadcast the news as they want to tell it - an entire day in the school calendar focused on students having their voices heard.
There are also so many benefits for the students who are involved in the scheme. Whether you are using simple or complex editing software, you will see an improvement in technical skills and confidence with technology - students have the chance to learn how to craft a report, how to edit, how to be savvy with media and develop their own media literacy. We also see students grow in confidence, and in their ability to relate to other people (especially adults). We give our reporters the responsibility to set up and conduct interviews. This empowers them to speak to adults and their peers.
Whether you deliver School Report in English or as a club, the written and technical skills can also support learning in other areas: the BBC's Data Pic tool introduces HTML and CSS coding. All of the subjects in the curriculum require an understanding of a social or historical context. School Report by its nature forces them to engage with that. They have to understand what's going on in the world and how they can report on it.
It's also so special to have the mentor relationship as it gives it extra clout. It's not just me standing there; it's someone from the BBC actually putting what the pupils are learning into a work related context which is really motivating for them.
The project also forms a relationship between the school and the BBC. We get to use great resources such as video master-classes from journalists at the BBC. Knowing what we are doing is being noticed by the BBC and being able to say to the kids that your hard work has paid off is important.
Being associated with the iconic BBC brand is also exciting for the pupils - They think it's something special, something different. They don't know there are 1,000s of [School Report] lanyards out there - their lanyard is theirs and they feel part of the BBC....Years later, they still remember it and talk about it.
News Day is fantastic but it can also be hectic and stressful. A typical News Day will start at 8.30am with students reading the newspapers and news websites to decide upon a bulletin to report that afternoon. The rest of the morning is spent writing reports, setting up interviews and filming pieces to camera. By lunchtime you're over half way through the day, and students have a limited time to get their stories finished and edited ready for broadcast. There is the point, about 1pm, that pressure hits its peak. But this is good pressure and because there is no formal assessment, pupils fee able to take risks on the day. What makes the frenetic day the most rewarding however is seeing how proud students are of what they have achieved.
Some practical tips for teachers
• Have a really good look round the website before you start.
• Attend the free teacher briefings.
• Give as much responsibility to your students. Students who attend our School Report club regularly get a School Report lanyard. The lanyard gives them permission to film during lunchtime - a big thing because mobile phones are usually banned during school.
• Emphasise how special the lanyard is. Being associated with the "iconic" BBC brand is exciting for the pupils. The lanyard is something special, different. They don't know there are 1,000s of School Report lanyards out there - the lanyard is THEIRS and they feel part of the BBC. Years later, they still remember it and talk about it.
• Try and do one of the Practise News Days.
• Tell everyone you can what you and your students are doing! We have a Twitter account dedicated to our School Reporters which they use on News Day to publicise what they're reporting on.
• Connect with the BBC and School Report team. It's great to be able to tell your students that their photo has been retweeted by the BBC or that their work is featuring on the BBC website.