I’ve tried it with G&T students, a whole year group (that was a challenge) and a group of pupil premium students and the results are always the same: kids love it because they are writing for a real audience, being creative and realizing that their participation in the big wide world is important.
It doesn’t matter if they want to be journalists when they are older, it’s about participation. Students collaborate with others that, socially, they would never normally talk to. They have a job to do, with a deadline, and they have to be business like about it.
They get to work with people from the real world. Over the years the BBC have assigned us mentors from Radio 4 and Radio 1 for the day. They were fantastic with the students and always invited us to come and visit us in their workplace afterwards, and that, when you are from an unprivileged background, is an insight into another world. It’s inspirational.
But I think it’s good for the BBC too. A few years ago, when the Beeb was still in White City, we visited, only to bump into the chairman of the BBC Trust. He seemed really excited to meet our students (I know he was mentally ticking boxes) but I loved how our students were totally unfazed, they had no idea who he was! He was a knight of the realm but who was he to them? Children bring everyone back down to Earth, especially the ones from my school.
BBC School Report plants something inside of students, encourages their curiosity and boosts confidence. They drive their own reports and investigations, according to their own interests. However, keep the local press at bay if you can – one time my students investigated a controversial issue amongst teenagers, which the BBC encouraged and even sent reporters from their radio stations to our school to ask our students about it! What did the local press do? They willfully interpreted the investigations of our pioneering reporters to try and present us in a bad light – all in a pathetic effort to sell copies of their ailing rag. Not only was their journalism lazy and sensationalist, they did no investigating of their own! They should’ve been ashamed of themselves.
One group I had gained a huge amount of publicity for a charity in their reporting. So much so that they were invited to their annual conference to do the media coverage. What followed was a day out with trains, cameras and wax works – I have never had so much fun at school! It felt wrong to call it work. I was hysterical with laughter all day. My face hurt.
But it is a worthy cause too. BBC School Report is a gateway to other projects. Depending on what your kids want to report on, you make links with the community, promote your school and stand back while your students gain confidence and take over – it is their project and has to be run by their interests.
It is incredibly easy to join up, just three forms to fill in and there are lesson plans, power points and helpful video master classes that you can use – all available online.
So, like I said, I’m in my fifth year – the big day is next week, 10th March, and I already know it is going to be fantastic. My students have been interviewing and interrogating everyone in sight! Giving up their free time, growing in confidence, I can see them becoming different people – their teachers are already reporting a change in attitude in class. Already the people they have met (that they never normally would meet) and the things they have done, are extraordinary for them; the project is already a huge success and even after the main event it will continue because they want more, they want to engage with a wider world, it’s almost like they didn’t know it was there but BBC School Report taught them that it was.