From Newspaper Day to BBC School Report – 25 years of school news reporting

Janet Downs's picture
Twenty-five years ago, our school had a Newspaper Day. Students with manual typewriters and two BBC B computers produced a paper in just a few hours.

We had no publishing software, no networked computers or word processing software. Errors had to be corrected by hand using erasers. The two BBC micros were used solely for headlines. The finished articles were cut-and-pasted onto A3 paper and photocopied. At 3pm the newspapers were ready to be sold.

One reporter had a scoop – she interviewed a part-time fireman who’d fought a serious fire the previous night. But she had to pull the story when he told us there was going to be an official investigation and nothing could be discussed beforehand.

We were all downhearted – and the front page needed to be rewritten. Until we remembered someone had died in the fire.

It was a sobering moment.

The papers weren’t perfect – they had more typos than the Guardian, notorious at the time for its typesetting errors.

Twenty-five years later and the BBC 2014 School Report took place last Thursday. No bashing away on typewriters, no wonky cut-and-paste - just slick, professional reporting. 30,000 school reporters took part in hundreds of secondary schools: academies, non-academies, free schools, selective, comprehensive, special, faith, non-faith, private and state from the UK and beyond.

The range of subjects was wide-ranging. Some discussed politics: Ross High School held a mock Scottish referendum while Corby Business College asked if 16 year-olds should have the vote and whether Corby residents of Scottish descent should vote in the Referendum.

Others investigated self esteem: Llandovery College discussed whether selfies boosted or undermined confidence. Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Plasmawr started a campaign to say “digon” (“enough” in Welsh) to homophobic language.

The effects of Alzheimer's featured: Okehampton College featured the school’s “memory café” which links young people with Alzheimer sufferers and Wellington School, Altrincham, investigated its causes.

The winter's bad weather prompted Robert Blake Science College, Somerset, to cover the emotional effect of being flooded. Lampton High School used humour to highlight the effect of illegal downloads on the film industry.

Historical events featured: Bryntirion Comprehensive School researched the hymn Calon Lân which is traditionally sung before Welsh union matches. Bangor Grammar school investigated their school’s archives to discover the school’s sacrifice in WW1

I’d have liked to list them all – the above is just a taster of the excellent reports available on the BBC School Report website.

From typewriters and cut-and-paste to professional presentations and well-edited reports – they couldn’t have been better.

POST SCRIPT. Yes, I know, I know. Michael Gove’s Wham-rap has had the most coverage (Mr B, The Gentleman Rhymer told the Metro "Performing Wham! Rap as your introduction to hip-hop is like performing Bachelor Boy by Cliff Richard to portray early Norwegian Black Metal." Was this the same Gove who invited a speaker to the Tory conference to lambast the use of rap in teaching Shakespeare?

CORRECTION 15.12 I originally said the newspapers were sold at 3am on Newspaper Day. I didn't mean to suggest the pupils worked through the night. The time has been corrected to 3pm. Thanks to Harry for letting me know.
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Harry's picture
Mon, 31/03/2014 - 13:50

A great appreciation of BBC School Report, Janet. But didn't selling your school newspaper at 3am go beyond reasonable expectations, even for a teacher?

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 31/03/2014 - 14:17

Thanks, Harry. I've corrected the time. I still haven't got over losing an hour's sleep on Sunday morning.

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