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BBC News School Report 2013–live from Action Stations

logoI have mentioned in previous posts how we have a good history at Priory School of successful School News Report days. And how this year we were aiming to be bigger and better. There were quite a few different activities going on for the live day on 21st March, including the Kidsmeet which I’ll write about separately.

I’ve led School Report for 5 years now and am always impressed with the support from the BBC. This year was even better in terms of input as we had a mentor Hannah Johns from HQ who came to share her experiences of journalism with the group in preparation, and we also had our local BBC reporter Dominic Blake who supported with pre-recording and radio.

School Report for us was again based at Action Stations at the Historic Dockyard, with the support of the Learning Manager Phil Wright. This space has the advantage of being off-site so less distraction or disturbance, its own independent press office, access to exhibits / personnel for interviews and research, a large conference room and quiet ‘green room’, and helpful staff for technical support. However, there are some challenges with access to internet/wifi, pupils needing escorting everywhere (it is an open public area and still a military space), and there also being another local school doing School Report there with 100 students spread out whereas we prefer smaller groups.

The very first time I led School Report I did it through curriculum time with a top year 8 class. Subsequently I led it as a voluntary extra-curricular club all taking place with after-school clubs. However this year that proved to be tricky, with so many students taking part in other clubs that it was nearly impossible to get all together at one time. I want the project to be open to all and not selective in terms of ability, but it would also be better to have use of curriculum time and make the impact wider scale. So next year I plan to have a lead-in time with all year 8 classes through a series of 2-3 lessons introducing them all to the project, then for the final live day let it be voluntary with up to 30 students taking part. I also intend to have more time preparing the technical side, with students learning more about live blogging / uploading and editing video, and producing green-screen broadcasts. This all proved to be more time consuming on the day this year than previously (although this was also due to wifi problems). I also intend to ensure more staff are trained in advance in the technical side.

So what did students report on?

All the articles and interview videos can be found on the school sitepriory blog www.prioryprojects.wordpress.com so have an explore. You can also see the twitter feed through @priorygeography and @priorysouthsea for the day. Students researched and reported on a variety of topics including the mobile@priory policy, kidsmeet, Ralph the Penguin, Les Miserables, HMS Warrior, the new Mary Rose Museum, the Priory QR code poetry orienteering project, etc,. Various interviews were conducted, and written articles produced. Unfortunately the final news bulletin summary was not filmed due to technical and time issues which was a disappointment, but there is still a wealth of work that went into the website.

Two exciting events did take place. Firstly, Radio Solent live interview with myself and Robbie (a year 9 student whose birthday it was and who was Photo 21-03-2013 08 35 18involved in kidsmeet as a digital leader). And secondly, two of our year 8 girls (Beth & Alex) were chosen to be the anchors for the professionally filmed BBC South Today school report special section. So they appeared on two news bulletins across the South and looked incredibly professional. They got to work with real live reporters and radio/tv crews which was very exciting for them and I was hugely proud of them.

So how did it go?

The point of the day is for students to be in the lead, teachers to encourage independencePhoto 21-03-2013 11 33 42 and let go of the reins a little. This can be hard to do if you are like me and a bit of a control freak with a certain end product in mind! The day goes incredibly quickly and you need to make sure you have a supportive team of staff around you, well organised students, clear roles and accountability, a schedule and clear protocols for all to follow. Below is a link to the schedule I shared with all staff taking part for us. I’d like to say we followed to the letter, but I suppose it wouldn’t be real journalism if we had. You do need some flexibility. For example, one student did some research and discovered she could get an interview with a creative director who had been involved with the filming of the new Les Miserables movie that day if we were quick. So we needed to fit that in. I was impressed that students worked so independently and with enthusiasm all day, under huge time pressures and in an unknown environment. I only had to ask one student once to get back on task. Other students suddenly got to 12pm and realised they hadn’t even eaten, they’d been so caught up in the moment that they’d worked through the allocated break time. (Don’t worry, we did feed them!)

I was meant to be in an overseeing capacity, the plan was to be quite free so that I could visit different areas and particularly get to see the events in the synchronous kidsmeet as well. Unfortunately I found I was needed to be more hands on than I’d planned. The moral of the story being that more time is needed in advance to train students, and other staff, particularly in a technical skills sense. I will make better use of the Practice Days in future.

Photo 21-03-2013 12 41 37For myself, I am a fairly harsh self-critic. Because the day didn’t run as smoothly as I’d anticipated, and because there were technical setbacks (such as internet access), I found it hard to see the bigger picture and to get my head above the parapet long enough to appreciate all the good that was going on. As a result, I’ll be honest and say that by 1pm I was thinking I’d rather be hiding in a corner somewhere else – and even that I’d rather be in a different job! I always used to say to my granddad that ‘if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well’ and it frustrated me that it seemed like all the hard work and preparation of everyone involved was going to be lost in chaos. I really appreciated it when David Rogers turned up for a quick visit, since he was able to drop in to the different areas and give me a heads up from an outside perspective that it was actually going ok. I couldn’t see it.

What went well?

– kids engaged, enthusiastic and happy

– a range of different stories researched and reported on

– real life skills learnt, real collaboration took place

– no behaviour issues and general public/Dockyard staff commented that students were the best behaved group they had seen

– support from our teaching staff was excellent ; English teachers Kim Bell & Hannah St Ledger could not have been more helpful, enthusiastic or supportive. Couldn’t have done it without them.

What needs fixing?

– I need to be leading more, and managing less. Less doing, more overseeing.

– Better technical training and advance preparation for students and staff

– Reliable fast internet access

– More staff on hand so more flexibility of movement

– Whole year-group input with curriculum time as lead in to project

How do I feel with hindsight?

I need to remember that at the end of the day a group of 12-14 year old children who hadn’t worked together before, and who were completely new to journalism, managed to independently research, analyse, report, edit and broadcast a range of stories from scratch. And that is some success. They were self-motivated in a challenging environment. I still have some disappointments, and I’m always going to want better, but all I saw at the end of the day was a bunch of smiling faces from the kids. They made no complaints all day. That’s got to mean something.

I’ll finish with the ‘cheer up’ quote that my boss tweeted:

“The sky isn’t the limit, it’s just a view’”

Coming soon…..BBC School Report guest blog by students

Tomorrow, 21st ImageMarch, sees the Live Day for BBC School Report. 

As mentioned in a previous post we run School Report every year but this year it has grown bigger and bigger.

We have a local schools’ kidsmeet taking place on HMS Warrior with 50 students and staff – looking into hacking the new curriculum and engaging learning through technology which is exciting. 

We also have QR code poetry orienteering being created to guide visitors around the Historic Dockyard, with our students investigating poetry and the different exhibits.

And this is all on top of the regular BBC School Report journalism where our team of intrepid reporters will investigate current events & produce their articles and video reports to be uploaded to www.prioryprojects.wordpress.com for sharing.

Excitingly, we have already had one telephone interview with our Head Girl for a BBC website article on technology that will go live tomorrow morning, and we are booked in for a radio interview live on BBC Solent at 0850 from the side of the HMS Warrior plus phone interviews throughout the day. We also know that BBC South Today are visiting us during the day and we hope to film a live bulletin for the 1pm news tomorrow. Fingers crossed for good weather!

So, at the end of tomorrow there will be a guest post on here by the students to sum up their day and the kidsmeet. Should make interesting reading. They will also be writing for http://www.daviderogers.org.uk . Students and staff will be live blogging and tweeting throughout the day for @priorygeography and @priorysouthsea so keep checking!


“I believe that good journalism can make our world a better place”

Christiane Amanpour


Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over…

Update to BBC report and what finally made me feel worthwhile this week:

As mentioned before, I lead Priory’s BBC News School Report. This year we are aiming for bigger and better in terms of the scale and hopefully wider scale influence of the project. We don’t like to only do projects for the sake of it, or to only have an impact on a handful of children. Sometimes it is easy to only target or include the same small groups of students, perhaps Gifted and Talented, or ‘the good ones’. On the other extreme I often see ‘the nice children’ feeling left out when they see exciting rewards being offered to those who are disengaged, so it seems as if poor behaviour is being rewarded. So with us, BBC report is advertised across board to all year 8 students. It is sold as a chance to get involved in something different and unique. We are part of a Rights Respecting School and so there is a spin on the idea of having a right to forming groups, to collaborate, to express opinions. In the end I expect to only work with about 15-30 willing committed students who have chosen freely, expressed interest and proven their responsibility to take part. But everyone gets the chance first.

This year the live day (broadcast day) for BBC school report is 21st March which coincides with World Poetry Day 2013. Interesting! So, because I felt that already running a project that involves coordinating kidsmeet Pompey (with approximately 60students from 6 local schools plus teachers and professionals), writing news broadcasts on the mobile policy, geocaching, Historic Dockyards, and more, simply wasn’t enough (!) I suddenly thought let’s include this theme!

The English Department @prioryengdept is also involved in the report this year so it seemed serendipity to include the literacy link. So the plan is this.

1) Have students back in school research the exhibits of the Historic Dockyard in advance in English lessons and practise the skills of research, analysis and synthesis of poetry.
2) At the Historic Dockyards, students on the live day will work with local poets to write poems for each exhibit – e.g. HMS Warrior, the Mary Rose, the Victory, Action Stations, etc., which can then be laminated and framed to display at each exhibit for the public.
3) Each poem to have a QR code tagged on that links to web pages on local poets, poetry styles, history of exhibits, etc,.
4) The poems and QR links will form in a sequence so that visitors actually get clues to follow a poetry orienteering activity that will guide them around the Historic Dockyard.

What do you think? I’m really excited! I love the fact that potentially we will involve more students this way, and leave a more permanent reminder of our work. Something that will have an impact on a wider audience and scream ‘We’re Priory School and we did this!’. Something cheerful and positive in the midst of slightly turbulent times maybe.

So, if you are / or know a local poet or are interested in this in any way then get involved! Or come to the dockyard after the event and see our work.

I will admit, the last few weeks have been really hard, with me questioning myself and my value a lot, and feeling as if I’m not good enough to be doing a job I consider so important. But in the midst of that, I now have this little hope that if we pull this off (and by we I mean the kids, as from now on it’s all down to them!) then it is the kind of thing that to me is spine tingling-ly exciting. And that’s why I do the job.


How did I spend my Saturday night?

BBC school reportAfter a heavy day of house clearing and cleaning that left me emotionally weary and physically exhausted and grimy I was expecting to have a quiet Saturday evening in with my siblings, some friends, a large glass of wine and a very welcome delivery of Dominos pizza. However, no sooner had the opening credits of the latest Sherlock Holmes movie started rolling than the twitter-sphere starting pinging and I had to force my brain back in gear.

My previous post was about the BBC News School Report and what we have been up to in the past. Well we are starting to gear up again for 2013 and have been considering what projects to include this year. One of our big ongoing whole school projects has been mobile@priory – the introduction of our (at times controversial) Mobile Device policy at Priory School. For more information on this see David Rogers’ blog for various posts, e.g. the Mobile Device cookbook  or Mobile Secret Classroom. Or if you are at BETT on Friday 1st Feb then pop along to the Learn Live session that David is leading with me as the ‘glamorous assistant’ – here BETT Learn live . I’ve written about the use of mobile devices in lessons and we are keen to include them and other tech when it is appropriate and will serve to facilitate learning. Anyway, I digress slightly.

We are lucky enough to be reporting live from Action Stations at the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth on the BBC news school report live day (21st March) and this is also the venue for TeachMeet Pompey on 6th March. If you are local and interested / involved in education then come along to #tmpompey – informal CPD, share ideas, eat cake – see the sign up page and come along! At the teachmeet, students from Priory School will be sharing their use of mobile devices in lessons and how it has helped empower their learning. Basically students become the teachers for the evening. Then we all get to play laserquest but that’s another story! This will be recorded for the BBC News School Report and be a chance for our students to showcase what they have been up to in front of a ‘grown up’ audience of professionals.

So yesterday evening we were discussing this event via twitter. @fubar2u_2000 is the Education Manager for Action Stations and as an ex-teacher himself understands some of the possibilities and challenges. What started as a simple discussion of this rapidly evolved (with some steering by @daviderogers ) into us deciding we would try something new. For 2013 we are going to attempt to hold what we think will be the first local ‘kidsmeet’Basically, we are inviting local schools to come to Action Stations on the live report day bringing a selection of students and a willing staff member to come and take part in activities based on co-construction and collaborating, to generate lessons / learning activities that will use mobile devices and ‘guerilla learning’. Students will work with teaching staff and other professionals to share their own ideas and experiences, and plan how to use mobile devices in a positive way to enable and empower learning.

Scary? Exciting? I think both. Logistically it will be interesting coordinating so many different parties on an MoD site and still maintaining the BBC School Report momentum. Our roving reporters will record and interview students and staff taking part, and it will all be shared via the final news bulletin (uploaded to school site), a live posterous blog, twitter feed @priorysouthsea and @priorygeography, and will hopefully be included in BBC Radio Solent  and South Today broadcasts.

It gave me a real buzz of excitement last night and lifted my spirits while the twitter feed kept churning through ideas and suggestions – a live stream evolution of unplanned planning! It will be interesting to see how ‘kidsmeet’ compares with ‘teachmeet’. And maybe it will become a regular thing!

Although logistically it may well be a nightmare, it is still hugely exciting. Never a dull day for @priorygeography ! I hope that the quote below would never be true of me or the department I love working in.

“I feel sorry for the person who can’t get genuinely excited about his work. Not only will he never be satisfied, but he will never achieve anything worthwhile.” (Walter Chrysler)

If you are local or want to be involved somehow with ‘kidsmeet’ then drop me an email or DM on twitter or use KidsMeet sign up page. Let’s be controversial en masse! Twitter feed

BBC News School Report

Priory School has a tradition of taking part in the annual BBC News School Report and

logo has had great success in the past including our children interviewing Huw Edwards live from the BBC South Today studio, quizzing Lord Sebastian Coe at the Copperbox of London2012, and creating and planting geocaches at Box Hill along the Olympic road cycle race route with our very own BBC South Today media team shadowing us for the 6pm news edition. The school report project involves taking our Year 8 students and giving them the skills, knowledge and enthusiasm to act as journalists and reporters to research, write, film, edit and upload their own news reports by the live day. Generally we have a trip somewhere for the lead feature, then on the live day itself the children work together to write topical and ‘breaking news’ features which are then moulded into a 5minute long news report video. This video is uploaded to the school site from where the BBC taps in live at the deadline, then choosing which schools are worthy of being aired on local or national news shows or on the BBC website. It is a very rewarding project. I have led it ever since my enthusiastic Head of Department (@daviderogers) ‘suggested’ I take it on as a project in my NQT year and have seen it evolve and morph each year. I thoroughly recommend all schools take part in this.

Don't all school trips have a private media crew?
Don’t all school trips have a private media crew?

I tend to run it as an after-school project for students to sign up to, approximately 15-30 kids. I have found smaller groups more effective. It is cross-curricular, not just Geography led – although obviously everything is essentially ‘geography’ 😉 . The focus is on skills & experience; developing literacy, enquiry, collaboration, timekeeping, media skills, working with professionals, etc,. Prior to the live day I run workshops to develop these skills and introduce the project, these may involve: tech sessions with our IT technicians or others (e.g. for recording and editing movie, blogging, editing webpages, etc,.), literacy work (drafting and editing quality articles), film practise, running through the BBC practise exercises (via www.bbc.co.uk/schoolreport) among other activities.

On the live day itself the students run everything. I am the facilitator. We have been fortunate in the past to be able to report live from Action Stations (@seeNavybeNavy) at the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth which is a great space, with Phil Wright (@fubar2u_2000) providing great support to make the day run smoothly. Logistics need thinking through carefully in advance in order to take a step back on the day. As someone who is a bit of a perfectionist it can be hard to take a back seat and allow others to be in control – but it is their day, their responsibility, a taste of real life and being professional. They have to work to tight deadlines, have to self-manage, work as a team, coordinate, prioritise. I could real off pretty much every aspect of SEAL / PLTS and it would be met through the project.

Working with professionals at Action Stations
Working with professionals at Action Stations

I would recommend creating a strict timeline for the day (see example here) with key times for getting the group together in order to reflect, evaluate, energise. Get your local press involved ; BBC and other local radio stations, contact the local tv, local newspapers, etc,. Even try the mayor! Make it big. The children feed off of the fact that this is a real event, that other ‘real adults’ who are not just teachers are interested, that their work is shown to the big wide world. We keep a twitter feed going and also live blog through posterous – all done by the students themselves. Student identity is protected by not revealing full names, and the videos / images are only available through protected youtube channel and the school website www.prioryprojects.wordpress.com.

Interviewing staff on board HMS Warrior about Dockyard changes
Interviewing staff on board HMS Warrior about Dockyard changes

We include any student who displays enthusiasm and can be responsible, it’s not for the elite or G&T or anything else. Any are welcome. I’d like to point out that in the 2012 geocache report one of our students reminded the South Today film crew how he had ‘media training’ – received courtesy of his inclusion in Super Nanny!

It can be hard work! And it can be stressful. But by 14:30 when the report is finally uploaded and you see the kids’ faces it is awesome. After all : “Learning should be a joy and full of excitement. It is life’s greatest adventure…” Taylor Caldwell

Have a look here on 21st March after 4pm to see all our hard work!

In the meantime – our projects that we are working on include:

kidsmeet Pompey : students from 5 schools across Portsmouth working together with teachers & professionals to plan activities that use mobile devices for learning

mobile@priory : how Priory students led the way constructing a groundbreaking mobile device policy

World Poetry Day 2013 : students create a poetry orienteering game around the Historic Dockyard. Poems created by our students and local poets will be displayed at exhibits around the dockyard with QR codes linking them to create a permanent record of our work.

@priorybench : the revamped school bench that has its own hashtag as it tours around

London 2012 : is there an Olympic legacy or is it a myth?

TeachMeet Pompey : what happens when kids take over and teach the teachers?

Olympic geocaching ; updating our 2012 geocaches

HMS Warrior & Mary Rose – the historic dockyard in Portsmouth

Below are some of the links for our past work – have a peek. And get involved!!

BBC South Today – Geocaching clip

Example School Report bulletin – disclaimer: this is an online upload version for the website so poorer quality!

Live at BBC South Today
Live at BBC South Today
BBC South Today studio Southampton