Southsea school’s cub reporters quiz News journalist Tom

Reporter Tom Cotterill with all the pupils at the Fernhurst Junior School.
Photography by Habibur Rahman PPP-170314-183829006
Reporter Tom Cotterill with all the pupils at the Fernhurst Junior School. Photography by Habibur Rahman PPP-170314-183829006
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MY JOB as a reporter has seen me interview hundreds – perhaps thousands – of people from all walks of life.

So, being on the other side of the fence, so to speak, was a pretty surreal experience.

But that is exactly what happened when I paid a visit to these plucky young pupils at Fernhurst Junior School, in Francis Avenue, Southsea.

For months, the pint-sized journalists have been running their own school newspaper, reporting on everything from school trips to nativities.

They’ve even put their teachers in the spotlight, grilling them on topics like their favourite food and worst fears.

Made up of an editorial team of 15 children, aged between seven and 11, the cub reporters meet every week after school to run through ideas and build their next edition.

Spearheading that work is the team’s editor, 10-year-old Samuel Bertenshaw.

He introduced me to his squad and gave me a tour of their newsroom – one of Fernhurst’s ICT suites.

‘It’s quite fun being in charge,’ he tells me as his reporters busy themselves on their next edition of the Fernhurst Future.

‘I’ve found out so much more about the school. It’s great to be able to let other children know what’s happening in other classes.’

As part of their latest edition, the children interviewed me on my role as The News’s defence correspondent.

There were some truly insightful questions about my time as a journalist.

There were also so more bizarre requests, with do reporters eat biscuits, what’s my favourite Pokémon, and do we print ‘fake news’, being some of the highlights (for the record, yes we eat biscuits, my favourite Pokémon is Pikachu, and certainly not!).

Aspiring reporter Honey Hillage, nine, produced the most probing question, asking what story had touched me the most.

Speaking to her after the Q&A, she told me why she joined the club.

‘I like writing stories and I like reading newspapers so I thought that I would give it a try,’ she said.

‘It’s been really exciting. Trying to finish my articles and find stories has been really hard though.’

As well as putting the paper together, Honey told me how they then sold it to their friends and parents.

Their first run, at 20p a paper, sold 80 copies.

The idea was the brainchild of learning support assistants Paula Day and Hayley Harris.

Mrs Day said the children had grown in confidence since the project began, last year.

She said: ‘I’m really, really proud of them because they have all gone for it.

‘This is about teaching them what goes in to making a paper; you can’t do it for free. They’ve learnt it’s pretty hard.’

The first group of pupil reporters was limited to one children per class.

Mrs Day added the demand had grown massively, saying there were dozens of youngsters on the waiting list to join.

Samuel added that he was keen to scoop interviews with the likes of Pompey stars and politicians for future editions of the school’s paper.