Class Act – inspiring the next generation of journalists

Pupils working on their news articles with education reporter, Neil Fatkin.
Pupils working on their news articles with education reporter, Neil Fatkin.
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‘WHY do we have to do this?’ – one of the most common questions which reverberates around classrooms up and down the country.

As adults we wouldn’t just plough on with a task simply because directed to do so - there would need to be an underlying reason as to the underlying purpose and benefits. It should therefore come as no surprise that for children to be fully committed and motivated there often needs to be a tangible reward which goes beyond the distant benefits of exam success.

English teacher, Rebecca Thomas-Snell.

English teacher, Rebecca Thomas-Snell.

During my time in the teaching profession it was for this reason I would often steer clear of textbook activities and look to provide pupils with tangible tasks they could associate with real life – including the production of news articles.

While the maximum exposure I could offer was a place on the display wall, thanks to an initiative here at The News, hundreds of children across the region have seen their news articles read by thousands of people which make up our readership.  

Since being launched in October 2018, Class Act, which is in the paper every Tuesday, has seen the publication of pupil’s articles on a range of stories including stolen bikes, visiting parliament and even the burning of a giant penis onto a playing field.

A key focus is to provide children with an opportunity to voice their opinions on issues which are pertinent to them. As a former teacher I witnessed first-hand the decision making process which often neglected the input of those most affected – the pupils themselves. The scheme has seen children provide a playground perspective of their opinions and concerns on a wide range of issues from cyber-bullying, gender equality and body image to the behaviour of parents watching children’s football and the use of mobile phones.

As well as the thrill of seeing their work published in print the initiative has also inspired the possibility of journalism as a potential career with a number of pupils having taken up work experience placements at The News headquarters as a result of their involvement. 

Class Act epitomises our role at the heart of the community and with over 20 primary and secondary schools already involved we are looking to open up the initiative to more of the region’s children. If you would like your school to be involved then contact education reporter, Neil Fatkin, at Neil.fatkin@jpimedia.co.uk

WHAT THE SCHOOLS THOUGHT

Rebecca Thomas-Snell – Head of English at Portsmouth Grammar School

The opportunity to have a range of articles published in The News offered our year 7 pupils a twofold level of joy: it gave them a forum to talk about things that really matter to them and it showed that their voices were seen as worth listening to by people beyond the School gates; this is something which we, as a School, will be forever grateful for. Neil was absolutely super when he came into PGS and the pupils relished having a real, live journalist who they could interrogate! He helped our pupils to realise their ideas and craft their thinking into plans for articles that would be read across the city.

Sarah Grownow – Head of English at Crofton School

We are so excited to welcome Neil back into our School this coming year and for him to work with an even wider range of our pupils.

We know that students don't always like writing, but they do have valid, insightful ideas about the lives of young people in the area and over the country, but very limited forums to present these in. The training Neil did with our students inspired them to write about things that matter to them; from eating disorders, to arts in the curriculum, to the dangers of energy drinks, they enjoyed presenting their points of view and seeing their ideas and names in print. We can’t wait to do it all again this year. Thank you The News!

Stuart Oliver, Head Boy at The Cowplain School

Neil gave a clear and concise introduction to journalism and we felt that, with his instructions, we were able to confidently write an article for The News.  We felt extremely proud when we saw our articles in the newspaper in the months that followed. Our self-assurance was reinforced when we were invited to write another article each as it showed us our articles were of a high quality and enjoyed by the readers. Hopefully Neil will return to train the next wave of student journalists.