In just three days, Portsmouth’s Guildhall will throw open its doors to youngsters who have not even made their GCSE choices yet.
Businesses and organisations will be showcasing the wide range of careers that the city has to offer.
They’re not just careers for the academic high-fliers – these are careers available to everyone, no matter how well they do in school.
Youngsters aged between 10 and 13 are being invited to come along, but the organisers believe their parents should also know what opportunities are out there for their children.
The News is putting its weight firmly behind the event, because inspiring the next generation is something the paper has been doing for more than two decades.
Each year at The News around 2,000 schoolchildren and adults pass through a special classroom where they learn how to write stories and put together a newspaper.
It’s the ultimate in community involvement and the scheme is called Newspapers in Education.
Led by retired deputy head teacher Jeff Legg with the support of assistant Heather White, it offers young and old the chance to see into the heart of the newspaper industry.
Visits always include a tour around the News Centre, taking in editorial, advertising, pre-press and the print plant, where The News and national papers come off the presses.
The department also takes on work experience students.
The classroom, next door to the newsroom at the News Centre in Hilsea, is equipped with computers and printers.
The walls are covered in front pages designed by some of the groups who have passed through the doors.
Around 10 per cent of visitors to NiE have either been excluded from school or have special needs.
Heather says: ‘We get students who can’t work or won’t work according to school regulations and it’s amazing what we can get out of them here in a day.
‘A lot of it is about self-esteem and you can see they find it satisfying to complete a project in a short time.’
Recently a young girl with Down’s Syndrome arrived. Within a short period of time she had come out of her shell and was designing a front page and chattering away to Jeff and Heather.
Truculent and aggressive pupils often settle down and achieve things they have never done before – or expected to do.
Many leave with a smile and a cheery word.
‘We will take anyone,’ says Jeff, ‘provided that they are properly chaperoned.’
Jeff has been in charge of the classroom for 10 years and also visits schools and gives talks to community groups about Newspapers in Education and the history of The News.
Heather joined seven years ago and has a teaching background in special needs.
The NiE room can take a maximum of 34 children and everyone gets a template front page which they can fill with their stories and pictures.
Heather explains: ‘Children might read the news on the internet, but they probably won’t read a paper.
‘Coming here they get to see the amount of work that goes into producing the paper every day, and they’re astonished.
‘We get quite a few in the classroom who say they have decided to be a reporter.
‘Actually, one of the lads that came with his class now does days of work experience with the sports reporters and the editor of one of our sister papers also came here.’
Recent visitors included a class of high achiever language students from St John’s College, Southsea, who put together their front pages in Spanish.
Head Spanish teacher Zoe Skinner says: ‘I’m amazed at the facilities and the way it challenges children to do something independently that’s exciting.
‘They are using a foreign language on their own, writing, translating and designing.
‘They’re interested, excited and engaged. It’s wonderful.’
Guy Walker, the college’s head of modern foreign languages, adds: ‘It’s a great opportunity and gives an insight into what it’s like to be journalists.
‘We’re already talking about when we can come again.’
One of Heather’s favourite parts is taking groups on the tour of the News Centre.
She says: ‘It’s a big part of their day and I love it.
‘The most I have done is four tours in a day. I’m a bit of an anorak, I’m afraid, and I particularly love the press.
‘The other departments are genuinely welcoming and that makes the job easier.’
Jeff says: ‘We both enjoy our work very much. We take people as we find them and try to treat them as adults.’
He adds: ‘I think this programme has a huge value in the community. A lot of our bookings come from word-of-mouth, but I think we’re still a bit of a well-kept secret and our challenge is to create a greater profile for ourselves.’
SPEND A DAY AT THE NEWS
Anyone can arrange to spend the day with Jeff and Heather in the Newspapers in Education classroom.
It can be a class from a school, a local group or organisation, and there is no upper limit on the age of those who can come in and have a look.
Whilst at The News, groups will have the chance to find the news for their own front pages and design them and they will get an introduction about how The News is put together every day.
They will also go on a tour, which includes the newsroom, where the next day’s paper is being written, and the press room, where the finished product is printed on giant rolls of paper.
To organise your own group visit, contact Jeff Legg or Heather White on (023) 9262 2158.
Staff from The News will be going along to the Opportunities Fair on Sunday.
They will be on hand to talk about growing up in the city and carving out a newspaper career here, plus what courses need to be taken in order to get into the industry.
The event is taking place in Portsmouth Guildhall and is free to attend. Though it will be held from 10am to 3pm, it won’t take all day to meet all the businesses going - even an hour spent looking at what the city has to offer could make all the difference.