Page last updated at 08:39 GMT, Thursday, 11 March 2010

Coventry pupils get election fever for School Report

Whitley Abbey School Report team
Whitley Abbey School Report team

Whitley Abbey Business and Enterprise College in Coventry host a BBC Question Time style panel debate with topics of interest to the pupils themselves.

The debate will be used as part of their School Report 2010.

BBC News School Report gives students in the UK the chance to make their own news.

School mentor Rachael Smith explains the journey that the pupils took in selecting their questions and how they felt on the day.


As mentor my task was to help assist Miss Nguyen in the planning and preparation for the main day, which was not as easy as it sounds.

Not only did we have to ensure that all attendees were equally represented to give each party a fair comment on the proposed questions but advice was needed for the pupils to understand the difference between an interview with one person and leading questions in a panel debate.

School Reporters on computers
School Reporters asked questions on topics they felt were important

Miss Nguyen took charge of the six step lesson plan laid out by School Report to allow new students to understand BBC values and interview techniques.

Following this, the students were given a masterclass in political interviewing using tips provided by local and international political journalists.

To research potential questions students were encouraged to conduct voxpops (voices of the people) where they could get an understanding of the issues and concerns of their peers and family.

Questions were then collected from each pupil, to which I provided feedback as mentor.

In this feedback I had encouraged the pupils to provide an example for each question they ask so that the questions were personal and therefore something that they would want an answer to.

During this feedback session with the pupils we noted continuing topics that emerged and the pupils then agreed which topics they wished to investigate further.


Panel during the debate
Chair Governor John Stephenson said he thought the debate was "first class"

Nine pupils took part on the day, each assigned in pairs, to lead a question which had been thought up by the pupils for each main topic, of which there were four.

They were anti-social behaviour and litter in the community, safety on the streets, technology in schools and school life, including issues surrounding smoking on school property and the price of fresh food.

Each topic was assigned a team of students to research facts surrounding their question to allow them opportunity to debate with the panel on the day.

The debate itself was lively and informative, guests included the Lord Mayor of Coventry, local members from each main party and the school governor. School Report team member Pavani said:

"I thought it went really well and everything was above expectations because I was expecting the politicians to be strict but they were outgoing and were really helpful."


Councillor Jack Harrison - Lord Mayor of Coventry

Councillor John Mutton - Labour Leader of Binley and Willenhall, Coventry

Councillor Kevin Foster - Conservative Deputy Leader in Coventry

Councillor Russell Field - Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Coventry

Colin Green - Director of Children, Learning and Young People in Coventry

John Stephenson- Chair Governor at Whitley Abbey School

Some topics resulted in more of a debate than others with a lot of agreement over health issues such as smoking in schools where each party held shared views.

Other topics such as how to tackle anti-social behaviour raised more of a debate.

Asked what advice they would give other students thinking of staging a similar panel debate, School Reporter Sasha said: "I was very interested in what the politicians had to say, especially about safety on the streets and my advice would be to not put yourself under too much pressure, it's not scary.

"Something could go wrong, but even if it does it's a good opportunity to be involved."

You can find out more details of the work Whitley Abbey have done on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire's website.

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