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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 March 2007, 15:27 GMT
Creating the headlines in Lambeth
Pupils at Charles Edward Brookes School in Lambeth making a news story
Pupils used sound recording equipment to interview classmates
Armed with microphones, cameras and the trusty pen, about 160 girls at Charles Edward Brooke School in south London took part in School Report.

Year Eight pupils at the Lambeth secondary worked as reporters, producers, runners and editors for a day.

They set their own news agenda and decided what was worth covering.

Assistant head teacher Linda Mann was keen that the experience should open their eyes to the wider world.

"They know all the local news, but we want to widen their horizons," she said.

"We want them to be active, critical citizens and they can't be unless they know what's going on elsewhere."

Choosing stories

Six different classes took part and in each, the editorial process was hectic - just like the real thing.

The day began by reading the newspapers to find out what else was going on other than the Budget.

In class 8C, lots of hands grabbed for the Sun and the local paper, the South London Press, but with a bit of prompting from English teacher Jennifer Watson, some scoured the broadsheets and the BBC website too.

The girls then had to decide what they thought was most interesting - and the choices were often surprising.

You want to read more, why did that happen? It's interesting
Toyosi, 12

All of them picked topics they could relate to, that affected them, but not always in the most obvious way.

For example, 13-year-old Sheridan was keen to write something on the Phoenix Book Awards, a project she had been researching and that had been running at the school for some time.

But another group picked a story that at first glance seemed very far removed from life in Lambeth.

It was the tale of a teacher in Nigeria who was apparently killed by her pupils because they believed she had desecrated the Koran.

Wider world

The girls explained their choice.

"It's about tensions, isn't it? Christian and Muslim," 13-year-old Nafeesah said. "But I'm a Muslim and I never heard of something like that."

Toyosi, 12, said: "When you see that - 'killed over Koran' - you want to read more, why did that happen? It's interesting."

Themes around identity came up again and again. Some groups chose the debate about wearing the Muslim veil in schools, while others followed on from the recent attention on slavery to ask whether more black history should be taught in schools.

Miss Watson said: "They are interested in things that seem to be to do with their own lives. But getting them to read about the wider world, what they see as adult issues, is more difficult and a lot of them say they find it boring.

"That's why I think today is a fantastic opportunity to make it exciting."

Another group decided to focus on the government's suggestion to raise the school leaving age to 18.

Pupils at Charles Edward Brookes School using sound editing software
Girls were shown how to edit their interviews on a computer

Tania, 13, said: "We are students and we want to start knowing what is happening in education."

She and classmates Farzana and Taslima needed to make their story come alive, which is where BBC radio producer Helen Towner came in.

Helen suggested they carry out vox pops - short interviews - with fellow pupils and teachers to see what they thought about studying longer.

They must, she told them, get views from a range of ages, so another pupil, Anna, said helpfully: "We've got to ask the question in child-friendly language so the younger ones will understand."

Anna was one of the roving reporters. She had been trained to use sound equipment so was able to record the vox pops for the others as they moved round the school.

Interview skills

As well as working with sound, the pupils learned how to use video - and to practise this skill they got to quiz a real-life celebrity.

Their famous subject was Levi Roots, star of Dragons' Den and creator of Reggae Reggae Sauce.

There's been a lot of trouble in south London in the last few months and it's really good to see they can think outside that and choose news items that are beyond that
Linda Mann
Assistant head teacher

In turn, each girl appeared on camera with a microphone to ask her question. Some were more nervous than others, but all chose insightful questions about Levi's childhood, inspirations and dreams.

Meanwhile, Taslima, Farzana, Tania and Anna returned with a wealth of recorded material, and with help from sound editor Max they were able to pick out the best bits using special computer software.

Taslima said: "Some people were good and some didn't know what to say. You have to try to get them to say why they think something and sometimes they don't know."

Mrs Mann hoped the day would give the girls something positive at a difficult time.

"There's been a lot of trouble in south London in the last few months and it's really good to see they can think outside that and choose news items that are beyond that," she said.

"We want people to see the good side of life in south London and I would like to see them thinking of themselves and their area in a positive way."


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