Page last updated at 01:29 GMT, Thursday, 26 March 2009

Salmond admits school choir fear

By Denise Glass
BBC Scotland news website

Pupils speak to First Minister Alex Salmond

First Minister Alex Salmond was a boy soprano - but he often hid his love of singing for fear of being teased.

The politician made his confession to Fife pupils taking part in BBC News School Report.

Hundreds of children across the UK are involved in School Report, which sees them produce online, radio and television stories about what is happening in their area and across the world.

A first year English class at Woodmill High in Dunfermline decided to make a video report about how being involved in after-school activities can boost education.

Two of the pupils, Claire and Owen, went to visit Mr Salmond at the Scottish Parliament, where he spoke of his "strange relationship" with singing.

"I used to sing in choirs and things and I took a wee bit of ribbing about it," he told them.

"But on the other hand I was quite good at it so it was a strange thing - on the one hand you kind of kept it quiet because some of my pals would have made a bit of a fool of me; on the other hand once you did it and everybody clapped and said that's terrific and you felt good about that."

The first minister's singing career came to an end when his voice broke.

Sandi Thom with the first minister
The first minister still enjoys an occasional sing along

"I used to be able to sing lots of octaves and I ended up being able to sing about four notes, so I wasn't good at it anymore," he told the pupils.

"But the one thing it left me with was being able to be in front of audiences.

"If you can sing in front of lots of folks then speaking in the Scottish Parliament was no bother at all."

English teacher June Bouaoun admitted that she initially got her pupils involved in School Report for "selfish" reasons - she had stated in a career development report that she was interested in finding out more about filming with classes and exploring reporting and interview techniques.

So the class signed up and started working through some of the exercises and advice sessions on the School Report website and quickly came up with ideas of stories they wanted to cover.

Liam, 12, investigated a campaign pupils are running to have their school toilets improved.

He said he learned about the importance of asking questions that require more than just a "yes" or "no" answer.

'Quite hard'

Calum, also 12, explored all the football activities going on in the school and found journalism was something that came fairly naturally to him.

"It's easier than it looks because it's not as nervy as I thought it would be," he said.

"It was quite a lot [of work] because we had to figure out quite a lot of questions and who would be talking first and things like that."

He also admitted that he found the filming quite embarrassing because everybody was watching.

Andrea, 12, chose to highlight the efforts of the school's eco-committee - a group of pupils who are encouraging others to be more environmentally friendly as the school works towards getting a Green Flag award.

She said making her report took a lot of work.

"It's quite hard because you have to do all the studying and you have to arrange the interviews as well," she said.

"Probably thinking up the questions for the interviews [was the hardest] because there are so many things you can ask in different ways, you've got to make sure that they're open-ended questions."

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