LAST-MINUTE nerves could not get the better of young rookie reporters in Barnham as they took over the airwaves of one of the nation’s biggest news corporations on Thursday, writes chief reporter Tom Cotterill.
Dozens of pupils from St Philip Howard Catholic Primary School ditched their school books for note pads and dictaphones to become journalists for the day as part of the nationwide BBC School Report. And to assist with the event, I stopped by my old secondary school, in Elm Grove South, to lend a hand.
Students from years eight and nine were tasked with scouring the local and national papers for potential news stories to form part of a 15-minute radio bulletin, which was uploaded to the BBC’s website.
There was certainly a buzz in the air as the children zipped around the school’s library-turned-newsroom organising their scripts.
The youngsters were all split into specialists teams from editors and sub-editors, who ran the show and organised the team, to researchers, technical experts, presenters, photographers and meteorologists.
It was a demanding task for editors Betty Perceval, 14, and Lottie Myers, 12.
“I’m really excited because I’ve always wanted to do something in the media,” said Betty at the start of the day. “I’m quite bossy and I like being in charge, but I think it is going to be a big challenge to keep everything running smoothly.”
The youngsters used their news noses to identify hot topics nationally, from the maiden voyage of a solar-powered plane, to a royal visit in the USA, as well as all the latest national sporting news and weather reports.
The children also plucked local stories too, with the future of Littlehampton’s swimming and sports centre proving the day’s hot topic.
Year-eight student Rafael Yeoman travelled out to Barnham railway station to interview commuters and gauge their views on how they would feel if the current swimming centre was to close – with rather mixed results.
“It was quite scary,” admitted the 12-year-old. “I was asking people coming off the trains and a lot of them didn’t know where Littlehampton was.”
Among the other news stories was an exclusive interview with Sir Christopher Hum, the former ambassador to the People’s Republic of China from 2002 to 2005, secured by the students when he visited the school earlier in the year.
“The students have all been working so hard to get everything done,” said English teacher Andrea Brogan, who has been overseeing the annual event in Barnham since it began, five years ago. “But it’s going to get extremely stressful when they start having to put together their running order for the broadcast.”
As the time dwindled towards deadline, there was a sudden rush to finish scripts and edit sound bites in time for the show’s 2pm deadline.
Thankfully, the seven presenters, Kate Brewer, Paige Leggatt, Tansy Hobson, Rafael, Rhea Flinn, Eloise Mcquillan-Graham and Adesola Kanmi-Jones, did a sterling job.
Relieved sports presenter Kate, 12, of Littlehampton, said: “It was just chaos. At one point we didn’t have the audio from one of the interviews.
“We were all a bit nervous during the broadcast but once we got into it it was really fun.”
The next day Betty had the chance to broadcast alongside me on BBC Sussex’s drive-time radio show, with presenter Sarah Gorrell.
Speaking of the BBC School Report, Sarah said: “I love seeing what our young school reporters come up with. I’m so impressed with the incredible talent, wonderful enthusiasm and great story ideas.”
She added: “It’s a privilege to be in broadcasting. Gaining an insight into people’s lives, sharing their stories and giving a voice to local communities is something I’ll never tire of.
“It’s lovely to see the next generation of journalists, broadcasters and reporters embracing that enthusiasm and showing those of us in the job at the moment that we’d better watch out for some tough competition in the future!”
Some 30,000 children took part in the project, nationwide.