Sitting in the radio theatre at BBC Broadcasting House in London watching Angelina Jolie deliver a speech to the world, isn’t my normal start to the working week.
In her role as UNHCR Special Envoy, she broadcast live across the BBC network this week highlighting the plight of millions of refugees and global migration.
I was sat with another teacher and six pupils from Excelsior Academy taking in the fact that we were watching one of Hollywood’s biggest stars just a few feet away, talking to the world.
We were in the capital at the invitation of BBC producers who had worked with us on the BBC School Report project.
The project gives students aged 11-16 at Excelsior Academy and schools across the UK the chance to make their own news reports for a real audience.
My Year 7 English class was lucky enough to be able to work with BBC Radio Newcastle broadcast journalist Emma Wass, who kindly helped them develop their journalistic skills, become reporters and produce their own stories.
I didn’t choose the subject matter of diversity – the pupils did.
It was their news and what matters to them. Our tagline for this work was ‘About our school. By our school’ – which we all really liked.
It was stories that mattered to the pupils with being such a multi-cultural, multi-lingual school, being so diverse, and my Year 7 English class of 24 pupils reflects that.
They are all really interested in the different languages that each one speaks.
Konrad, one of the pupils we interviewed for our BBC School Report, is from Hungary, and the pupils were fascinated when he spoke in his own language.
Emma came in to do a little mentor session with us, picked up on that story and helped us develop it.
We wanted to introduce our Syrian children into the story but not on their own, but to make it about the full diversity we have in Excelsior and represent that in the best way we could.
Emma did a really good job for us. Our report was carried on the radio and is linked to on the BBC School Report website. http://www.bbc.co.uk/schoolreport
The pupils came across in our report really well.
We interviewed children from Syria, Hungary and the Czech Republic, which is just a small portion of the languages and cultures within Excelsior Academy.
The children are more confident about speaking publicly as a result – it’s quite a daunting ask to know that your words are going to be broadcast across the city that you live in.
The experiences they have gained from the BBC project have been incredible.
I’ve noticed their writing in class, the way they construct their work has improved.
The BBC was something that they were not too aware of.
They are only 11 and 12-years-old, they were aware of Newsround and CBBC but the main BBC is something they had yet to connect with.
But getting to be part of that, to find out more and work with them was absolutely incredible.
We were contacted by a producer involved in BBC School Report who was very interested in the story that we put out, as were other BBC producers and executives.
They contacted us to personally invite us down to London for the ‘World on the Move’ conference due to our report on diversity and the cultural make up of our school.
We were the furthest school north and the one with the youngest pupils that they invited to BBC Broadcasting House.
We picked two pupils involved in our report, a pupil who was interviewed in it and the other three pupils were involved in another piece we did for School Report where we visited a Newcastle cat and dog shelter.
When we first told them that they were going on a trip to London, to the BBC, that was excitement enough alone.
Then we dropped in about Angelina Jolie at the end and they were all in awe!
They were all surprised at how small and intimate the radio theatre was when we got there, not many people were in there and they felt quite privileged and important.
They were treated like VIPs all day, escorted and led in before members of the public. We also watched a live radio drama specially written for the day about ‘World on the Move’.
Angelina Jolie watched that with us – she sneaked in at the back just before it started.
We were also privileged to meet Mishal Husain and got to ask her two questions.
The pupils were quite taken aback at the sheer size of the news operation at the BBC, the scale of it, the banks of computer screens and how many people it takes to make the news – they had never seen anything like the gallery before.
It makes me want to do more with BBC School Report. The opportunities we have had this year have been fantastic.
The pupils have really taken ownership of this project, being in charge of their news and what matters to them.
People have sat up and taken notice of what they have to say. There is nobody better to talk about this school than them.
Natalie Bryce, Excelsior Academy English Teacher.