How older students can help School Reporters

School Report is a secondary school project that showcases the news created by 11 to 16 year olds.

However, schools can still involve older students from the sixth form, or from older year groups than the students taking part in the project, in mentor roles.

Being a mentor can be a valuable experience for older students, as well as for the School Reporters themselves.

Here are some tips for involving older students:

  • give older students some briefing and context about the project beforehand, especially if they haven't previously been School Reporters
  • explain to mentors that it's not just about offering expert journalistic advice - just talking through problems can often be a huge help to the younger students
  • try to make the most of any specialist knowledge your older students have, such as editing or writing skills
  • talk about the values and skills you want to try to encourage in the younger pupils and those the mentors will help develop in themselves, such as listening, speaking in front of others and giving feedback
  • make sure the younger pupils know the mentors are there to help them, but not do everything for them!
  • if your students are mentoring a group of younger students, try to make mentors encourage everyone to get involved
  • encourage mentors to put their mentoring role on their CV or personal statement for university applications.

Below is an example of how teachers and students at St Joseph's Catholic High School in Slough used sixth formers as mentors. You can use older students in whichever way works best for your school.

In 2012, 16 sixth form students at St Joseph's Catholic High School in Sloughworked as mentors to 30 younger pupils taking part in School Report.

Sixteen sixth formers were given an introduction to mentoring by teacher Melanie Ive.

They were then given an insight into the fundamentals of journalism in a one-hour session which summarised School Report's lesson plans.

One hour was a tight timescale, but the older students were enthusiastic and took advantage of the opportunity to learn new skills and ask lots of relevant questions.

The sixth formers, all aged 16 to 18, are studying for their Arts Award and are all "Young Arts Leaders" in the school.

Acting as School Report mentors and particpating in volunteering forms part of their work towards both their bronze and silver awards, with the overall gold award able to contibute UCAS points for those wishing to go to university.

Image caption School Reporters from St Joseph's Catholic High School in Slough work with sixth-form students

For most of the mentors, this was their first time being involved in School Report but they quickly picked up on how they could help younger students with memorable mottos such as the three C's in writing news (being Clear, Concise and Correct) and the Five W's (Who, What, Why, Where and When?).

After getting to grips with some of the key concepts, the mentors then started to work in small groups with the 30 younger students, all aged from 11 to 15, who participated in School Report in 2012.

In groups of four or five students, the students created a bulletin consisting of three news stories, one sport story and a weather update.

The bulletins were filmed and presented on the stage in the hall, with the younger students reporting their stories with flair and confidence.

'Never alone'

"The best thing about having a mentor is feeling like you're never alone or getting stuck on one thing and that they're always there to help you and guide you," said Oscar.

Abi added: "It's so much better than just working with a normal group of people your age. When you're working with a mentor, they can help you with questions and it makes everything that little bit easier.

"We got stuck on what to write and what to put on top of our bulletin, and the mentors helped us to improve our work."

For the mentors, the day was also a success, giving them a great chance to try to build their own skills as well as helping the younger students.

"It's nice because I can build up on my own skills, like listening in a group," said Shafaq.

"When I mentor somebody I have to take their feedback and it helps improve my listening skills and my speaking and understanding.

"I felt really proud of them when they were up on the stage because of the hard work they put in while we were preparing their report. I was really happy."

Seamus noted the importance of setting the right example to the younger pupils.

"You have to be motivated because if you're sitting back, not really paying attention, the chances are they'll get bored and lose interest and not do their tasks."