Olympic 2012: Torch relay lesson - using stats in stories

School Reporters hold Olympic Torch Image copyright School Report
Image caption School Reporters have had a chance to hold the Olympic Torch

School Report has joined forces with SportAtSchool, a project that gives schools access to real data in the classroom, to create a lesson plan inspired by the Olympic torch relay.

Statistics are fun and colourful and can be used in a variety of ways to produce some fascinating and engaging news stories.

As the Olympic flame gets set for a 70-day trip around the UK, lots of stats are available, so it's a great time to help students learn to obtain, interpret and report these figures, and to understand how to turn surveys and numbers into stories.

1. Survey: Getting to the Point in 2012 20 mins Internet access
2. Introducing your data 10 mins None
3. Research - Finding the story 20 mins Internet access
4. Creating a 'top line' 10 mins Internet access; writing materials
5. Writing a script 20 mins Internet access or printable worksheet/answer sheet
6. Graphs and graphics 20 mins Spreadsheet software in Excel or similar


Has your school already taken part in Getting to the Point in 2012? If so, you simply need to download your data from the SportAtSchool website and follow the simple steps.

The SportatSchool website asks 'Where will you view the Olympic torch relay?'

If you are yet to take part, this guide has everything you need to get started.


Children can have fun using the Getting to the Point online mapping tool to plan their journey to see the Olympic torch relay.

This tool displays and captures the "as the crow flies" direct distance, road distance and time by car, for the journey from your pupils' homes to the village, town or city they would like to travel to, to see the Olympic torch relay.

Once your class has completed this and submitted, you can instantly download your class's data.

Where will you view the torch relay? Pupil Worksheet and Teachers' Notes.

The data you receive will be in a spreadsheet. You can also request the summary sheet, see above.

Image copyright School report
Image caption The data you receive will be in a spreadsheet

Show students the summary sheet of the results from Getting to the Point in 2012 and explain what each column means (see extract below in graphs and graphics):

  • The first column contains the question.
  • The second column shows the answer options.
  • The third column gives the percentages of each answer for your school.
  • The fourth column gives the percentages of each answer for all the schools who took part in Getting to the Point in 2012.
  • A fifthcolumn (not pictured) shows the counts for each answer for your school.
  • On a separate sheet you will find a scatter diagram with the equation of the line of best fit plotted.


1. Surveys and questions

Journalism is about finding out and reporting the truth. One way to do that is to ask questions.

A survey enables journalists to ask a lot of people the same questions. Often, a collection of answers is a more accurate representation of how a group of people think, feel or act, than a handful of individual interviews. But the questions must be well designed to collect accurate data.

As with face-to-face interviews, a journalist's job is to select the most interesting answers.


Who completed the Getting to the Point in 2012 online mapping tool?

How many students do you think completed the online mapping tool at your school?

When you made your last news report, how many people did you interview?

2. What makes a number interesting?

Question: Which statement makes more sense? Which statement makes a better news story?

  1. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Locog) said the Olympic flame would come within a one-hour journey of 95% of people in the UK. (Source: BBC News)
  2. The Olympic flame will come within 10 miles of 95% of people in the UK, Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey. (Source: Locog)

Explanation: The first statement is quite vague - a one-hour journey by what mode of transport? - whereas the second is of interest to a much wider audience as it is easier to understand a 10-mile distance and how long that may take to travel.

Students will look at the difference between the data for their school, and the data for schools who completed the Getting to the Point in 2012 online mapping tool.

They will then identify anything unusual about their school which might lead to a news story.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Olympic Torch will be carried around the UK

3. Identifying anomalies

Already there are some interesting results.

Looking at the summary sheet above this particular class has a high percentage of children going to see the Torch Relay and many of them are walking.

Question: Are many children going to see the Torch Relay from your school and who are they going with?

For a school in Southend-on-Sea children, on average, travel 10% further by road than by crow flight for the journeys from their homes to view the Olympic torch relay.

Yet for children who attend a school in Tyne and Wear the journey from their homes to view the Olympic torch relay is, on average, 45% longer.

Question: Work out, on average, how much further they have to travel by road than by crow flight for their journey to see the Olympic torch.

Why is it further to travel by road than by crow flight in Tyne and Wear than it is in Southend (or in your area)?

Choose the SINGLE area of data of most interest - this will form the basis of your news story.

4. Reporting figures accurately

One of the key BBC News values is "truth and accuracy". You might like to remind yourselves of the other values in our 'What is News?' lesson plan.

This exercise sheet provides a number of statistic-led statements that students will need to judge for accuracy:

Exercise: Reporting Figures Accurately [62.8 KB]

Get their feedback, then work through the answers on the sheet to ensure students understand the importance of reporting figures accurately.

Creating a 'top line'

Question: Create a top line for a story about this data - a sentence which expresses the most interesting findings in a succinct and accurate way.

In other words, it needs to be clear, concise and correct.

Students feedback their top lines. They also share their gut feelings about why their findings may be of interest.

As a group, decide which top lines to turn into news stories.

Question:For each top line, which is the most pressing question to ask? Can the students offer any explanations for the data they selected as interesting? Any hunches? Who could they ask to find out the answers?

Graphs and graphics

Adding a chart or graphic to the report can be a useful illustration of the data. Students can experiment fairly easily to find effective ways of highlighting anomalies.

Image copyright Other
Image caption Data will be provided on a spreadsheet

Here, the highlighted spreadsheet data contains figures about the Olympic and Paralympic values. The anomaly is not immediately apparent (the resulting chart follows further below)

And here's what the above selection looks like in a simple bar chart form. Now, the data across the whole year can be quickly absorbed, and any anomaly stands out (visual here uses Microsoft Excel's '2D column view bar chart')

Image copyright School Report
Image caption Data can look clearer when displayed as a graph

Writing your report

After a discussion, students can begin to structure their thoughts using this worksheet, which helps them plan a news story in the form of a script.

Document: Planning a survey-driven news report [66.1 KB]

Tip: Students might find it easier to write the introduction at the end.

Once completed, students can decide whether to use the script as a plan for a video report, written report, or audio report.

Good luck and don't forget to include your graphics!

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