It's not every day that young people from schools and colleges get an audience with the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and Paddy Ashdown. And it's not every day that the same young people produce a newspaper featuring interviews with those luminaries.
This week has seen the publication of a one-off edition of YES, or the Young Evening Standard, a newspaper produced by 120 secondary pupils and college students, most of whom are on the GNVQ Media: Communication and Production course that is being piloted this year. This hands-on project allowing students to gain experience of putting together a newspaper, is intended to be a template for other similar schemes.
The project has been co-ordinated by Arts Inform, an agency set up by the London Arts Board to foster collaborations between arts professionals and schools.
Project manager Sam Bakhurst, GNVQ co-ordinator at Quintin Kynaston school in Westminster, has overseen the mammoth partnership between the consortium of 12 schools and colleges in London which are piloting the media studies GNVQ, the Evening Standard, and WH Smith, which is distributing the 30,000 copies, selling at 20p a copy, throughout the capital.
For participating GNVQ and A-level teachers, the Teacher Placement Service has organised teachers' placements in the print and broadcasting media as an adjunct to the project through local Education Business Partnerships.
Students from each school and college elected an editor and advertising manager from their ranks who went to the Evening Standard for editorial meetings with journalists, including one-off sessions with the news manager and managing director Anthony Hilton.
Those meetings helped to thrash out the shape and content of the 24-page newspaper. The consensus was to go for a tabloid containing mainly interviews and features. With the Standard's connections, getting hold of John Major, Tony Blair and Paddy Ashdown was not quite the same as trying to interview them for your average school paper.
Editor Lea Moremont, who is on the advanced media production and communications course at City of Westminster College (and who won her position on the basis of competitive interviews) says "It's been a lot more work than I'd anticipated. It's given me a good insight into what it's like to produce a paper profesionally."
Each school and college was allocated a specific section of the paper to produce. Westminster College covered the sports section, which involved young reporters going down to Devon to research the surfing scene, and interviewing Terry Venables. Other students in charge of the travel section had a day trip to Rome.
Sam Bakhurst was impressed with the high standards of the young journalists. "The vast majority of students have been extremely sophisticated in their journalistic approach, displaying a healthy cynicism, for instance, in their appraisals of the politicians."
The next stage of the project is a teachers' pack being developed to enable schools and colleges to replicate the project with local and regional newspapers and magazines. The best advert for it can be found at your nearest London newsagent.