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Pupils' early morning show

Students are producing their own breakfast radio programmes and TV documentaries. Michael Shaw reports

Producing breakfast radio programmes and Trisha-style talk shows is relatively straightforward for pupils at Park community school.

But then the school has its own broadcast-quality television and radio studio with a full-time BBC producer.

The media centre has been set up as a joint project between the school and the BBC to give a voice to residents on the Leigh Park estate in Havant, Hampshire.

Pupils have begun training with professional TV and radio equipment and will shortly begin making a half-hour breakfast radio programme, containing a mix of local news and students' views on world events, which will be played around the school each morning. BBC Radio Solent intends to broadcast some of the pupils' news items, while BBC South hopes to use clips from some of their short TV programmes.

Veteran producer Zoe Millett said she had been impressed by the students' ideas, which have ranged from fly-on-the-wall documentaries to a Trisha-style topical talk show which students will produce in the studio.

The producer is also working with 13 other schools and with local adults, as only 40 per cent of people on the Leigh Park estate have any form of qualification.

At Trosnant junior school she has been helping children make a series of videos about gruesome episodes in Tudor history. The latest video involved tying a pupil to a stake while others threw around dust and red and yellow streamers to represent flames.

"It's amazing how difficult it is to film someone being burned at the stake in a music practice room," said Mrs Millett.

Money for the pound;250,000 media centre has come from Park community school's own capital fund and from pound;150,000 it received for gaining specialist arts status. Further funding for extra staff has come from the European social fund.

The BBC has helped the school get discounts on the equipment and funded the posts of Mrs Millett and another BBC producer who will work at the school until September.

In the summer, BBC South will provide short work placements for three teachers so they can carry on the project themselves.

Sean Atkinson, Park's headteacher, said he hoped teachers would use the new media equipment in all subjects. "In geography we're going to have pupils standing in front of a green screen doing the weather forecast for Rio de Janeiro," he said.

Mr Atkinson's excitement is shared by his pupils. Becky Shute, aged 15, was this week completing story boards for a documentary she will film in a nearby nursery school.

"It's changed the way I watch television," the 15-year-old said. "I was watching Emmerdale the other night and thinking, 'That's not a very good aerial shot'."

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