And here is today's news

4th April 2008 at 01:00
Exchanging the classroom for the newsroom has given pupils a taste for the exciting world of journalism. Jean McLeish reports

Getting the news on air on time can be a frantic business, as thousands of children across the country have been discovering.

The BBC News School Report project gives 11 to 14-year-olds the opportunity to find and publish their own stories. The idea is to encourage their interest in news with first-hand experience of chasing stories. For 12-year-olds like Ben Read, it's also giving them the inside story on how news gets on screen, online and on radio.

"I've enjoyed finding out what really goes on behind the scenes, because when you see it you think it's all just perfect. But behind the scenes it's hectic and there's deadlines and people are sometimes panicking," says Ben, from Kincorth Academy in Aberdeen.

Ben's not a panicker and has been busy at work among a sea of 12-year-olds huddled over computers, surrounded by BBC crew members with cameras and television paraphernalia. Ben's been presenting stories for television along with his classmate Alex Bright, using the college's state-of-the-art editing suites and broadcast studios with support from some of the students and BBC mentors. Everyone's been contributing to hourly news updates with live transmissions from this outside broadcast at Aberdeen College's Multimedia Centre.

Bridge of Don Academy pupils have been stars of radio. They have interviewed First Minister Alex Salmond about his first year in office and scooped an exclusive story with top Scots swimmer David Carry on his reaction to the closure of Aberdeen's Bon Accord Baths.

Twelve-year-old Bethany Allan from Bridge of Don is considering journalism as a career option: "I'm interested in it now. I wasn't before, because I didn't know what it was like. But when I saw all the technology, I thought 'I'll give it a go'."

Caroline Taylor, Bethany's English teacher, says: "They have worked really hard and it's very much about them working independently and going away and doing the research and putting the radio broadcasts together on their own. They've done a good job and they've loved the experience."

TV presenter Alex Bright, 12, from Kincorth, describes her day: "I've been on the internet finding some breaking news stories and then I had to go downstairs and film all my anchor stuff. I found it cool because I like this kind of thing. I've not done anything like it before, but I like acting. I am a bit stressed. We only have until half past to get everything onto computer and onto the BBC School Report, so the time's ticking away."

Twenty-one Scottish schools are taking part this year, after a pilot last year with seven schools. Their stories are being used on their school websites with some transmitted online, on the BBC's red button service, on News 24 and a range of other programmes.

A BBC crew is running this Aberdeen outside broadcast - one of just two across the UK. Pupils get the opportunity to have a go at everything, including the cameras. And with hourly transmissions throughout the day, the deadlines are real and so is the air of tension.

"Standby everyone," a member of the production team calls out and BBC journalist Fiona Stalker launches into a live interview with the pupils, then introduces them and their reports and others from schools across Scotland.

Fiona has been working as a mentor with pupils in the run-up to going live: "They have been dealing with real deadlines, real stories and real audiences and the standard of their journalism has been absolutely fantastic," she says.

Hayley Mitchell, 12, from Kincorth has been exploring some of the hard-hitting issues affecting her age group: "We've been covering under-age drinking and smoking and under-age drug users. We've also been speaking to Nicola Sturgeon about her view on this."

Helen Alba, an English and media teacher at Kincorth, says pupils have been preparing in class for a month. "They did all of the research themselves, set up interviews, phoned people's agents, compiled questions, conducted interviews, wrote it up, filmed it, learned how to use the equipment, learned how to edit - everything," she says.

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