Lessons through a lens

22nd June 2007 at 01:00
Your YouTube generation will love this. Stephen Manning tells how an inner-city secondary encourages pupils to get behind the camera

If you're running out of space for display boards, consider putting pupils'

work on TV. We're not talking BBC, obviously, but how about your own little broadcast on classroom whiteboards via the school intranet?

This is what Primrose High School, an inner-city secondary comprehensive in Leeds, is doing with Primrose TV, a weekly five-minute broadcast combining clips and images from lessons interspersed with announcements and musings by Simon Turner, the deputy head.

"Each week I give them 'Mr Turner's thoughts', talking about issues and events such as forthcoming open days, although I keep it fairly light," he says. "Apart from the occasional 'don't climb over the fence', I don't get into heavy discipline."

Film-making is common in schools, but Primrose TV embraces the ethos of the YouTube generation by encouraging pupils and teachers to make video clips of their lessons with digital cine cameras and submit them for consideration. Their slogan is "your pics, your clips, your Primrose TV".

Recent classroom items include a cooking show, called On Your Marks, Get Set, Cook, where Year 7s guided pupils from the link primary school in preparing spaghetti bolognese, and some Year 11 PE lessons, captured to demonstrate to the year below where they will be in a year's time. Year 8s even have a plan, currently in its infancy, to create a soap opera.

"I think we have tapped into something which connects with how youngsters use modern video websites," says Simon. "This is their medium. They don't seem to mind that the picture quality is poor - it's more about the immediacy and about getting involved."

It captures the technological Zeitgeist, yet its origins are, quite literally, old school. In the previous school building, each classroom had a tannoy speaker, over which Simon would read out daily messages, quizzes, birthdays, football results and, sometimes, names of troublesome pupils sent to the head.

The school moved buildings last September, with a new whiteboard in every classroom. Yet everyone, pupils and teachers alike, found they missed the old tannoy broadcasts. So Simon, along with Andrew Laycock, head of ICT, hatched the idea of reviving the broadcasts using newly available technology. Simon also thinks the medium has a powerful effect on motivation.

"Pupils who are normally quite shy are asking to get their work on the show. I've even been asked for my autograph - quite funny for someone whose job includes marking their work."

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