Memories are made of this

4th November 2005 at 00:00
Pete Roythorne discovers how a website is taking the pain out of creating school yearbooks

Yearbooks are becoming increasingly popular in schools. They are a perfect keepsake for pupils of their time in school. The downside is that they can be time-consuming, costly affairs; there's the design, writing, photography and editing to think of, and that's before you even start to deal with printers, most of whom are not used to dealing with schools.

This is where Book-Builder comes in. A web-based yearbook production franchise run by a former teacher, Book-Builder takes the sting out of producing your yearbook, and the costs are manageable. You pay a flat rate per book: Pounds 14.99 (softback) and pound;19.99 (hardback). You don't even have to part with any cash until you place your final order.

The process is simple and the company guides you through it step by step.

Once you decide to go with Book-Builder, you need to make sure your computer system is capable of running the Book-Builder website. Then the company suggests that you appoint an editorial team.

"We normally suggest a member of staff is nominated to oversee the project and that the editorial team consists of eight to ten pupils," says Helen Stockdale, the brains behind Book-Builder. "Although there have been schools where everyone wants to be involved and the editorial team ends up being enormous. We also suggest that pupils apply for positions - we'll even supply the application forms."

With your editorial team in place, a Book-Builder representative will carry out a training session at the school. It covers everything you need to know about how to produce your yearbook, from setting your objectives and checking you have all the right resources, to navigating and understanding the website, working with the production timeline, getting parental consent for pictures and creating these pictures at the right quality. Once this is done, you will receive your passwords and you can start creating your yearbook.

"Passwords are essential to protect the content," says Stockdale. "No page can be submitted for publication unless it has been signed off by the overseeing staff member who has their own password. This ensures nothing inappropriate gets through to the final version."

The company also supplies you with various books and guides to help should you get stuck, and you can email them if you need help. As a lot of the work is done out of school, they supply a text number so that pupils can text them asking for help, whereupon a company representative will call them back.

"There's always someone there to talk to," says Tracy Chapman, head of Year 11 at Cator Park in Beckenham, Kent, "They've always got back to us very quickly with answers to our questions. Pupils can work through the step-by-step guide books. We have a mixed-ability school, and this is quick and simple for everyone."

Making the pages is easy. You log on to the website, pull up your school yearbook, go to the page you want, choose from a selection of templates and enter your copy and upload your photos. The page is built on screen in PDF format, and you can zoom in or download a copy for printing.

"We do have some pages that are freestyle design-wise, but most schools don't want to get bogged down in this. The creativity comes from their photographs and editorial input," explains Stockdale.

Once everything is collated and your 48 pages are complete (this is the standard size, but some schools have gone up to 120 pages), the selling process comes in. Schools need to submit the number of copies they want, then go and get advertising or sponsorship to help cover the costs. This is essential, particularly in schools where not all parents can afford to pay for the books.

"We give them advice on selling and advertising," says Stockdale, "It's here that the process becomes work-related, as it's possible to run it as a business and make a profit."

For schools, producing their own yearbook is an important learning experience. "It's been fantastic for getting children to work together,"

explains Tracy. "They've pretty much run it on their own. They've done the work in lunchtimes, breaktimes, after-school clubs and even from home.

Sometimes you'd go into the computer room and there would be two or three children working on the yearbook, other times there would be 20. We've had pupils who wanted to go into editorial work when they leave and this has been invaluable for experience for them."

Viv Northall, headteacher at Tudor Court Primary School in Grays, Essex, agrees: "It has been a wonderful way of giving pupils a real learning experience. It's given us an insight into how the publishing industry works. The deadlines are very real and we've had an opportunity to use ICT in a way that would otherwise be impossible. It offers curriculum tie-ins with English and ICT. Then there's the photography and the citizenship aspect of getting the children out there and talking to people."

Viv continues: "Already, all of the Year 5 parents want one for next year.

It looks like we've started something we can't stop."


Website service for creating yearbooks for schools.

Prices from pound;14.99 per book



Fitness for purpose *****

Ease of use *****

Features *****

Quality *****

Value for money ****

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