Pupils who are creating headlines

19th June 2009 at 01:00
This year's Scottish School Magazine Awards saw entries from North Uist to South Lanarkshire

School magazines are treasured documents. Decades after leaving secondary, most of us can find one at the back of a cupboard, which contains photographs of long-forgotten classmates, a record of school prizes, or our own infant scribbles from the art room.

Scottish broadcaster and awards host Cathy MacDonald is as fond of hers as anyone, she told a young audience at the Scottish School Magazine Awards in Edinburgh, last week. And to prove it, she held up a faded 1976 edition of Sgathan from her old school, the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway.

The difference today, is that the best school magazines are generally produced by the pupils themselves, and the youngsters from 25 schools who congregated at the ceremony in Our Dynamic Earth - teams of editors, reporters, artists, photographers - were testimony to that.

They travelled from as far afield as Shetland and North Uist, clutching glossy publications as varied in style as the young people themselves - Borealis, Paible in Print, Rare Beast, Independent Women, The Grammarian, Proper Gander, Balfron Banter . Their pages told stories of local secondaries and their communities, the children and their interests, from fashion and beauty to careers and sports, lifestyles of the rich and famous, dangers of the internet, jokes and puzzles.

What is special about these awards is that they are given by the industry - PPA Scotland, the periodical publishers' association, recruits professional journalists, publishers, retailers and distributors as judges, for this is a major business.

"In Scotland, there are hundreds of magazines being published with the value of the industry estimated at Pounds 157 million," Ray Perman, a member of the Scottish Enterprise Board and chairman of the judges, reported. "We hope that the students in the room today will want to be part of that industry tomorrow."

To start them off, pupils from the winning schools receive a Quark Xpress Design package from the company whose software lies behind many professional magazine layouts; winning pupils are offered work experience, talks or mentoring by the sponsoring companies, including The TESS, and the overall winners attend the premier Scottish Magazine Awards in November.

More importantly, they may be motivated to develop their magazines in print and online. In doing that, they will, as Schools and Skills Minister Keith Brown told them, "develop important skills - such as teamwork, decision making, photography and design - all in an enterprising and creative way.

"These skills," he said, "are very relevant to the workplace and will stand you in good stead for whatever you choose to do when you leave school."


The Scottish School Magazine of the Year 2009 Gold Award Independent Women by St George's School for Girls, Edinburgh

"Encapsulates everything - excellent editorial, impressive articles; imaginative design; clever use of photographs; creativity and passion."

Independent Women is published once a term and is "very different from the official school magazine," says Ali Lawrence, English teacher and head of communications. It is produced by sixth years Naomi Berry (editor) and Marcelina Hamilton (deputy editor), with a core of about eight S3-4 pupils.

A meeting is held each week, which anyone from S2-6 can attend. Articles are written in their spare time and brought to meetings or emailed to the editors who accept or reject them, or ask for them to be revised, then edit and lay them out.

Most stories are generated by pupils' own interests, though a few can emanate from, say, a modern studies topic. Contributions are even invited from other schools.

The approach and streetwise awareness behind the publication is best illustrated by the Editors' Letter at the front, by Naomi and Marcelina:

"This Spring issue really grew from an article first sent in to us by Emma Earnshaw late last year, posing the question: What is beauty? From there on, ideas developed and lots of work was sent in, covering all topics across the spectrum . We hope the enthusiasm this term is only a hint of things to come for the Summer issue.

"The design style is a little . different from past issues, but we wanted to modernise IW, so we took on the `handbook' style of certain retail outlets and fashioned it more towards a magazine format than the old newspaper. We hope you like it!"

Winners of this year's awards

Best overall design and layout Independent Women by St George's School for Girls, Edinburgh

"A layout which is bold, different, intelligent and full of colour. Double-page spreads have been designed extremely well and are very creative."

Best editorial content Rare Beast by Coatbridge High, North Lanarkshire

"A consistently high standard - with good mix of contrasting views - strong opinionated articles alongside light relief. The judges felt they could understand something about the school community through this excellent magazine."

Best magazine cover Bac Talk by Boclair Academy, East Dunbartonshire (above)

"Strong yet simple, a cover that invites the reader inside the pages. It is extremely orginal."

Best commercial strategy Borealis by Brae High, Shetland

"Focused on the complete package of product, price, place and promotion, and balanced a high cover price with adverts and articles aimed at the local community. Pupils with great ideas and good business awareness."

Best feature article Aiden Reid in The Galley, Dollar Academy, Clackmannanshire

"Covers a difficult subject (sectarianism) with style and maturity."

Best original artwork or photography - Naomi Berry and Marcelina Hamilton in Independent Women, St George's School for Girls

"Many superb illustrations as well as some clever photo-journalism."

Best online presence Royal Magazine by Shawlands Academy, Glasgow

"Brilliant use of technology - it is very sophisticated and very professional."

Most inspirational teacher Martin Gallacher for The Grammarian, Paisley Grammar, Renfrewshire

"Someone who convinced the school that it was possible to bring the production of the magazine inhouse and that there were skills aplenty to ensure that the tradition of producing a magazine since 1922 would not be broken. He gave up every lunchtime for the whole year so that pupils could meet in his room to work on the project."

Outstanding individual Jordan Duncan for Calderglen Times, Calderglen High, South Lanarkshire

"This 12-year-old has created the generic template for the magazine, publicised the magazine at morning assembly and plans to visit feeder primary schools to recruit new blood for next year. He carries out interviews and attends parents' evenings and other school events to sell the magazine. He has boundless energy and has been vital to the success of the magazine."

Scottish School Magazine of the Year Bronze award

Bac Talk, Boclair Academy

Silver award

Borealis, Brae High.

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