Soap helps radio stars to sparkle

11th November 2005 at 00:00
A school radio station means media studies can offer real job prospects, Raymond Ross reports

There is not a dull moment at Albion High, where pupils are feuding with parents, a love triangle is developing between members of the school band and a pupil is seeking revenge for her exam failure by falsely accusing a teacher of touching her inappropriately.

Fortunately for the management team and the community in general, Albion High is a fictitious school in a radio soap opera.

It is the result of hard work by Intermediate 2 media studies pupils at St Mungo's High in Falkirk. The pupils write the script and perform it once a week on the school's radio network, and broadcast it on the internet.

The state-of-the-art digital studio has just been installed, with Falkirk Council and BP - a major employer at the nearby Grangemouth refinery - each contributing pound;5,000 to start it.

While the scripts are overseen by staff, they are entirely the pupils' own work.

"We have discussion groups where we brainstorm how the plots will link, with two or three of us working on each storyline," says S6 pupil Danielle O'Donnell. "I think it makes us more confident and more involved with the school, learning while having fun."

Albion High is only part of the broadcasting schedule of SM FM (St Mungo's FM), which involves 36 pupils in total. News and music is broadcast during morning registration, complete with jingles and advertisements, and the Radio Club pupils produce pre-school and lunchtime music programmes.

SM FM also has tie-ins to other school stations. The pupils intend to produce (in house) a music request show for hospital radio, and hope the school studio can become involved in producing talking book CDs for the blind.

SM FM broadcast live at the SETT exhibition in September and by the end of the year it is hoped to broadcast on FM across the Falkirk area for a 28 day trial.

Meanwhile, the enterprise group run the business side of SM FM and raise funds for it. They would like to develop the facilities into a fully functioning station.

"The practical work is great and we get more fun out of it the more we are involved," says Danielle. "Mind you, I hate the deadlines."

George Marcinkiewicz, St Mungo High's depute head, had the idea for the radio station. "It develops their communication skills, their sense of responsibility, and for some it will mark a career development in presenting, production or management," he says.

John Collins, who produces for Bryan Burnett on BBC Radio Scotland, is the professional behind the scenes in his role as a media studies lecturer through Forth Valley College.

"The best bit about my involvement is identifying talent and developing it," he says. "Some of these students are significant talents and by 17 or 18 could be making it.

"It used to be that national radio talent was first spotted through hospital radio. With developments like this, I think the talent spotting will begin in schools."

What appeals to the pupils is that the station is real, not a mock-up, and everyone gets a shot at presenting, producing and recording.

"It's because it is real and it brings in radio professionals that it excites and motivates the pupils," says English and media studies teacher Anne Mitchell.

"They are gaining in enthusiasm all the time, while developing their critical thinking, problem solving and working with others."

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