Turn on and tune in
A community radio station in the Borders has been nurturing children's self-esteem and social skills - and possibly DJs of the future.
Brick FM has worked with pupils at Hawick High, Philiphaugh Junior Community School in Selkirk and Langlee Primary in Galashiels, teaching them to become DJs, reporters, editors, technicians and researchers in time allocated for personal and social development.
At Langlee, the 22 P7 pupils interviewed members of staff and asked them the stories behind their favourite tracks. They invited local businesses to advertise on the station, recorded and broadcast an end-of-term X Factor-style competition, and got every child in the school to record a voiceover - their name and Brick FM. The pre-recorded material was broadcast on a continuous loop for 24 hours a day for two weeks at the end of June, interspersed with live items.
Principal teacher Kevin Wilson says the project incorporated many cross-curricular aspects, including language, expressive arts, ICT and enterprise. Interviewing, he says, built up their confidence to ask questions.
Scottish Borders Council provided a webcam and equipment so the children could communicate with the man behind the project, singer-songwriter Jesse Rae, head of broadcasting at Brick FM.
The children spent three months preparing, two months learning to work equipment, interviewing, editing and compiling the playlist, then two weeks broadcasting.
Mr Rae's dream is to set up community school broadcasting across the Borders and, ultimately, Scotland. "This is broadcasting at its very simplest," he says. "There's no expertise required, but it's professional. Teachers are so overloaded, but this is easy to do and doesn't interfere with the curriculum. When the kids get the opportunity to go on the radio, they really respond. They get to express themselves. Confidence just shot up. One really good litmus test is your janny. He thought it was wonderful. He got to have his top 10 played on the radio."
Determined to Succeed gave Pounds 2,000 in funding. Lawrence Alexander, head of the scheme for the Borders, says the cash paid for the Ofcom licence (Pounds 500-600 for two weeks), telephone lines and staff time.
"The main reason we got involved was to support schools which were looking to put in place initiatives to raise self-esteem and raise the profile of their local communities," he says. "Hawick High used it as part of its Schools of Ambition - raising self-esteem and working more closely with the community. Jesse has also been raising the profile of career paths in broadcasting for youngsters.
"We've been very satisfied with the outcomes of the projects. It has been flagged up with Learning and Teaching Scotland as an example of best practice, and I would like to see it rolled out across the country. It's got a lot of mileage."
Josh Bertram, a pupil at Langlee, says: "I thought it was really interesting trying to figure out how to do all the technical things."
His classmate Glen McPherson enjoyed broadcasting live, and Jessica Weir thought it was great fun to interview staff.
Mr Rae is pushing for a new television and radio authority for Scotland. He hopes to persuade such a body to set up a five-year pilot across the Borders, with some frequencies allocated exclusively for education. Ultimately, he wants to see an ISDN automated broadcasting radio station for education across Scotland: "Wouldn't that be wonderful for kids?" he said.
Jesse Rae and Brick FM turned the SECC in Glasgow into a global radio station when it broadcast live from the Scottish Learning Festival by ISDN with Langlee Primary, Selkirk High and schools as far afield as Africa and the United States.