Our literacy focus is news reports, and in our shared writing session we’ve decided “Trainer in rooftop mystery” will be our headline. It is Maddie’s idea, chosen because it is short and attention-grabbing. Callum’s suggestion – “A stupid idiot called Tyrell loses his stupid shoe on the stupid school roof – was rejected on the grounds that it contained too many “stupids”. Our next task is to consider the “five Ws”. These are the who, what, when, where and why.
To avoid accusations of “fake news”, we have decided that our report will describe a real incident that happened earlier in the day. The what (Tyrell’s trainer), the when (morning playtime) and the where (school roof) are known facts; only the who and the why need to be established. But this is not an easy task, and to cut several long and dubious stories short, we are forced to enter the murky world of investigative journalism.
In order to discover who threw Tyrell’s trainer on to the roof and why, we need to talk to eyewitnesses. Before we can do this, I need to explain to Callum why he isn’t an eyewitness. “It’s someone who has actually seen what happened with their own eyes,” I tell him. “So what Jayden told you Harry heard Jordan say about what Briony saw doesn’t count. Especially as Briony now claims she didn’t see anything at all.”
Because Maddie is most likely to be fair when questioning witnesses, she is chosen to be our interviewer. Her interviewees include only those children who were directly involved in what happened. These are Tyrell (whose trainer went on to the roof), Devin (who Tyrell claims threw it up there) and Maria (a peer mediator who at the time had been trying to resolve an argument they were having).
Fact or fiction?
Did Devin throw Tyrell’s trainer on to the roof in anger? Or did Tyrell throw it up there himself in order to get Devin into trouble? The accounts given by both boys contradict each other. They also seem to contradict themselves. Finally, with neither of them prepared to let facts get in the way of their side of the story, we pin our hopes on Maria. But unfortunately, she’s not a very good witness either.
Her account of what happened focuses less on how the trainer got on to the roof and more on how Tyrell and Devin verbally and physically abused her when she tried to “peer mediate them”. First they called her rude names and then they pushed her over. That’s how she hurt her arm and got mud all over her new peer mediator sweatshirt. And neither of them said they were sorry. And if Tyrell’s trainer is up on the roof, it serves him right, doesn’t it?
When Maddie asks Maria if she can remember seeing which of the boys threw it up there, her memory deserts her. When asked a second time, she begins to turn a guilty shade of red.
At the third time of asking, her bottom lip trembles and her eyes fill with tears. By now, I suspect Maddie is considering changing our headline to something along the lines of “Girl confesses to trainer crime”.
Steve Eddison is a teacher at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield