Monday, 26 March 2018

Frankly Speaking Debate Competition at Benjamin Franklin House



Written by Lucy – Year 8 student reporter

On Friday 19th March, Whitley Academy pupils were invited to take part in the Frankly Speaking Debate Competition at Benjamin Franklin House (US Embassy), London.

We left Coventry at 7:11am, and arrived at Euston Station at 8:25am. We then took the underground to the Bloomberg Building, outside it was cloudy and windy, but not too cold.

Very soon we realised the massive Bloomberg Building was just three months old and provides working spaces for 4000 employees! It was vast with lots of open spaces. Whist standing at the Reception, our photos were taken by the cameras right in front of us. The photos were then printed and put on lanyards with our free wifi login details!

We followed the flow of people towards the lifts. They were made entirely of glass and in the centre a magnificent spiral staircase circling endlessly up and down in both directions! As we ascended to the top of the glass elevators, we were greeted with a plethora of stairs weaving in and out of one another as though they were fragile chords being strung together to create a piece of art. When we reached the floor designated for us, we had about 45 minutes to relax and get used to the new environment.

We were invited to breakfast, with an array of food and with so many choices! Anything from bread and butter to crisps and popcorn, you could have had anything! It was a very different world for us all.

We were then taken to a large theatre with several circular tables, each with a free notebook and a nice black pen for everyone attending. After a short introduction from Gemma Smith (Education Manager of Benjamin Franklin House), we were taken to different rooms across the Bloomberg Building. Ciaran and I (Lucy –the blogger) went with our teacher, Mrs Nguyen, and the Year 11 team.


It was very fascinating to be taken back to the exact route we took when we first entered the building. As we looked up, it appeared as though we were encased in a giant dome of wood, before this grandeur, we would appear only as little, colourful specs across the vast wooden sheen and this polished wood curved elegantly round the corner as we proceeded around it towards the first checkpoint.

Then they began! The first round for the Year 11 team.

Tyler and Kuba proposed 30 mins of mandatory exercise for children aged 6-16, giving a very strong argument that was then was opposed by the Harris School who gave an equally strong argument to challenge them. This carried on for several minutes until each team wrapped up and concluded their speeches.

The tense atmosphere soon relaxed as we were given a 15 minute break to plan and refresh before the second round began. This time the topic was about ‘single-use plastics being banned’. Our school was in the Opposition.

Soon it was all finished and we were led back up to the theatre with circular tables where we grabbed a pack lunch and stuffed our faces. Before we knew it, the results were back. Sadly we didn’t make it to the semi-finals, but with our Year 11 team only just losing by 1 point, we were satisfied.

We stayed in the theatre to watch the final debating rounds of the Year 12/13 students. The arguments were very heated and tense about ‘National government should be solely responsible for space exploration’. The contestants who were debating had obviously been practising a lot, and really paced themselves in their arguments. All the four debaters tried their best, with many POIs (Points Of Information). We found it fascinating to witness how knowledgeable each contestant was.

For your information, the highest scoring student in the Frankly Speaking Competition is nominated for a place at the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Summer Institute. It is a completely free trip for the winner!

At 4:50pm, the long awaited moment finally came: the announcement of the winners for both age brackets Years 10/11 and Years 12/13. We joined in with the audience to congratulate those who won the debates.

What an amazing eventful day for all of us! I personally felt proud and delighted to be able to join the audience and watch all the proceedings. Hopefully the experience of today would enable us do well in future debates.



Thursday, 22 March 2018

BBC School Report 2018 – Live from Broadcasting House





Written by Holly and Melissa – Year 8/9 student reporters

On Thursday 15th March, 16 Whitley Academy students and two teachers arrived at Coventry train station, feeling very excited for the big day ahead. Even though it was wet outside, we didn’t let it dampen our spirits, and there was a warm buzz of excitement in the air. We were briefed that some of us would work with the BBC journalists for live interviews (yes! Live television interviews!) and the rest of us would work with the online and radio teams. The anticipation and the excitement sent shivers up and down our spines.

At 8:11 am, the red Virgin train pulled in, and we all got on and took our seats. Some of us were even allocated seats in the First Class coaches!

At 9:15 am, we reached London Euston station, and made our way to BBC Broadcasting House after leaving Oxford Circus underground. On entering the building, we received yellow lanyards and badges and went through security. Everybody was amazed when we looked out over the glass work in the BBC newsroom. We got shown to the escalators and taken to a hall. We were divided into two groups: ‘A’ for the workshop, and ‘B’ for the broadcasting activities.


We spotted John Cena (the WWE American professional wrestler) and had a chat with him after his interview on the radio. How exciting! Then group ‘A’ got taken down to the piazza (the public square right in front of the BBC Entrance) for a workshop on the recording equipment the BBC take out to record different stories. First we were shown the Editing Van, and even got to have a go to swap between cameras. It seemed unreal that each of us was given access to the professional cameras to experience how real filming was. Secondly, we were taken to the Recording Van and allowed to record something we believed to be interesting.


In the meantime, the other group were recording for the live BBC radio, and playing the new game IReporter.

After all this, both groups went back to the hall and got to interview some BBC presenters. The conversation was very honest and open-minded. This was a snapshot of what we were talking about;

Q: What made you decide to be a journalist?

A: “A very long time ago, I think I was nosy and I quite liked the idea of going around and asking people what made them think about what they were doing and I was nosy about the world. I wanted to know what was going on. So I thought being a journalist was a good thing”.
A: “To be a presenter you meet the most interesting people in the world and doing the most interesting things. You need to have passion for learning and passion for understanding how people work and how things work. It is never boring. Every day is different”.
A: “I think human beings are story-tellers. We like to tell stories and to hear stories. Journalists can do this”.

Q: What are your ‘top tips’ for young reporters like us to go into journalism?

A: “Keep practising, keep doing things. There are more opportunities now with social media to get your work out there to an audience. Keep knocking on doors and never take no for an answer! Have a passion for the job you want to do”.
A: “If you have an idea for a story, go for it. Send a picture. Keep writing. Write a blog. Do YouTube. There are so many ways to keep practising”.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

A: “I enjoy watching as much drama as possible. I often tell my kids I am working so that they leave me alone and keep on watching drama, and sometimes comedies”.
A: “Drinking coffee and listening to the news”.

Back to the happenings of the day.

At 1:15 pm, whilst we were having our lunch break, the BBC Director-General, Mr Tony Hall, came to talk to us about the game ‘IReporter’. A moment like that made us feel privileged to be able to be present inside BBC Broadcasting House and to meet Mr Tony Hall – the CEO of the BBC, the world’s oldest national broadcasting organisation!


Mrs Nguyen (our teacher), spoke with Tony and asked him to keep supporting the BBC School Report Teams so that young people across the UK could have the opportunity to make the news and report for a real life audience. We felt humble to listen to our teacher talk to Tony, she shared her personal story as a child and the mental attachment to the BBC. She received a big hug and a handshake from the Director-General after that, such an emotionally proud moment.

Then everybody went down to the green room to see Melissa, Omonigho, and John being interviewed by the BBC News Reporter, Noel Phillips. It was fascinating to be able to see how the captions were put on the television, to tell you who the people being interviewed were, and how the BBC staff had to keep changing cameras for all broadcasting programmes throughout the day.


Later on, we went down to the piazza again. All of us had the opportunity to explore the BBC recording equipment and spend time on the broadcasting trucks. It was fascinating to discover many pieces of recording equipment and how communication was made between the broadcasting vans and the BBC staff inside the BBC Broadcasting House. Some of us even managed to hold the massive cameras and see how heavy the equipment was.

The Piazza became more crowded with students from schools around the UK, especially when Huw Edwards, a long standing newsreader of the BBC, made an appearance. Once again Jack, John and Melissa got the golden opportunity to sit down and interview the Director-General, whilst many of us gathered around Huw Edwards for lots of questions. Huw was very personable, and told us how he got to where he was now. He started as a trainee for the BBC. From his words, we immediately realised how lucky we are to be able to do what we have been doing in the reporters’ team back in school.


Before the end of the day, we went back to the 4th floor, and all of us were taken to the ‘GREEN ROOM’ to watch Ellie, Eve, and Duncan on the BBC News channel, being interviewed by Huw Edwards. They were outstanding and answered questions very intelligently live on television. We felt so proud with all of our effort.

As the day came to a close, before leaving the BBC Broadcasting House, a BBC security guard approached and told us a fact about the cameras in the Newsroom: all the cameras are actually controlled by robots that move around by themselves on a specially designed train track. We spent the last precious moments to stare at the Newsroom! Wow!

For many of us, the train ride back to Coventry was quiet and reflective. We thought about all of the memories made today and all of the new paths that had been opened. Many students thought about their potential of becoming part of the BBC in the future.

Reflection is one of the most important things you can do on a day like this, a day we will never forget, a day full of inspiration, a day where dreams were fulfilled and created.

Thank you for reading our blog!