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On Monday, 24 March 2014, Ben Bassett and Jade Leader interviewed David Laws, Minister of State and Minister of State for Schools, in the Houses of Parliament whilst working on a BBC News School Report project, accompanied by Mrs Chard and Mrs Venables.
Every year, the English and Media Department at Poltair School participate in the BBC News School Report project, and this year, we were extended a particularly thrilling invitation to send a video of questions that our students would like to ask of the education ministers. Under Mrs Trevarthen's direction, a group of our Year 8 and 9 students filmed the questions that they would pose to Michael Gove and David Laws. From hundreds of schools that submitted their videos, our school was chosen, and Sarika Unadkat, Broadcast Assistant on the BBC News School Report team, said that our video was one of the 'strongest' and 'most impressive' videos submitted.
On the day, we met with two other schools and the BBC producers outside of Westminster station. From there, we walked to the press entrance for Westminster Hall, where the cameramen began filming their entrance. Following this, the students worked with three BBC producers to practise their interviewing skills in the Jubilee Cafe in Westminster. Ben and Jade had a long list of questions that they gathered from doing their own research and from talking to pupils in our school. With the guidance from the producers, they narrowed down their selection to ask their two most important questions.
After this, the students were given a private tour of the Houses of Parliament. Jade said that she was surprised at how small the House of Commons actually was because it looks bigger on television. Ben was impressed with how posh the leather seats were in the House of Lords. Our tour guide created a colourful story of the Houses of Parliament for the students, and they found it exciting to learn so much history on location.
In the afternoon, Giles Dilnot, BBC television presenter and reporter, gave the students a special masterclass in interviewing skills. He drew on his wealth of experience to teach the students how to 'play chess' when interviewing a politician. Each of the students shared their questions with Dilnot, who gave them much praise and feedback on how to improve.
We were then given special tickets to watch Education Questions in the public gallery in the House of Commons. Sitting in the second row, we had a clear view of the procedures, and this was a special treat. While the students didn't necessarily understand everything that was debated, they said that it was exciting watching how the government debates their decisions.
Following this, we were taken into the meeting rooms in the upstairs of the Houses of Parliament where we met the full camera crew and set up for the interview. As soon as the cameras started rolling, all signs of nerves disappeared. Taking it in turns, each of the students asked their questions of David Laws. Ben's first question was about free school meals for students over the age of five; Laws promised that as soon as the funding was available, the government intended to extend the free school meals to all pupils. His second question was about the teacher's strikes, and the answer was featured on the BBC News main broadcast on Wednesday, 26 March 2014, at 1 pm! Jade's questions were about the longer school hours and why the government were making so many changes to education so quickly. They were amused when he said that he had last seen a James Bond film in the cinema because as they noted, that was quite a long time ago, and when he said that his teddy bear was named 'Tinkerbell,' they couldn't help laughing.
They invited David Laws to spend a day teaching in our school as they felt it would help him to fully understand what teachers and students experience on a daily basis. Laws said that he would try to find the time to come here, so we hope that he does.
At the end of the day, Ben and Jade both said that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for them, and they would never forget the day. For Ben, one of the highlights was his first trip on the London Underground. For Jade, it was watching the debate in the House of Commons.
This is the first year that this event has been held and what a success it was!
The pupils had the opportunity to experience what life was like for children growing up in the 80s and 90s - they played board games such as Twister, Battleships, Hungry Hippos, Screwball Scramble and Operation, to name but a few; played playground games such as bouncing on space hoppers and hopping about in hopscotch; they watched old films and children's programmes; made their own movie animations inspired by Trapdoor; made hand-held puppets and puppet shows inspired by Button Moon; filmed their own music videos; took part in an 80s Jane Fonda workout; danced to 80s and 90s music and much more!
We would like to thank all parents and pupils for supporting the event. Throughout the entire 24 hours all pupils were an absolute credit to us and Poltair School.
When we have received all sponsor forms and money we will inform you of the amount raised as deadline for collection is today!