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Tain Royal Academy pupils turn journalists to learn about new 'superschool' as part of Developing the Young Workforce project backed by Ross-shire Journal


By Hector MacKenzie

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Hector Mackenzie and Iona MacDonald spoke about their roles to Tain Royal Academy pupils. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Hector Mackenzie and Iona MacDonald spoke about their roles to Tain Royal Academy pupils. Picture: James Mackenzie.

PUPILS at an Easter Ross school are putting tips they picked up from local journalists to good use as part of a project to help them develop skills useful for possible future careers.

Tain Royal Academy’s English department has included a section on the media in its curriculum, helping students to consider where news comes from, the difference between fact and opinion and what is required to produce balanced reports.

They have also being finding out the importance of questioning sources of information in a 24-hour news cycle and the idea of "fake news" amplified by the manipulation of largely unchecked and sometimes unchallenged social media content.

They will be using what they have learned to write up reports based on a visit by members of the Kier Construction team currently building a new multimillion-pound campus that will replace Tain Royal Academy and several local primary schools.

During that visit, pupils quizzed their visitors about careers in the construction industry ranging from project manager to site manager and quantity surveyor.

Pupils also had the chance to find out first-hand from their visitors about progress on the new build which will open a fresh chapter in primary and secondary education for Tain and Easter Ross. There will be a voucher prize for the best piece and runner-up awards too based on how pupils have used the skills learned to produce their reports. The winning piece will be published by the Ross-shire Journal.

The school had earlier invited Ross-shire Journal's content editor, Hector Mackenzie, community reporter Iona M.J. MacDonald and photographer James MacKenzie – himself a former Tain Royal Academy pupil – to talk to pupils about their roles and answer questions.

That was under the Developing the Young Workforce (DWP) programme which aims to transform how education and businesses engage in helping prepare pupils for the world of work.

Seventeen-year-old Iona, who is from Ullapool, spoke of her path from leaving school towards training as a journalist. She is employed under the Community News Project, a partnership between Meta, the National Council for the Training of Journalists and 23 regional publishers to enhance the coverage of under-served communities across the UK. She has already produced award-winning work in her role in a series about the impact of a care home closure on the Wester Ross community.

James Mackenzie, part of the Ross-shire Journal team that visited Tain Royal Academy, took part in Strictly Inverness for Highland Hospice and raised funds by drawing the profile pictures of people who donated. Picture: James Mackenzie.
James Mackenzie, part of the Ross-shire Journal team that visited Tain Royal Academy, took part in Strictly Inverness for Highland Hospice and raised funds by drawing the profile pictures of people who donated. Picture: James Mackenzie.

James was able to talk about his pathway towards becoming a press photographer, some of the pleasures and the challenges of the job and the changing role of the industry with an increasing emphasis on a digital first approach and multimedia content.

Pupils also found out about James' extra-curricular arty activities in support of a much-loved Highland cause.

Hector Mackenzie showing pupils how their campaigning can help effect positive change. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Hector Mackenzie showing pupils how their campaigning can help effect positive change. Picture: James Mackenzie.

And Hector showed pupils how they themselves can have an impact in effecting positive change by highlighting issues close to their hearts. This included a series of Ross-shire Journal pieces reporting on a campaign by primary and secondary pupils in Tain to throw the spotlight on the poor condition of some of the school buildings which will ultimately be replaced by the new build.

He showed a number of front page stories which helped to reflect those feelings and exert pressure on decision-makers for action – and resources – to replace buildings no longer fit for purpose.

Pupils took the campaign to social media with great impact.
Pupils took the campaign to social media with great impact.

SEE ALSO: Easter Ross pupils put demands for fit-for-purpose school in frame with hard-hitting film

Ross-shire Journal reporter becomes award-winner at just 17

Ross-shire Journal photographer draws on artistic talent for Strictly dance challenge

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English and Literacy teacher Suzanne Lockhart said later: "We all thoroughly enjoyed your visit and were grateful to you all for giving S3 pupils an insight into the different job roles in a news organisation. The S3 curriculum in English at TRA begins with a unit of work on journalism. Your visit has shown them that becoming a journalist or photographer could be a real career opportunity for them in a way that the theoretical work in a classroom cannot."

Pupils themselves got involved in highlighting the need for progress on a new school build.
Pupils themselves got involved in highlighting the need for progress on a new school build.

Pupils share feedback

The team visited Tain Royal Academy, which will be replaced by the new build campus.
The team visited Tain Royal Academy, which will be replaced by the new build campus.

Tain Royal Academy pupils were later asked by teachers to give feedback on the visit and to reflect on what they had heard and asked about. Here are some of those responses.

'I enjoyed the experience of finding out more about the jobs in the news industry. It was great to listen and hear about all the interesting things that go on in the job.'

'It really showed me how to make a dream into a career.'

'I enjoyed the experience a lot because I learned so much about the skills needed.'

'I liked how friendly they were.'

'I enjoyed hearing about how young you can get a job in journalism.'

'I enjoyed the visit. It helped me realise that the news isn't just boring and a lot of work goes into it.'

'I enjoyed listening to the different types of stories they write about.'

'Everyone seemed interesting and it was cool how they all seemed to like their work.'

'I enjoyed finding out how to get into the career of journalism and how much it’s changed over the years due to social media.'

'I enjoyed the friendliness of the people speaking to us.'

'I enjoyed hearing what stories were most popular and the stories they liked.'


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