BBC News School Report

Local Libraries to Close


Seven local public libraries are to close after East Sussex County Council approved cost-cutting plans as part of their 'Libraries transformation Programme'.

These include Willingdon and Polegate libraries, the two public libraries closest to Willingdon Community School. Five other libraries will also close in Langney, Mayfield, Ore, Pevensey Bay and Ringmer.

The closures were proposed and approved as part of a second wave of managing budget pressures over the next five years, called 'East Sussex Libraries – The Way Forward’.

East Sussex County Council stated: "We recognise that communities do not wish to lose well-regarded local services.”

However, MP for Eastbourne, Stephen Lloyd, explained that he opposed the decision of the County Council in cutting these resources.

The Parish Council are currently investigating ways to secure Willingdon Library as a community asset as defined by the Localism Act of 2011. Councillor John Pritchett BEM, of the Willingdon and Jevington Parish Council, is part of the Library Action Group currently looking for ways forward to secure the future of the resource for the community.

Photo: Stephen Lloyd MP on the telephone to BBC News School Reporters

Photo: Library Action Sub Group




Read-‘ing’ for Good Workshops

22 Year 7 and 8 Literacy students have recently taken part in workshops exploring the ideas of 'story' and reading. The workshops were developed by Read for Good, a charity that provides books and story tellers for children in hospitals.

The aim of the workshops was to encourage discussion about stories, books and reading. Jen Lunn, who led the workshops commented, “There’s something about reading that fires your imagination and makes you think creatively.”

Feedback from the workshops suggested that students enjoyed the experience. For some students this has also lead to a change in motivation towards reading. A Year 7 student stated: “Jen really helped us to get into reading and boosted our confidence.”

Photo: BBC News School Reporter interviewing Jen Lunn


School Dog Supports Students with Reading

84% of Year 7 boys, who recently took part in reading with school dog Teddy, stated that the sessions made them feel more relaxed and more confident about reading. Additionally, 95% enjoyed that Teddy was present in the sessions.

The sessions were run by PE teacher and Assistant Director of Student Progress for Year 7, Mr Cain. Students could either read by themselves, to each other, or to Teddy. Many students chose to read some of the Ultimate Football Heroes series. Students commented on how Teddy made them want to be in the sessions and motivated them to read without worry.

Photo: Teddy listening to students read

Author Insights with BBC News School Reporters

Willingdon Community School BBC News School Reporters interviewed four authors whose young adult novels have captured imaginations



Andrew Norriss, author of Jessica’s Ghost 

Andrew Norriss is a British children’s author. When asked how he felt about being included in the Secondary Schools’ Library Pack from the Book Trust, he stated: “Any scheme that helps get my books out to somewhere children might read them is brilliant!” 

Jessica’s Ghost is a story about sensitive issues. Norriss commented: “Almost all of us have that ‘I don’t quite fit in’ feeling at some point, so it’s inevitable that a lot of stories will have that as a theme.” 

His advice to students from Willingdon Community School on becoming an author is to follow the ideas of C. S. Lewes and “write a story that you would want to read yourself”. 

Photo: courtesy of Andrew Norriss

Jenny McLachlan, author of Stargazing for Beginners

Jenny McLachlan was an English teacher who loves reading. She realised there wasn’t a huge amount of funny books around for teenagers and a lot of her students wanted to read this genre. So McLachlan decided to write one herself. She also wanted to write about being shy. McLachlan was a very shy teenager and she put this experience into her first book, Flirty Dancing. 

McLachlan spent about two months researching her novel Stargazing for Beginners. She watched documentaries, read the New Scientist magazine, visited science centres, observatories and spent time in the astrophysics department at the University of Sussex. She describes how visiting a research lab that her main character, Meg, visited as “incredible”.

Her advice to Willingdon Community School Reporters on how to improve their writing is to “throw yourself into life, meet people, have new experiences, and then one day you realise that you have a story that you have to tell.”

Photo: courtesy of Jenny McLachlan


Fleur Hitchcock , author of Murder in Midwinter

Fleur Hitchcock is a famous writer whose novel, Murder in Midwinter, was one of this year’s BookBuzz books, a scheme organised by the BookTrust.

BBC News School Reporters asked Hitchcock about her methods for successfully building up tension in her story. She stated: “I think that the solution to tension is to keep on heaping disaster on your character, but is has to be believable, disaster. So for example, if the car won’t start, you need the rain to begin, and for an alarm to go off somewhere. Someone needs to drop their phone, they need to have forgotten their coat, and for their surroundings to suddenly seem dodgy.  Some of the tension is real, some is in the character’s head.”

Her advice to Willingdon Community School writers is, “You need to read. Loads. Just masses of reading. Read all sorts of things, fiction, non-fiction, newspapers.  Also observe everything – people, nature, people’s reactions to things.  Finally, scribble stuff down – don’t worry too much about story – it will come.”

She also commented on the importance of giving yourself time to daydream. Hitchcock told our reporters, “The very best ideas come from staring out of a window.”

Photo: courtesy of Fleur Hitchcock


Matt Oldfield, co-author of the Ultimate Football Heroes series

Matt Oldfield has a brother called Tom who originally got him into writing. His brother used to write football biographies for adults and Matt started doing an apprenticeship with him. He helped him to research books and learnt a lot about the process of writing books. Now they write the Ultimate Football Heroes series about famous football characters like Rooney, Bale, Messi, Suarez and Ronaldo.

The brothers enjoy writing as part of a pair and never fight because they take it in turns to write the books and then read each other’s work.

Oldfield says that the best advice for young writers is to “be brave. If you have half an idea, maybe even a quarter of an idea, write it down and see where it goes.” He also suggests finding inspiration to complete a story: “Try entering a competition. That way, you have a deadline to aim for and a potential prize to win!”

Photo: courtesy of Matt Oldfield

BBC News School Report 2017

Students from this school will be making the news for real on 16 March 2017 as they take part in BBC News School Report. We aim to publish the news by 1600 GMT on News Day, so please save this page as a favourite and return to it later.




Changes to funding for schools

Head teacher, Miss Beer, and Business Manager, Mr Webb, recently visited Nick Gibb MP, the Minister of State for Schools to discuss funding changes in East Sussex and convey the impact it will have on students.

In an interview Miss Beer explained that she "welcomed a new funding formula" that aimed to create fairness. However, her main concerns were about the impact of all the other expenses schools were expected to pay for.  

On-costs including National Insurance contributions, teachers' pensions and the apprenticeship levy mean that although Willingdon Community School will receive a small increase in funds, this will actually create a deficit of 1 million pounds in five years. This means increases to class sizes, reductions to GCSE options, lack of resources and effects on the well-being of teachers.

East Sussex schools have organised the #FlatCashEd twitter campaign to highlight the financial difficulties schools are facing.

Local MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon, Caroline Ansell, in a statement to BBC News School reporters said: 

“As Eastbourne and Willingdon MP, I have urged the Government to find more money for East Sussex schools.  

I have been working behind the scenes organising meetings with local head-teachers and education ministers to try and persuade Whitehall to recognise the 8% on average reduction in school budgets in real terms.

As a former teacher, I am acutely aware of the pressures head-teachers are under and I will continue to work with them and ministers to ensure this is heard at the highest level.”

(Photos - BBC News School Reporters interviewing Headteacher, Miss Emily Beer / Caroline Ansell MP with Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education)


School Curriculum Changes

Willingdon Community School is changing their school curriculum for the first time.

At GCSE, students will now study three options instead of four. Ms Walters, Assistant Headteacher in charge of curriculum, in response to recent government changes at GCSE level, has decided to change the curriculum to ensure current Year 9s at Willingdon Community School are able to use their different strengths and talents. Ms Walters made sure that students had a say in this by conducting two student surveys to make sure students have their GCSE needs met. Additionally, more GCSE subjects have been added, that were requested by students, to increase the range of subjects available.

(Photo - BBC News School Reporter with Assistant Headteacher Ms Walters)

Restriction of mobile phones in-between lessons

Mobile phone use across East Sussex is slowly becoming more restricted throughout schools as social media is side tracking students before lessons and students are failing to concentrate clearly. At Willingdon Community School the Headteacher, Miss Beer and Deputy Headteacher and Designated Safeguarding Lead, Mrs Dixon, have restricted phones between lessons. As a result, they’ve found students have more concentration before lessons and assessments. BBC News School Reporters interviewed Mr Roche, IT teacher. He stated: “The internet can be fantastic for applications such Show My Homework but it can also have negative effects inside and outside the classroom. It needs to be used sensibly.”

(Photo - BBC News School Reporters interviewing IT teacher Mr Roche)


Professor Keith Topping Interviewed

A recent report shows that the reading habits of students in secondary school have stagnated and stayed at the same level despite students' ages increasing. Keith Topping, Professor of Educational and Social Research at the University of Dundee, in his latest study 2017 What Kids Are Reading researched the reading habits of nearly 850,000 students. He discovered that the reading ages of children at secondary school were not improving in line with their chronological age. This means that many students in Year 9 are still reading texts, such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid, that they were reading in Year 3. Therefore, the level of challenge in their reading is at a minimal level. Professor Topping's report provides many challenges to secondary schools and government about how to improve this situation.

(Photo - Professor Keith Topping, University of Dundee)


Should British Sign Language Be Taught in Schools?

A recent BBC news article discussed the issue of whether British Sign Language should be taught in schools. In an interview with BBC News School Reporters, Mr Hetherington, Head of Hearing Support Facility at Willingdon Community School, stated: "My service has contact with parents from the moment a baby is diagnosed as hearing impaired. We therefore support families in sign language from day one". He suggested that it would be useful to teach British Sign Language in schools where it is needed and wherever there are children who need to be supported.

(Photo - Mr Hetherington, Head of HSF)


Author Visits Willingdon

Author of The Compassion Prize series, Katy Hollway, came to the school library to discuss her books and her inspirations as a writer.

She ran two sessions: a lunchtime Meet the Author session where students could ask questions and a writing workshop attended by two Year 9 classes. During lunchtime, Katy presented two prizes to students for their thoughtful entries to an article writing competition. Students needed to write a response to the strapline to the second novel in the series entitled The Compassion Gift:  “What if you didn’t make the good choice, but made the right choice instead?"

(Photo - Author, Katy Hollway, leads a Meet the Author event in the school library)