Sandridge School is a one form entry primary school near St. Albans, which has a well-established and very popular radio and TV station. This is run by pupils, for pupils and the whole school community, under the guidance of the school IT Technician, Richard Sherwood.
Richard welcomed me to the school in November ’17 to tell me all about Sandridge Radio and TV, and there I watched a live radio show being broadcast around the school. I also met some of the children involved, who enthusiastically told me about their media adventures.
In this post, I will share what I learned about the radio station, and in a future post, I will focus on the TV work.
Complete radio station packages for schools have long been around, but Sandridge has taken a more DIY approach to setting it up. Adverts and pre-prepared content are recorded and edited on a PC, using the freely available Audacity software. A simple microphone, mixer and amplifier deliver the sound to outdoor speakers positioned in the school playgrounds and an additional PC is available as a research base, on which children can use child-friendly news websites to find suitable stories to share with their audience.
The school has purchased the necessary PPL Student Radio licence, which enables them to play recorded music, and children in the school can fill in a little form to request a song to be played during breaks.
The radio station runs as a lunchtime club, for KS2 children, and is so popular that they need to operate a 3-week timetable so that everyone who wants to be involved, can be. Nearly 70 children are currently signed-up to work in groups of 4 to 6 to deliver each daily show.
“At my last school there wasn't much technology. I came here and it was like WOW!”
“I use a lot of things I wouldn't normally get to use.”
(Quotes from Year 6 pupils)
Each child plays a different role during a lunchtime session. The producer makes sure all the levels are correct, and cues up the music on a PC, ready to launch the next song at the right moment. A news-researcher works on a separate PC to find suitable news stories to share. The presenter speaks live through a microphone, introducing songs and reading news items etc.
Outside the room you’ll find an LED ‘On Air’ sign, reminding others in the area to be quiet when the station is live, and so in many ways the radio station mimics the real thing – something which definitely keeps the children interested and involved. Scroll to the bottom of this post to hear an example of the children's work.
Whilst this is an extra-curricular activity, it is clear there are very real and direct links to curriculum learning. A number of children commented on how it had improved their reading skills, as they are sometimes required to read from a script during a broadcast. Planning, questioning and writing skills are all integral when preparing to interview people, something that the children have particularly developed as part of the TV station. Online safety has been essential to the successful running of both the radio and TV station, and speaking and listening skills are developed in a fun and exciting way.
The fact that it can be real confidence booster was mentioned by staff, children and parents.
“It’s been amazing to see how much her confidence has grown through taking part in these activities, and how her technological skills have advanced.”
“I feel this great extra-curricular resource has helped my son with speaking, listening, editing skills and building his confidence.”
(Quotes from different parents)
It’s the technology skills that the children were most enthusiastic to tell me about. They are learning all about sound recording and editing, online research, not to mention how radio and TV stations work.
“I wasn't really good at computers and stuff. I've learned how to use Audacity and movie editing so it’s taught me more about the computer.”
(Year 6 pupil)
So successful is the radio club that they have been reaching out beyond the school, to help other schools set up similar clubs, and they have even broadcast live at some events. For example, Fleetville Junior School has been supported by Richard and the children in setting up and running their own, similar radio station. Year 5 and 6 Sandridge children have worked directly alongside pupils from Fleetville, to show them how to use the equipment and software, and share their experience.
Southfield School in Hatfield enjoyed a live broadcast at a school fair, where Sandridge Radio provided the music and announcements. And Lakeside School, a special school in Welwyn Garden City, looked to the expertise of Sandridge when they wanted to set up their own radio station. Again, the Sandridge children went over to teach other children, and staff, how to use the equipment.
“My daughter loved being given the opportunity to show what she knows” (a parent.)
The children have even travelled to Bedfordshire on a couple of occasions to broadcast live and show their skills at a regional education technology conference run by the East of England Broadband Consortium.
Whilst it’s clear that Sandridge Radio is a great asset to the school, they have extended this even further with Sandridge TV, which has involved interviewing the stars, visiting professional TV studios and more. So I will write about this and share some of their work in a future post.
Huge thanks to Richard Sherwood and the children and parents of Sandridge School for sharing their experiences with me.