The Student View - Creating a newsroom in every school
As a platform that champions the power of words (obviously), we were inspired and excited when we came across this week’s iON edition. As of last year, a study by the organisation for economic co-operation and development detailed that 33.3% of 16-19 year olds have low literacy and numeracy skills in the UK.
As the saying goes, “if you do not contribute to the solution, you are a part of the problem”, Cambridge History graduate, Solomon Elliott decided that it was time to change those statistics and work on creating more literary opportunities for budding, young writers.
The Student View is a charitable programme that uses the power of journalism to improve the literary skills of children from low income backgrounds, and provide a space for their written work to be published and their voices heard.
Solomon studied history at Cambridge University where he had the opportunity to speak to civil rights activists as part of his dissertation. “I did my final dissertation on the Civil Rights movement, and got help from the social activist and Civil Rights Movement leader Julian Bond. This experience highlighted how the black experience has always been marginalised and we haven’t had the ability to tell our own stories in a format where it would be not respected” Solomon told us.
"They are really divorced from current affairs as they don’t feel like it’s for them"
After his degree, Solomon did a Teach First course, and was placed as an English Teacher in a challenging school for 6 weeks. It was during this and during the course that the idea for the Student view was birthed, “the lecturer introduced us to this concept called Brookfield Lense which says, ‘a critically reflective teacher focuses on the students lense’ and I thought that’s fairly obvious. At that moment, Solomon had the idea for The Student View as he questioned “why isn’t there a platform for kids in schools to write articles?”.
Solomon spent a year mind mapping the idea and then trialled it in 6 schools with some friends for free. Needless to say, the schools saw great value in the programme and invested in it. This overwhelming response from the schools inspired Solomon to train as a journalist at Goldsmiths and he left teaching to focus solely on The Student View, “We’re working with just over 250 kids in 20 schools across London” he warmly explains. As well as from the talented and passionate Student View team, Solomon is also keen on bringing in high profile journalists to inspire the kids as well, and so far has had the pleasure of enlisting the likes of Emma Barnett (BBC Radio 5 Live) and Guy Young to run sessions and mentor the students.
"It’s an opportunity for kids from low-income backgrounds to feel fearless"
Solomon is dedicated to up skilling those from low income backgrounds and helping them feel confident in their ability to contribute to intelligent conversations and their written ability. Solomon tells us that the demographic TSV works struggle with that and are fervent in taking their skills outside of the classroom, “they are really divorced from current affairs as they don’t feel like it’s for them. We have lots of debates and discussions, which result in the students writing a listicle at the end of our first visit. It’s takes minimal effort so essentially a days work at school produces a published article”.
Young people are exposed to a lot more socially in this day and age, and their interests and concerns have been reflected in their articles, “it’s encouraging to see them write maturely and responsibly about mental health issues. We didn’t expect that especially in terms of volume. Also, a lot of the girls write about the impact of social media and the pressures of make up”. As well as sensitive and complex issues written from the lens of a 14 year old, the students have also written articles such as ‘How To Save Your Pennies As A Teenager' and '5 Ways To Be A Good Friend'.
"Why isn’t there a platform for kids in schools to write articles?"
Seeing the young people grow and evolve throughout the programme can be emotional, and Solomon confesses that “you have to really try to detach yourself from it because if you do get dawned into that emotional tidal when working with an organisation like this, its difficult to keep on top of things”. Solomon expresses that proud moments occur everyday but some standouts include when they took the kids to Parliament to interview MPs on International Women’s Day about education for girls in the developing world, and when one of the students was interviewing David Cameron’s former PPS about feeling unsafe walking to and from school, “he really held him to task, had his notepad in his hand and was looking him straight in the eye. It’s an opportunity for kids from low-income backgrounds to feel fearless, and I’m sure they can speak truth to power if given the opportunity, and that’s why I created it”.
In creating The Student View, Solomom Elliott is successfully changing the way young people see themselves and the opportunities available them. We often read on world and personal topics from an adult perspective so it’s refreshing to gain insight on the same topics from the students’ view.
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Twitter: @TSV_ORG | Instagram: @TheStudentView | Facebook: TheStudentView.Org | YouTube: The Student View