UK: The National Schools Radio Network is a newly launched initiative by The Vision Charity intended to introduce young people to radio as a means of developing media awareness, technological skills and self-confidence. While developed with the UK's estimated 1.2m dyslexic, visually impaired and blind children as chief priority, the programme - which is already benefiting from the support of Sony and broadcast systems giant Arqiva - is open to all schools and pupils, writes David Davies.
Showcased at the House of Commons earlier this month by the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls, with the assistance of Culture, Media and Sport minister James Purnell, the web-based initiative offers schools and colleges the opportunity to showcase their abilities on a level playing field through the production of radio programmes as a group activity in a classroom setting. Completed programmes will be uploaded onto web community platforms, with details of each production to be logged on the Schools Radio website (link below).
"Ideally we want the students to become quite ambitious with their productions and use multiple inputs, editing and some effects," Vision Charity president Peter Thompson tells PSN-e. However, all programme-making methods are acceptable, "from one simple microphone into a PC, to the state-of-the-art audio studios in those schools and colleges fortunate enough to have them."
Whatever the set-up, the basic objective is universal. "The whole gambit is to create and use radio programmes as a means of developing media awareness, self-confidence and the ability to deliver," says Thompson. "In particular, we're looking for the older students - 16- to 18-year-olds - to really get stuck in. It might even lead to some form of employment somewhere in the audio industry_"
Schools Radio has already secured several well-known patrons (veteran broadcaster Nicholas Parsons and author Ken Follett) and is actively seeking more. Meanwhile, Thompson encourages PSN-e readers to join Sony and Arqiva in backing an ambitious programme that could ultimately reach far beyond the borders of the UK.
"We would be delighted to have the support of any or all audio professionals," he confirms. "We are just a tiny charity with a big idea, and we need people to help us make it work."