Two Year 8 students from Chantry High School, Dominic and Dijana along with Miss Morrison and Mrs Barrell, travelled to London on Thursday 17 March to take part in a press conference with Prime Minister David Cameron at 10, Downing Street. The press conference was part of the annual BBC School Report initiative, a national project which involves over a thousand schools working to a deadline to produce a news broadcast on Thursday 24 March. Chantry High School were one of a handful of schools who took part in the pilot project five years ago and have been involved ever since.
The day started at the Royal College of Engineers at 11.00am with a short introductory session with BBC organisers. This allowed the students from 15 different schools across the country to meet each other and finalise their questions. We were then joined by BBC Political Correspondent and Radio 5 presenter John Pienaar who staged a mock press conference with the students to allow them to experience asking their questions in front of an audience and gauge the sort of answers they might receive.
After a short lunch break we were escorted along Horse Guards Parade, past the Foreign Office, through Downing Street security and into Downing Street itself. Students had the opportunity to witness the security and police in action searching vehicles arriving on the premises and ensure the area was safe before being shown through the famous polished black door of Number 10.
Once inside we were given a tour of the formal rooms of Number 10 including the white room, where the Prime Minister meets with VIPs and dignitaries from all over the world and the terracotta room that was redecorated by Margret Thatcher during her tenure as Prime Minister. Our party was then escorted into the press conference room, lined with BBC camera men and photographers to await the arrival of the Prime Minister.
When David Cameron appeared he quickly put the students at ease before the press conference began. Students from different schools were able to ask him questions about topical issues like the withdrawal of EMA payments post 16, funding cuts for schools, job opportunities for young people and the high unemployment level as well as the hike in tuition fees and Downing Street’s involvement in this year’s Comic Relief.
Unfortunately time was short so not all of the students were able to ask their questions. Dominic, however, managed to get a private chat with Mr Cameron on the stairs on his way out to meet the press and asked him his question then. Both Dominic and Dijana shook hands with the Prime Minister and were able to get his autograph.
After a photo call on the steps of Downing Street we made our way back to the Royal College of Engineers and then headed home.
Both students were fantastic throughout the whole day; they were great representatives for our school and made their teachers, and also their family and friends, very proud. They really enjoyed the experience, to quote Dominic, “it was the best day ever”.
Jordana Morrison – BBC School Report Co-ordinator