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Children's Express

SHOWREEL

Website
The Children's Express Story Library features a full archive of stories published by children and young people

Contact

Children's Express (UK)
Exmouth House
3-11 Pine Street
London EC1R 0JH
UK
Tel: +44 20 7833 2577
Fax: +44 20 7278 7722
Email: info@cenews.org
Website: www.childrens-express.org/

Management partners

Save The Children Fund
Sheffield LEA and Sheffield Arts & Media Centre
Bournville School and Birmingham Local Education Authority
Plymouth Education Action Zone

Location

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Urban areas: London, Belfast, Newcastle, Sheffield, Birmingham, Plymouth.

Background

Children's Express began operations in New York in 1975. It was the brainchild of a former Wall Street lawyer and entrepreneur, Robert Clampitt, who believed passionately that what children thought and said did matter. He wanted to create a forum for children to report on the news, so he set up a monthly magazine 'by children, for children'.

From the outset the children defied adult expectations. For example, a team of Children's Express reporters who went to the 1976 Democratic Convention to talk to the hot-dog vendors and balloon sellers in Madison Square Gardens, soon realized that the most significant issue for the press was who was going to be Vice President.

No one paid any attention to 12-year-old Gilbert Giles when he got into a lift with a group of Jimmy Carter's senior aides - but Children's Express scooped the world's press on Carter's choice of Walter Mondale as his running mate. News and comment by Children's Express has been supplied to adult media ever since.

In 1982 its columns were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and in 1983 United Press International (UPI) began three years of distributing the Children's Express column to newspapers across the United States of America. It won Emmy and Peabody Awards in 1988 for coverage of the presidential campaign.

Children's Express news teams have covered the past seven presidential elections, travelled on assignments across the United States, and to a number of countries where children have been caught up in conflict - including, most recently, Bosnia. Sadly, the Children's Express operation in the United States ran into trouble in 2001 and closed down. However, the UK organization is going strong.

UK development

Several UK agencies, including Community Service Volunteers and the 'Who Cares?' Trust had been impressed by the work of Children's Express in the United States but they lacked the resources to set up a London bureau. In August 1994, a group of volunteers ran a pilot in London to establish the feasibility of setting up a UK operation.

Thirty-one children from the most impoverished areas of Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Islington were recruited to take part in a six-week training programme. They were identified from over 100 applicants who had responded to posters in schools and youth groups in inner London. The sole basis for selection was enthusiasm.

For the first week, four teenage editors were flown over from the New York bureau to train the British teams in research, story development, interviewing and editing. The stories the children chose to work on were tough: what it is like to be young and in detention; what life is like for a 15-year-old living on the streets; and how a teenager copes with pregnancy. The work resulted in a two-page spread in The Guardian (5 October 1994), a half-hour documentary commissioned by Channel 4 Television and tremendous enthusiasm among both the adults and children who had taken part. In December 1994 Children's Express (UK) became registered as a charity.

Aims and objectives

Children's Express is a programme of learning through journalism for inner-city children and young people aged 8-18.

Children's Express reporters and editors choose, research and produce stories on subjects of their choice. Experienced members may become peer trainers, delivering the vast majority of training for members and special project participants.

Children's Express operates as a news agency, initiating stories, accepting commissions and placing these stories in local and national media.

Our mission is to give young people the power and means to express themselves publicly on vital issues that affect them and, in the process, to raise their self- esteem and develop their potential.

Our aims are:

• to ensure that children have the skills and support to enable them to express their views on issues that concern them;

• to bring these concerns to the attention of policy makers and opinion formers;

• to encourage children's development as good citizens;

• to motivate adults to take an active interest in children's issues;

• to provide a supportive and nurturing environment;

• to work on a national basis;

• to become a recognized and respected source of objective views on youth issues.

Participants

Children's Express is open to all children but actively recruits in urban areas of disadvantage, drawing from poor housing estates, ethnic minorities and failing schools in areas where exclusion, truancy and youth unemployment are high. Membership is free, and we subsidize transport costs in cases of need. Active outreach encourages participation by hard-to-reach or marginalized young people who might otherwise not be attracted to this or any other after-school programme.

Target audience

The programme already serves a very diverse range of young people in terms of age, background, ethnicity and gender. We are also reaching out to more young people with disabilities and learning difficulties.

Children's Express also gives a voice to hundreds more children and young people through participation in interviews and round-table discussions.

Wider beneficiaries

Children's Express aims to benefit all young people, encouraging them to speak up on issues that affect them. The programme promotes tolerance of diversity and empowers young people, especially those who are excluded or marginalized, by showing that their views are important and their voices listened to.

Every interview, article and conference appearance by Children's Express members demonstrates the potential and helps overturn the often negative public perceptions of young people by:

• delivering honest, outspoken, informed and articulate youth views;

• providing the opportunity to consult with young people on issues that affect them;

• providing other youth service agencies the opportunity to offer the Children's Express experience to their members.

Involvement of children

Story ideas come from members, staff and external commissions. Decisions on what stories should be pursued are taken at each bureau's monthly editorial committee, composed entirely of children. Children's Express teams report on the issues they choose to investigate, thereby ensuring that the media receives articles exclusively from the perspective of young people. Each bureau produces its own monthly newsletter that encourages members to participate in activities and keep them up to date.

The members of Children's Express are involved in decision-making through regular members' boards. Members are consulted on day-to-day and strategic policy and practice. They are also involved in recruitment. Graduates of Children's Express aged 18-21 are also encouraged to shape the agency through a Gap-Year Internship Program. The Board of Trustees includes a Children's Express graduate, and a Members' Advisory Board is being set up to ensure that the members' views go directly to the trustees.

Over the next two years:

• Children's Express members will produce approximately 250 stories;

• 615 young people will work as reporters or editors;

• 380 young, low-income or at-risk young people will participate in interviews or round-table discussions to develop these stories;

• 110 young people will participate in special projects.

Summary description of project

Children's Express gives inner-city children and young people an effective voice on issues that directly concern them while providing a unique opportunity for young people to develop skills, raise their aspirations and realize their full potential. The project brings a diverse group of children and young people together to research and produce articles about young people's experiences for publication in the mainstream media. The articles are published or broadcast in the mainstream and specialist media, helping to bring the voice of children to a wider audience and break down the often negative stereotypes of young people.

Peer trainers provide all member training, and this sends a powerful message that Children's Express is run by, with and for children.

The project gives low-income and marginalized young people an effective voice on issues that concern them by involving them in the round-table discussions and interviews that form the basis of most Children's Express articles. For many, this is the first time anyone has seriously asked their opinion, let alone published these views in the mainstream press. Some of the interviewees and round-table participants become trained members of Children's Express.

In addition to continued story work, Children's Express has a number of special projects planned:

• 'Citizen's Express' is a new web-based project to develop Children's Express stories into lesson plans for use in teaching citizenship;

• 'Islington Voices' is a project funded by Islington Children's Fund to involve young people in local decision-making and to report on local services and activities of the Children's Fund;

• 'Open Minds' is a project funded by the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation to work with young people who have mental health or emotional problems.

Funders include

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
Atlantic Philanthropies
Department for Education and Science
Department of Health
Equitable Charitable Trust
Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund
Islington Children's Fund
Capital Radio Help-A-London-Child
Department of Education Northern Ireland
Belfast European Partnership Board - Peace I
City Parochial Foundation

Cost

Expenses

£ Sterling

Personnel

394,047

61%

Staff-related expenses

24,000

4%

Premises costs

37,750

6%

Office expenses

34,500

5%

Support services

48,466

7%

Direct costs

56,300

9%

Management

52,700

8%

647,763

100%

Strengths of the project

This trust enables the young people to produce work that is equal to or better than that of seasoned journalists. Children's Express members frequently become active in their communities, take more control over their futures and have the confidence to pursue their dreams. Many participants with few job prospects have gone on to a good job or returned to education. Children's Express also helps young people deal with emotional and personal issues, such as bullying, sexuality and family breakdown.

Challenges

The programme is six years old and the initial development funding is falling away. The biggest challenge facing the organization is to find ongoing, flexible funding sources that last for more than one or two years.

Children's Express is a unique programme that crosses boundaries of social service, education, journalism, community building etc. Although the difficulty in categorizing the project is generally an asset, it can cause difficulties in finding funding.

When Children's Express was started, it was difficult to convince the media or government that young people's voices were important. Now, especially given Article 12, and policy statements from the British government, this is no longer the case. However, there is a great deal of tokenism in youth consultation. There is a danger that the views of children and young people will be sought but not listened to - leading to frustration and disillusionment. Children's Express is committed to providing the means to enable young people to have a truly effective voice on issues that concern them.

Evaluation

Evaluations by Saul Hilman in 1996 and Mog Ball in 1999, together with in-house monitoring, have shown that Children's Express gives young people a voice that influences both adults and children and can help them achieve a better quality of life and overcome barriers that otherwise could trap them in a cycle of poverty and dependence.

Children's Express:

• builds confidence and self-esteem, raises aspirations, increases independence and develops coping and life skills;

• develops team-work, analytical, social and oral and written communication skills;

• develops planning, presentation and training skills of peer trainers;

• increases linguistic skills and general knowledge, raises educational aspirations and reinforces the curriculum;

• increases awareness of social issues, encourages responsibility, promotes good citizenship and promotes tolerance of diversity and opens dialogue with parents and other members of the community;

• fosters diversity, bringing young people together from different backgrounds and cultures to take part in different activities;

• brings young people's opinions to the media, government, parents, other young people and the general public;

• promotes knowledge of community issues, and national and international current affairs;

• children's Express also helps young people to take an active role in their own future - at a national, community, school, family or personal level.

What members say

"I'm from an area where there are few opportunities and without Children's Express I'd probably be spending time drinking on street corners or causing trouble. Children's Express has helped me to grow up in a lot of ways and made me face the responsibilities I will have when I'm older. I feel they have prepared me for my future." Gemma Burr, 16

"Because of Children's Express, I do better at my schoolwork and I can voice my opinion a lot easier than before. I have more friends and I am more confident." Victoria Murray, 14

"Without noticing, I've picked up words and sayings that I would never have used, and my school work has improved.... In fact my English grade has gone from Level 5 to Level 7!" Amanda McAteer, 13

"After going to Children's Express for a while, people start to notice the difference in you - and after a while you start to notice the difference in yourself. You feel you've accomplished something and that's the best thing for me." Orlaith Graham-Wood, 12

"Children's Express has opened up so many opportunities for me. I'm a trainer, which has helped me take responsibility and develop social and leadership skills." Hugo McIlveen, 15

"If you play football after school you just kick a ball around. Here you are trying to change society." Steven Cording, 14

"I like it because I've met new people and it's helped me improve my self- confidence." Amy Magowan Greene, 13

"I come because it's a fantastic way to learn about journalism and it also teaches you valuable life skills." Conor Magowan Greene, 10

"When I was 14 years old and I would be walking down the street, I would never have thought about the place we live in, like our trees and rubbish lying about. If the council came to me and asked me to say a little bit on how I felt about this, I probably would have felt a bit threatened. And now for me to be here and doing all these brilliant things has boosted my confidence a lot." Lisa Skinner, 17

"I have done lots of stories on issues such as bullying, the Loyalist Feud and smacking. The story that's meant the most to me was on bullying because I was bullied in first year at school. Researching, interviewing and writing this story helped me express some of the feelings I had as a victim of the bully.... This April I went to Manchester with some other members to do a workshop for young people at an Article 12 conference. I never dreamed that I could stand up in front of people and tell them my story but I can." Thomas Kielty, 16

"This year, I've worked with Sky News in the 'Future Voters' series. We were interviewed about our work live from Westminster. The series was important because we looked at things that affect young people in the community - teacher shortage, Internet safety, global warming and safety in the community.... it wasn't just the fact that I got to go on television. I saw it was a good opportunity to really be heard in journalism." Jasmine Stewart, 15

Lessons learned

Partnerships are central to the success of Children's Express, which shares operational and budgetary control with diverse organizations, including government agencies and voluntary sector organizations. This works if you have clear roles and responsibilities and there is a solid commitment to the goals, objectives and principles of the programme.

Start building a diverse funding base, including the development of a substantial individual donor base from early on. Project funding is often available when a programme is young. Ongoing core funding has to come from unrestricted funding sources that are few and far between.

Your staff and volunteers are a most important asset. If the programme is exciting and successful, you can recruit great people. To keep them, you must give them a chance to develop and grow along with the organization.

Sustainability

Locally, Children's Express is having a major impact on the community. Our members are active in local politics and have campaigned for better local services.

The programme plays a role in breaking down negative stereotypes about young people. At a recent workshop by Children's Express members, organized by the Leadership Trust, the adult audience were more than impressed by the professionalism of the young people.

Young people who participate in Children's Express have the opportunity to work with a huge diversity of people. They see the world from different perspectives and get the chance to make decisions about their own futures.

Anecdotes

Philip Lockyer, 18, left school with no qualifications. He spent four years with the programme and has since started working in an excellent job with Newcastle City Council's social inclusion unit as a youth issues researcher. His job takes him all over the country, making documentaries and preparing reports. He attributes his success solely to Children's Express. He still helps out with the programme when he has the chance. He told the Newcastle Evening Chronicle (19 July 2001), "I had a terrible education so I can speak from the heart about what it feels like to worry that you're unemployable, that no one will want you, that you have nothing to offer. I always wanted to get a job, to earn some money and some self-respect. Children's Express gave me the stepping stones I needed."

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