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The Children's Express Story
Library features a full archive of stories published by
children and young people
Children's Express (UK)
3-11 Pine Street
London EC1R 0JH
Tel: +44 20 7833 2577
Fax: +44 20 7278 7722
Save The Children Fund
Sheffield LEA and Sheffield Arts & Media Centre
Bournville School and Birmingham Local Education Authority
Plymouth Education Action Zone
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Urban areas: London, Belfast, Newcastle, Sheffield, Birmingham,
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,
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
'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.
Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
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
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.
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.
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.
builds confidence and self-esteem, raises aspirations, increases
independence and develops coping and life skills;
develops team-work, analytical, social and oral and written
develops planning, presentation and training skills of peer
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,
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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.
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.
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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