Monday, 26 March 2018

Frankly Speaking Debate Competition at Benjamin Franklin House

Written by Lucy – Year 8 student reporter

On Friday 19th March, Whitley Academy pupils were invited to take part in the Frankly Speaking Debate Competition at Benjamin Franklin House (US Embassy), London.

We left Coventry at 7:11am, and arrived at Euston Station at 8:25am. We then took the underground to the Bloomberg Building, outside it was cloudy and windy, but not too cold.

Very soon we realised the massive Bloomberg Building was just three months old and provides working spaces for 4000 employees! It was vast with lots of open spaces. Whist standing at the Reception, our photos were taken by the cameras right in front of us. The photos were then printed and put on lanyards with our free wifi login details!

We followed the flow of people towards the lifts. They were made entirely of glass and in the centre a magnificent spiral staircase circling endlessly up and down in both directions! As we ascended to the top of the glass elevators, we were greeted with a plethora of stairs weaving in and out of one another as though they were fragile chords being strung together to create a piece of art. When we reached the floor designated for us, we had about 45 minutes to relax and get used to the new environment.

We were invited to breakfast, with an array of food and with so many choices! Anything from bread and butter to crisps and popcorn, you could have had anything! It was a very different world for us all.

We were then taken to a large theatre with several circular tables, each with a free notebook and a nice black pen for everyone attending. After a short introduction from Gemma Smith (Education Manager of Benjamin Franklin House), we were taken to different rooms across the Bloomberg Building. Ciaran and I (Lucy –the blogger) went with our teacher, Mrs Nguyen, and the Year 11 team.

It was very fascinating to be taken back to the exact route we took when we first entered the building. As we looked up, it appeared as though we were encased in a giant dome of wood, before this grandeur, we would appear only as little, colourful specs across the vast wooden sheen and this polished wood curved elegantly round the corner as we proceeded around it towards the first checkpoint.

Then they began! The first round for the Year 11 team.

Tyler and Kuba proposed 30 mins of mandatory exercise for children aged 6-16, giving a very strong argument that was then was opposed by the Harris School who gave an equally strong argument to challenge them. This carried on for several minutes until each team wrapped up and concluded their speeches.

The tense atmosphere soon relaxed as we were given a 15 minute break to plan and refresh before the second round began. This time the topic was about ‘single-use plastics being banned’. Our school was in the Opposition.

Soon it was all finished and we were led back up to the theatre with circular tables where we grabbed a pack lunch and stuffed our faces. Before we knew it, the results were back. Sadly we didn’t make it to the semi-finals, but with our Year 11 team only just losing by 1 point, we were satisfied.

We stayed in the theatre to watch the final debating rounds of the Year 12/13 students. The arguments were very heated and tense about ‘National government should be solely responsible for space exploration’. The contestants who were debating had obviously been practising a lot, and really paced themselves in their arguments. All the four debaters tried their best, with many POIs (Points Of Information). We found it fascinating to witness how knowledgeable each contestant was.

For your information, the highest scoring student in the Frankly Speaking Competition is nominated for a place at the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Summer Institute. It is a completely free trip for the winner!

At 4:50pm, the long awaited moment finally came: the announcement of the winners for both age brackets Years 10/11 and Years 12/13. We joined in with the audience to congratulate those who won the debates.

What an amazing eventful day for all of us! I personally felt proud and delighted to be able to join the audience and watch all the proceedings. Hopefully the experience of today would enable us do well in future debates.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

BBC School Report 2018 – Live from Broadcasting House

Written by Holly and Melissa – Year 8/9 student reporters

On Thursday 15th March, 16 Whitley Academy students and two teachers arrived at Coventry train station, feeling very excited for the big day ahead. Even though it was wet outside, we didn’t let it dampen our spirits, and there was a warm buzz of excitement in the air. We were briefed that some of us would work with the BBC journalists for live interviews (yes! Live television interviews!) and the rest of us would work with the online and radio teams. The anticipation and the excitement sent shivers up and down our spines.

At 8:11 am, the red Virgin train pulled in, and we all got on and took our seats. Some of us were even allocated seats in the First Class coaches!

At 9:15 am, we reached London Euston station, and made our way to BBC Broadcasting House after leaving Oxford Circus underground. On entering the building, we received yellow lanyards and badges and went through security. Everybody was amazed when we looked out over the glass work in the BBC newsroom. We got shown to the escalators and taken to a hall. We were divided into two groups: ‘A’ for the workshop, and ‘B’ for the broadcasting activities.

We spotted John Cena (the WWE American professional wrestler) and had a chat with him after his interview on the radio. How exciting! Then group ‘A’ got taken down to the piazza (the public square right in front of the BBC Entrance) for a workshop on the recording equipment the BBC take out to record different stories. First we were shown the Editing Van, and even got to have a go to swap between cameras. It seemed unreal that each of us was given access to the professional cameras to experience how real filming was. Secondly, we were taken to the Recording Van and allowed to record something we believed to be interesting.

In the meantime, the other group were recording for the live BBC radio, and playing the new game IReporter.

After all this, both groups went back to the hall and got to interview some BBC presenters. The conversation was very honest and open-minded. This was a snapshot of what we were talking about;

Q: What made you decide to be a journalist?

A: “A very long time ago, I think I was nosy and I quite liked the idea of going around and asking people what made them think about what they were doing and I was nosy about the world. I wanted to know what was going on. So I thought being a journalist was a good thing”.
A: “To be a presenter you meet the most interesting people in the world and doing the most interesting things. You need to have passion for learning and passion for understanding how people work and how things work. It is never boring. Every day is different”.
A: “I think human beings are story-tellers. We like to tell stories and to hear stories. Journalists can do this”.

Q: What are your ‘top tips’ for young reporters like us to go into journalism?

A: “Keep practising, keep doing things. There are more opportunities now with social media to get your work out there to an audience. Keep knocking on doors and never take no for an answer! Have a passion for the job you want to do”.
A: “If you have an idea for a story, go for it. Send a picture. Keep writing. Write a blog. Do YouTube. There are so many ways to keep practising”.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

A: “I enjoy watching as much drama as possible. I often tell my kids I am working so that they leave me alone and keep on watching drama, and sometimes comedies”.
A: “Drinking coffee and listening to the news”.

Back to the happenings of the day.

At 1:15 pm, whilst we were having our lunch break, the BBC Director-General, Mr Tony Hall, came to talk to us about the game ‘IReporter’. A moment like that made us feel privileged to be able to be present inside BBC Broadcasting House and to meet Mr Tony Hall – the CEO of the BBC, the world’s oldest national broadcasting organisation!

Mrs Nguyen (our teacher), spoke with Tony and asked him to keep supporting the BBC School Report Teams so that young people across the UK could have the opportunity to make the news and report for a real life audience. We felt humble to listen to our teacher talk to Tony, she shared her personal story as a child and the mental attachment to the BBC. She received a big hug and a handshake from the Director-General after that, such an emotionally proud moment.

Then everybody went down to the green room to see Melissa, Omonigho, and John being interviewed by the BBC News Reporter, Noel Phillips. It was fascinating to be able to see how the captions were put on the television, to tell you who the people being interviewed were, and how the BBC staff had to keep changing cameras for all broadcasting programmes throughout the day.

Later on, we went down to the piazza again. All of us had the opportunity to explore the BBC recording equipment and spend time on the broadcasting trucks. It was fascinating to discover many pieces of recording equipment and how communication was made between the broadcasting vans and the BBC staff inside the BBC Broadcasting House. Some of us even managed to hold the massive cameras and see how heavy the equipment was.

The Piazza became more crowded with students from schools around the UK, especially when Huw Edwards, a long standing newsreader of the BBC, made an appearance. Once again Jack, John and Melissa got the golden opportunity to sit down and interview the Director-General, whilst many of us gathered around Huw Edwards for lots of questions. Huw was very personable, and told us how he got to where he was now. He started as a trainee for the BBC. From his words, we immediately realised how lucky we are to be able to do what we have been doing in the reporters’ team back in school.

Before the end of the day, we went back to the 4th floor, and all of us were taken to the ‘GREEN ROOM’ to watch Ellie, Eve, and Duncan on the BBC News channel, being interviewed by Huw Edwards. They were outstanding and answered questions very intelligently live on television. We felt so proud with all of our effort.

As the day came to a close, before leaving the BBC Broadcasting House, a BBC security guard approached and told us a fact about the cameras in the Newsroom: all the cameras are actually controlled by robots that move around by themselves on a specially designed train track. We spent the last precious moments to stare at the Newsroom! Wow!

For many of us, the train ride back to Coventry was quiet and reflective. We thought about all of the memories made today and all of the new paths that had been opened. Many students thought about their potential of becoming part of the BBC in the future.

Reflection is one of the most important things you can do on a day like this, a day we will never forget, a day full of inspiration, a day where dreams were fulfilled and created.

Thank you for reading our blog!

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Journey of discovery for Year 7 at Africa Day

Written by Holly and Harshitha - Year 8 student reporters

At 8:50am, lessons began for the eager Year 7 pupils. It was Africa Day, and they had been given a different timetable, with lots of very exciting African activities to do. 

In the first class we went to, pupils began the day by watching a series of short video clips about places in Africa. After each video, they discussed life in African countries. The pupils held on to every word their teacher and friends discussed during the session.

Next, the African quizzes!

The ambience of the classrooms was very lively, with lots of fun to be had from pupils sharing answers, whilst learning plenty of new things about Africa. Everybody was concentrating hard on the questions, and thinking outside of the box to get the right answer.

It was now time for imagination and creation! 

The pupils began to draw African patterns to design beautiful dresses. Other classes were making African masks for a colourful fashion show. In Mrs Wilson’s classroom, one pupil brought in a selection of African clothes to show the class. The whole class enjoyed wearing the real clothes and posing for the camera!

Miss Reynolds’s class made pastel pictures and tasty mask biscuits using their new found knowledge. Miss Reynolds said that she was keen on the idea of her pupils learning new things they would not usually learn in normal lessons.

After a lot of drawing and colouring, it was time for some African sports, including wrestling. The activities took place in our small gym. Miss Pearce demonstrated some wrestling techniques. All pupils listened attentively as it required a lot of thinking in order to pin your opponent down to the ground without striking (kicking). As soon as ‘the green light was on’, students became very passionate about trying to get their friends down to the ground. The gym became very noisy with laughing, shouting and all sorts of strange noises!

Later in the afternoon, around 1:10pm, the whole of Year 7 gathered in the Sports hall to learn a bit more about Africa. Some of the facts included: 

  • There are 2,000 or more languages spoken all over Africa, and most people know a little 'Swahili' without realising it, because 'Rafiki' from the movie 'The Lion King' means friend, and 'Simba' means Lion. How amazing!

Thank you to the teachers for the work that was put in to make the day “The best it could be”, and to give us all a glimpse of African life, its culture, and a new language!

Monday, 15 January 2018

Students achievements recognised at KS4 Celebration Evening

Written by Todd - Year 11 student

On Thursday 11th January, we were invited to attend the Whitley Academy Celebration Evening for Key Stage 4 (Year 10 and 11 this academic year).

It was 6:00pm, and the beautifully decorated green Canteen was packed with students and parents. Outside it turned dark, foggy and cold. However it remained dry.

The evening started with the talk of Miss Rachel Sandby-Thomas, the current Registrar of Warwick University. The audience listened attentively, and a massive applause filled the room at the end of her talk.

The remaining time of the evening went by rapidly, but there was an air of anticipation as Miss Sandby-Thomas prepared to give out the certificates and the awards. Nominated students went up one by one, sometimes twice, if there was more than one award to present.

I was the last on the list of Year 11 students. It was a total delight to realise I had been nominated by the teachers in the Learning Support Department.

Walking up to receive my award, I felt exhilarated, with everyone clapping and congratulating me. It was like winning the best actor or the best film director, and my parents were sitting at the back of the room with the audience. When I reached the front of the hall everyone’s eyes were fixed on me! It was absolutely excellent!

As the event came to a close, the last awards were given out and the staff started clearing things up, my emotion became mixed with happiness and sadness. It’s my last year at Whitley Academy, the school I entered as a child from primary school, and leave as a young adult. I will have lots of sweet memories about my time here!

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Annual Christmas celebrations enjoyed by pupils

Written by Ava and Eve - Year 7 student reporters

On Tuesday the 19th of December at 5:00 pm, Whitley Academy hosted the annual Christmas Fair in our cafeteria, decorated for the snowy season, by the school lake.

The bright Christmas decorations lit up the room, sparkling next to the light green background colour of the walls, along with the dazzling items that have been handmade by our lovely school pupils.

Some of those fabulous gifts included; glowing and decorative bottles, delicious hot chocolate reindeer, and crafts aplenty. In addition, there was delightful sweet treats and a tasty buffet with everything you could imagine on it.

There was a merry mood filling the room and not only our friends and family joined us, but ex-students and even teachers from another school came to enjoy the fabulous festivities. All around the room people (young and old) were laughing and having a great time observing all the fantastic items they could get and the prizes they could win in the raffle.

Some of the most popular stalls were the slime stall (as that is the most popular craze of 2017), elegant light up bottles, biscuit and cake decorating, and baubles that would add a splash of colour to the Christmas tree. But everyone did an extraordinary job!

We had a lot of special visitors but one that stood out the most was Santa! He brought a lot of festive cheer to everyone, even some of our teachers sat on his lap. You’re never too old for Santa!

This fair may all just be for fun, but being with your family and friends, also the feeling of pure joy, really made this night memorable for everyone. The festive ambience of the whole room will remain in our memories for a long time.

Now to wrap this up like a Christmas present! We would like to give a special thanks to our amazing teachers, who helped us provide such a fabulous fair.

We hope you have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year. 

All the best wishes for 2018!

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Manor Adventure popular with Year 7 pupils

Written by Ava, Omonigho, and Eve - Year 7 student reporters

On the 20th of November, many eager and ecstatic Year 7 pupils set off on a trip to Manor Adventure, located in the south Shropshire countryside. We were all very energetic on our coach journey as we had a two hour journey ahead of us!


It was time to set off from Whitley Academy, and we were ready to experience a wonderful adventure. Anticipating the fabulous activities that we would be taking part in, our hearts started to race.


The arrival at Manor Adventure was quite an experience, we were all in awe and couldn’t wait to get into our rustic rooms. Before we knew it, we were already starting our thrilling activities.

The first thing our groups did was rock climbing. All of us were a bit nervous, but when we went up the enormous climbing wall, the fears soon faded. We had a bit of a scare, specifically Eve who got up halfway and then gave up! However, Eve got a lot of encouragement from her fellow teammates and her instructor (Alex). He pulled her up, and didn’t let her give up until she got to the top. And she did!

Shortly after, we had a delicious dinner, then headed back out to do the dreaded, 'muddy underground maze'.

Omonigho, who had trouble with this maze, ended up soaking in muddy and dirty water. Our guess was that this maze wasn’t made for tall people! Omonigho is the TALLEST girl in our year group. Shorter people, nevertheless, still had difficulties, as both Ava and Eve ended up with a swimming pool inside their wellington boots!

Day 2

After a good night’s sleep (well, not really, as we were in a room with 13 other girls), we woke bright and early at 7:30AM, ready for another day’s fantastic activities.

First of all, we had a delicious breakfast that consisted of some English classics. 

Our first activity of day 2 was the zip line, and we were all quite scared as we had to climb up a rickety rope ladder, and, as you can probably imagine, it wasn't easy going! After, we jumped off and started zooming down! It gave us such a thrill. Then, we had a break so we could discuss our adventure with our noisy roommates.

Now came the archery session. It was in a muddy field, so we saw all of our friends slipping and sliding about. When we actually got to the archery, we were trying our hardest, and some of us managed to hit the bullseye!

Soon after our delightful lunch, we had kayaking and canoeing.

It was an eventful activity as Omonigho ended up in the water, fortunately Eve and Ava stayed dry. Phew! The difference between the two activities was canoeing is with two people in the boat and kayaking was a boat to yourself.

All of us got wet, but nothing compared to Omonigho, who was cold and very wet! We all had a fun time, but I think you can imagine, it was the nicest feeling to be back in the warmth!

Before the disco time for the evening, we needed to tidy our rooms, and fast!

So we danced, laughed and had the time of our lives with our friends, even the teachers joined in! Soon after the disco finished, we all went to bed and slept well this time.

Day 3

Wednesday was our last day, and we made the most of it. We had a lovely final breakfast, and then set off on our first activity of the day, fencing.

It was a unique experience as it was our only indoor activity. We got kitted up and had to wear a lot of protection. We arrived in the main hall and got to grips with the basics of fencing then moved onto bigger things like battling against our friends. We listened to the coach attentively, as there were many techniques and footwork skills to practice.

Shortly after, we got onto our final activity and that was abseiling (it means to rope down a cliff or a slope). We had been anticipating this all week and now we all had butterflies in our stomachs.

The abseiling took place in the woods not far from where we spent the nights. Once we had the courage to go up, we had to put our heels on the edge and we could feel our legs trembling at the thought of falling off, of course we were safely clipped into our harnesses.

Once we were ready to start, we had to pluck up the courage to lean back and go over the edge. It was a hard thing to do, but once that part was over, it was amazing to hear all your friends cheering you on. 

The wall was very slippery and it was difficult to stay in control. However, once we picked up our confidence, we felt like we were floating on clouds. It was such a thrill, and we were all so glad we conquered our fears.

We had a lovely lunch afterwards with a chocolate cookie that was the size of our faces, truly our highlight of the meal. 

Before we knew it, Manor Adventure was over. We were all so upset to go but we knew we belonged back in Coventry with our family and friends.

Our MASSIVE thanks to our teachers who worked so hard to organise such an amazing trip for us all.