A GROUP of Swindon’s brightest sixth-form students got to grips with the pressures and pleasures of journalism on a two-day residential course last week.

The 25 youngsters were put through their paces at the workshop held at Villiers Park Educational Trust, near Cambridge, as part of a programme aimed at helping young people from less advantaged backgrounds in the town to fulfil their potential.

It was led by freelance journalist Jerome Monahan and explored everything from interviewing to constructing a news story while also examining some of the current issues affecting the industry.

“It was practical and active with students being asked to conduct interviews, write stories, and plan, film and edit their own broadcast news package,” said Mr Monahan.

“One of the big challenges students face as they move on from GCSEs is being more self-reliant.

“Above all else this course offers the scholars new perspectives on the world and a chance to build their confidence. It is also good for them to have time out from their usual studies.”

One of the students’ highlights was a SKYPE conversation with Adver crime reporter Scott D’Arcy, where they were told about the discipline required to juggle multiple stories on a daily basis, while complying with legal requirements and exhibiting sensitivity when interviewing people at often grim times in their lives.

New College student Aston Bishop, 16, said: “I loved talking to him. It was interesting learning how long it takes him to write one of his articles and how he goes about researching them with the help of local contacts.”

The teenagers also had the chance to quiz former Adver editor Dave King about his career and current role as head of news for Sussex Newspapers Group.

Mr King, who is also the chief examiner for sport at the National Council for the Training of Journalists, was able to outline routes into the profession and the characteristics of successful journalists including curiosity and a desire to communicate.

Brad Canton, a 17-year-old New College student of Haydon Wick, said: “Journalism isn’t something which has previously appealed to me, but having had the opportunity to attempt some reporting techniques for myself, it has made me think again.”