Sixth formers ‘write wrongs’ in social justice-themed journalism workshop

Between February and March, twelve City and Islington College students attended a series of workshops at the college’s Sixth Form Centre in the Angel, Islington, led by investigative journalist Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi and supported by Sussex University.

Omonira-Oyekanmi edits for political project Shine a Light and writes for Lacuna Magazine, which targets injustice and promotes human rights.

Dubbed the ‘Writing Wrongs Project’, the workshops aimed to prepare students for entry into the celebrated Orwell Youth Prize. Aimed at 12-18 year olds, the Orwell Youth Prize annually invites young people to tackle a key theme around social justice. This year, the theme is ‘The Future We Want’.

Over the course of four weeks, participants developed key journalistic skills in research and writing, receiving one-on-one feedback on developing a story and verifying sources. At the end of the course, the sixth formers submitted an article for detailed feedback as final preparation for entry into the Orwell Youth Prize.

Of the 12 participating students, Omonira-Oyekanmi selected A Level student Jessica Tunks as the stand-out winner, whose article ‘Pencils, parties and prison sentences’ focused on young offenders, school expulsions and prisons.

Runner-up Abigail Forest submitted an article addressing sexual harassment and the impact on young people, which the journalist described as “a beautifully written piece combining personal testimony and comprehensive background research.”

Other entries looked at homelessness, sexual harassment, bullying and racism.

Omonira-Oyekanmi said: “The winning piece was a comprehensive, deeply researched article which looked at the schools to prisons pipeline for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. A compelling mix of reporting and storytelling, including interviews with a former pupil referral unit teacher and a powerful interview with one of the author’s friends.

“All the pieces were well researched and some were incredibly thoughtful and well-written.”

“Students worked really hard, juggling research alongside school work and making valuable contributions during workshops.

“I’m so pleased that despite all the drama of the pandemic and the cancellation of our final workshop and celebration day, some were able to submit final articles.”

The Orwell Youth Prize will be accepting entries until 6 May for those looking for personalised feedback; the final deadline is 11 June. Young people are invited to enter at here.

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