The final report from the Commission on Fake News and the Teaching of Critical Literacy Skills in Schools was published on the 13th June. It contained some concerning evidence that young people lack essential critical literacy skills and are increasingly distrustful of media. Only 2% of children and young people in the UK have the critical literacy skills they need to tell if a news story is real or fake. Two thirds of teachers are concerned that fake news in harming children’s wellbeing.
There are several recommendations in the report which aims to engage schools and parents in the development of critical literacy skills and more dialogue around the news.
Here are four ways we can empower young people to re-engage with the news and have confidence to question it.
1. Create excellent news content that engages young people in a way that responds to their needs
Young people need to engage with different forms of media including digital and film. If the majority of young people are getting their news from TV or social media, then only providing print copies or articles isn’t going to cut it. Our latest work experience student, Sapna Joshi, reflected that young adults often don’t have the time to sit and read through a newspaper: “I often don’t have more than 2 hours of truly free time, especially when revising for exams, and we do not want to have to take an hour to read a newspaper. So, when I didn’t have time to read a newspaper I found new ways to stay updated: I subscribed to have popup news articles on my phone; used snapchat articles; and listened to podcasts.”
Burnet New Club teachers say that video content has worked the best in the classroom and that’s why we aim to incorporate multi-media news content into all of our news packages.
Our new producer, Rose Palmer, will be working on developing our use of film and interactivity with our news content.
2. Teach young people explicitly how to challenge the news and be open-minded to different perspectives
Fake news isn’t new, even if it is more prolific. We shouldn’t automatically trust what we see or hear in the media. But we should be able to trust our own response to it. Young people need to be explicitly taught to bring a healthy scepticism to everything they are exposed to. Practising applying knowledge and reasoning to something they’ve come across and being challenged regularly is important. Alongside this we should be encouraging open-mindedness; a willingness to listen to different viewpoints. That’s why we provide bespoke activities alongside news content, specifically designed to develop these skills.
3. Support teachers to bring the news into the classroom
We have teachers on our team who know it can be intimidating to begin a dialogue in the classroom around current affairs. Topics such as Brexit can be extremely sensitive and households may have very different perspectives. Teachers should receive training and support to build their own confidence in getting the conversations started. Providing a toolkit of strategies for having difficult conversations, building a respectful but challenging space, and supplying engaging interactive activity ideas is a good start. We offer online training for teachers, to watch and refer back to when it works for them and their often crushing schedules. This is supplemented with year round in-person support.
4. Give young people a platform to discuss the news with their peers
The report recommends encouraging “dialogue and discussion between young people, their peers and family members should be encouraged.” We channel a lot of energy into our online Hub, where Burnet News Club students come to discuss the news with their peers, experts on each topic, and trained teachers looking to develop key critical literacy skills. It offers a safe, moderated space to train young people how to engage with online discussion. Crucially, the site is public so that young people’s voices are given a platform where anyone can see their discussions.