Who was Alastair Burnet?

(Photo by Jeremy Grayson/Radio Times/Getty Images)

Our flagship programme for schools, the Burnet News Club, is named after Sir Alastair Burnet, a former editor of The Economist who was driven by making the news accessible to everyone. It’s a mission we share. 

In an illustrious career, Alastair also presented ITN’s News at Ten, the first hour-long newscast on British television. He guided viewers through general elections, royal weddings and even a moon landing. Anchoring ITV’s coverage on July 20th 1969, he famously told viewers:

There it is, the old Moon – the one the cow jumped over, the one the poets wrote about… And from now on, it’s going to be rather a different one.” 

The Economist Educational Foundation was set up in 2012 by Emily Evans while she was working as a conference producer at The Economist. Emily knew that developing young people’s news literacy was crucial to tackling inequality in education. Bringing topical debates to life on-stage inspired her to find ways to make these discussions happen in classrooms across the country. 

The Foundation started by running exciting news-themed events for children. Our purpose was to use expertise to make a social impact. We consulted teachers to help design our activities and we invited leading experts, including journalists at The Economist, to share their inspiring knowledge with young people. We ran our events in magical, theatrical settings in partnership with Punchdrunk theatre company.

Our work evolved: from delivering one-off events to our regular and ongoing Burnet News Club – a nationwide network of state school news clubs. 

The programme provides everything a school needs to run a weekly news club for the whole academic year. We form partnerships with schools to provide what teachers know will make a real difference to their students: a robust pedagogy, first-class training and high-quality, practical resources.

Everything we do has always been and always will be based on teaching expertise. We continue to work with journalists who help our own teachers on the team research the resources, and we secure world-famous names to answer students’ questions and help them engage with the big issues. The Club brings inspiring discussions about the news into classrooms in a diverse range of communities across the UK and the world. It seemed perfect to name it after Alastair Burnet. 

Since piloting the programme in 2013 we have seen it make a hugely exciting impact, so we have focused most of the Foundation’s energy, passion and resources on the Club and we now have ambitious plans to continue scaling it up. Since Emily’s early vision, we’ve grown into an eight-strong team (half of whom are teachers), dedicated to giving ever more young people the skills to think and speak for themselves about the news. 

The Burnet News Club is available to all non-selective UK state schools. It gives teachers everything they need to run a weekly news discussion and is a proven way to develop news literacy and critical thinking. Find out how to sign up your school here.