Schools launch ‘inspirational’ Jill Dando Centre to tell success stories and positive news

PUBLISHED: 08:00 01 October 2017

Nigel Dando with principal Jacqui Scott, English teachers Kirsty Fitzgerald and Sarah O' Gorman founder Weston Eagles founder Alex Crowther and students.

Nigel Dando with principal Jacqui Scott, English teachers Kirsty Fitzgerald and Sarah O' Gorman founder Weston Eagles founder Alex Crowther and students.

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Jill Dando, the former Mercury reporter and BBC presenter, has inspired the launch of a school journalism centre for students in Worle.

The mystery surrounding Jill Dando's death is explored in Unsolved Crimes. The mystery surrounding Jill Dando's death is explored in Unsolved Crimes.

The Jill Dando Centre is based at Worle Community School, in Redwing Drive, where Jill was a student, and will also run at nearby Priory Community School.

The aim is to give students the chance to tell positive stories about their peers, boosting literacy skills and teaching them about journalism.

Jill was murdered in 1999 and it is hoped her ‘brilliant’ journalism and sense of fun and kindness will now inspire others.

Her brother Nigel Dando, who retired from BBC Radio Bristol earlier this year, said: “It is absolutely mind-boggling how brilliant this scheme is.

BBC producer and former Priory student Katherine Smith with Jill Dando Centre students. BBC producer and former Priory student Katherine Smith with Jill Dando Centre students.

“I wish they had something like this back in my day.

“I’m sure schools all over the country will wish they had such a resource there.

“It is absolutely inspirational.”

Around £12,000 in sponsorship has been donated by community groups and businesses to kit out the journalism centre.

The editorial department with Jill Dando (second from left). The editorial department with Jill Dando (second from left).

It means the students have access to iPads, iMacs and a large TV screen to help them complete their work.

In an era where bad news seems to be on the increase, it is hoped the Jill Dando Centre will go some way to redressing the balance.

Principal Jacqui Scott said: “Good news can help change schools, communities and even nations.

“Our ex-student Jill Dando was clearly an inspiration to millions, was a brilliant journalist, and exuded positivity, laughter and kindness.”

Nigel Dando is pictured with Jill Dando Centre students, and left to right Principal Jacqui Scott left, English teachers and journalism trainers Kirsty Fitzgerald, Sarah O' Gorman, and Executive Principal Neville Coles. Nigel Dando is pictured with Jill Dando Centre students, and left to right Principal Jacqui Scott left, English teachers and journalism trainers Kirsty Fitzgerald, Sarah O' Gorman, and Executive Principal Neville Coles.

Children involved in the project have already started writing stories, and interviewed Mr Dando and representatives from McDonald’s and the Big Worle project, who have supported the centre.

Mr Dando said: “It is about inspiring students to use their language skills and people skills to whittle out all the good stories there are around this community.

“As journalists, we get accused of focusing on bad news, and yes, there is bad news around.

“But there is a lot of good in the world, and I think that’s what this centre will achieve.

“I certainly hope it does so as a legacy to my sister who believed in good news, laughter and bringing good humour to the world.”

The centre is not just about teaching students skills which will stand them in good stead in the future, although that is one of the outcomes, but for success stories to breed further successes within the two schools.

James Wilmot, head of careers at Priory, said: “It is ideally to raise awareness of what other students are doing and the small and big successes they are experiencing. I hope the success is contagious.

“Raising awareness of their successes is great, as it encourages other students to step up. It also normalises success, to show it is nothing to be ashamed of, and to contribute to making a difference in the school and community.

“It will help them be comfortable, curious and professional.

“Some of them may go on to be the journalists, bloggers and YouTubers of the future, it is just a question of experience and to start raising their profile now.

“They can have a portfolio of published work and blogs before they are even 12 years old.”

The students themselves have already noticed benefits from being part of the centre.

Year eight pupil Abigail Robbins said: “It helps with our social skills, as we have to talk to random people.”

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