TWENTY-FIVE of Swindon’s brightest sixth-form students got to grips with the pressures and pleasures of journalism on a two-day residential course near Cambridge.

This was the latest event in a four-year rolling Scholars Programme aimed at helping young people from less advantaged backgrounds in the town to improve their skills.

The workshop at Villiers Park Educational Trust, led by freelance journalist and teacher Jerome Monahan, explored everything from interviewing to constructing a news story while also examining some of the current issues affecting the industry, including the impact of social media and the Leveson report.

One highlight was a Skype conversation with an Adver reporter. It was a dramatic exchange as the reporter was just tackling a big breaking news story.

Jerome said: “It was an opportunity to get a sense of the pressures journalists can be under and how unpredictable their days can be.”

Students learned how much things have changed in terms of the sources of stories with the emergence of so much ‘reader-generated’ words and images.

They also learned about out the best routes into the profession.

New College student Keegan Lane, 16, said: “The course has been great fun, and has definitely changed my attitude to journalism. It was something I had previously dismissed.”

St Joseph’s Catholic College sixth-former Ellie Lovejoy, 16, said: “The course has definitely sparked an interest in journalism. I did not know much about it as a possible career path.”

According to Villiers Park chief executive Richard Gould, only a third of ten year olds that gain top five per cent SATs results go on to fulfil their academic or vocational potential.

He said: “The Villiers Park Programme, which combines a mix of mentoring and extra-curricular courses, is designed to ensure young people of their ability stay focused and don’t sell themselves short when it comes to higher education.

“Last year we saw the completion of the first four-year cycle for students we first met at the start of Year 10 and who are now at university.

“More than three-quarters, 78 per cent, have gone off to university.”