St Mary’s School Radio launches during lockdown
Posted: 22 June 2020
- Communication skills
- Problem solving
Staff at St Mary’s Colchester have found a unique way of engaging students and helping them beat the lock-down blues while they work remotely… by streaming their own breakfast radio show every morning.
Students, parents, and staff tune-in every weekday morning between 8 and 8:50 am and join Assistant Director of the Senior School, Roque Vieito, as he presents school community news, plays a collection of upbeat hits and passes on shout outs and dedications sent in by listeners.
The streaming link is available at http://streaming.broadcastradio.com:8800/stmcol (this only works between 8 and 8:50am GMT while the show is streaming) but anyone can listen and submit shout-outs, dedications and song requests by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The radio project has been funded by the school’s Parent Teacher Association. Equipment was purchased before the lockdown came into force and student-led practice broadcasts were going out before the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the UK. The St Mary’s School Radio presenters visited BBC HQ in London last year, picking up some tips and tricks from presenters of Radio 1 and Radio 1 Extra shows.
The radio project was originally intended to be run as a new extra curricula activity as part of the schools enrichment programme this year. Two Enrichment Sessions every week are set aside for girls to take part in an activity of their choosing from the wide range on offer, from radio presenting to mindfulness. Students are encouraged to try something new and that contrasts with other activities they might already be involved in. Radio provides an exciting and engaging medium for your students to develop their communication skills, build confidence and discuss the issues that are important to them.
When COVID-19 forced schools in the UK to close in March, Mr Vieito saw the opportunity to utilise the equipment (and his small box-room at home) to keep the school community together and spirits high whilst distance learning.
Content for the show: Our main aim for the show is ‘edutainment’, a mix of education and entertainment that helps to keep our school community together during isolation. The show aspires to be fun and light-hearted to keep everyone’s spirits high.
Students, parents and teachers help generate content for each show. One student volunteers as the radio station’s producer. Contributions include a daily thought for the day, students sharing examples of their work like poems, and a competition to guess the name of the teacher from a set of clues. The school’s social media is also utilised to pick up on fun stuff happening within the community and to develop ‘chit-chat’ and fun competitions. It all happens in quite an organic way.
Occasionally we have students join us on air via Teams. this is a great way to get the girls involved, build up their confidence and to incorporate student voice into the daily show.
The show also has themed weeks, and during lock down has celebrated International Week and Mental Health awareness week.
Our Senior School celebrated St Mary’s annual International Week from 11 to 15 May with the girls getting involved in internationally inspired activities at home. Each day began with an internationally-themed breakfast show on St Mary’s School Radio, with the broadcast of foreign language classic tunes to help the students get motivated for their learning. Listeners tuned in from as far afield as Australia! Even in isolation this helped the school community feel more internationally minded.
For Mental Health Awareness Week, 18-24 May – which was particularly important this year with added worries about COVID-19 and how it is affecting ourselves and those we love. Students at St Mary’s embraced the theme of ‘kindness’ by making thoughtful gestures and reaching out to others in their communities. The show delivered tips on maintaining mental well-being and advice on positive behaviours.
Music: A key component of the show is music, we aim to play a good mix of up-beat fun songs that appeal to all ages! Members of our community can also write into us to request songs for us to play along with a dedication. Many families have been inspired to send in jingles and songs about the show which are regularly played out. One family re-wrote and performed the Baked Potato song with the lyrics “Thank you Mr Vieito”.
Obviously we avoid explicit content and we think carefully about the songs we might be playing. We report what we play through PPL and PRS. As we are a very small station that process is relatively straight-forward.
Technical details of how it is broadcast: We bought a portable kit from School Radio which includes a mixing desk, a playout system, two microphones and some headphones. There is a link we activate with a click of a mouse and that makes the broadcast live. The subscription we pay to School radio covers the hosting of the broadcast at that address.
Our challenges with this initiative have been minimal.
A key issue is that music is difficult to source – if you want to be able to play anything current there are probably some very expensive programmes you can buy in to. I am lucky to have an extensive CD collection to pick from. We buy the odd new CD here and there that keeps it from being too retro.
We also don’t have the facility to have people calling in to the show but we have got around this by using Microsoft Teams to audio call students and have them talking on the show`s guests via a laptop.
We are delighted with how well received our new St Mary’s School Radio has been. It has helped ease students into the swing of home learning after the Easter break, created a real sense of community and positivity during these challenging times. We are very grateful to St Mary’s PTA who made this exciting new project possible.
Needless to say, the response from the community has been exceptionally positive. Interactions with parents and students is great. We were celebrating someone’s grandfather being discharged from hospital the other day. The scale of what we talk about is so intimate and on such a personal level that it isn’t hard to connect as a community. At this particular time its a veritable balm to be able to have a level of communication that is unmatched by letters or email. Not all listeners will interact but we know they are listening.
It gives a lot of the girls confidence and self-esteem; we always have the occasional students who is normally very quiet and reserved but pop them behind a microphone and they become a total extrovert!
The girls learn to understand the importance of teamwork as they work together to pull content together or to write scripts, copy or conduct research for the show.
And the very nature of the project helps our students to improve their speaking and listening skills and to understand the value of communication.
We used to run breakfast shows before but the profile of the show has sky-rocketed with Lockdown. We’ll be looking to capitalise on that to some extent and use the momentum to launch a re-vamped version of the student show.
We would love to extend the broadcasts to take in the local care homes, the big plan for the future is for students to purposefully broadcast shows into care homes with requests and shout outs to residents, I think it would provide real purpose to the station and serve the local community.
- It is hard work but the live shows are such an exciting thing for the students. We always broadcast into classrooms on the last day of term before Christmas and they are incredibly excited when they finish doing their shows.
- Ensure you have all the right equipment (Broadcast mixing desk, computer playout system to play music and record content, microphones, speakers & headphones and a transmission method).
- Be familiar with your mixing software.
- Explore any child protection issues.
- Set rules and guidelines for content and etiquette (very important if you plan on streaming live!).
- Research all your licencing and legal requirements.
- Get the students to generate the ideas – they aren’t bound by what we think of when we say ‘radio’ – some of the ideas are fantastic.
- Have fun with it!
Author: Roque Segade Vieito, Assistant Director of Senior School, Head of Science