Picture News Autumn Workshops

Following the success of our spring and summer workshops, we’ve decided to run a few more for the autumn term! We’re running our ‘Using the News to Inspire Young Minds’ workshops after school, on selected dates in Leeds, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, North Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria. To find out if we’re running any near you, please see our events page here.

All of the events are taking place in a Picture News school with a limited numbers of spaces available for each session.

The workshops will provide you with a range of strategies to help:

  • Introduce simple but powerful questioning strategies to encourage deep thinking;
  • Link British values into your assemblies and SMSC work each week;
  • Bring your assemblies to life and help make them much easier;
  • Learn how the power of images can engage and inspire children;
  • Really make a difference to children’s attitudes of their world!


Picture News – a resource for dialogic classrooms by John Dabell

Great News

It’s back to school and that means you will be getting your classroom ‘ready’ but what do you display?

How you design your classroom matters because this is the space that children will spend the majority of their time. Displays make a significant difference to the feel of a classroom and how children feel about themselves. There are a range of design factors that need careful consideration but displays play their part and what we display can affect how children think, behave and perform.

According to the report ‘Clever Classrooms’, undertaken by the University of Salford,

“Well-designed classrooms can boost learning progress in primary school pupils by 16%”.

Led by Professor Peter Barrett, the Salford research team offer some useful advice. They found that well-defined and age appropriate learning zones are important to facilitate learning and they recommend that displays should be planned to give “a lively sense to the classroom, but without becoming chaotic in feel.  As a rule of thumb 20-50% of the available wall space should be kept clear.”

There will be plenty of subjects and projects vying for wall space and over the terms, displays will evolve and change in order to keep children engaged and interest levels high. Purposeful and well-planned work-oriented displays set the tone and create a positive climate.

Bulletin Boards

Some displays are long-term residents and these mostly relate to classroom management routines, rule and expectations. But there is another display that deserves a permanent spot in a clever classroom and that is a News Board.

Also known as Bulletin Boards, Current Affairs Boards or News Flash Boards, these learning zones are a must for helping children develop their media literacy, their analytical and critical skills and abilities to interact with others.

Being news savvy is a “global competency” that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is keen to promote, especially in relation to the impact of fake news.

Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s director of education and skills, recently argued that schools have a role to play in making sure that young people have a chance to debate different views and opinions in a more interconnected world.

This is where News Boards can play a living and interactive part of classroom life supporting children to be mindful and inclusive citizens of the 21st Century. They can help children see the world through different perspectives, appreciate different ideas and be open to different cultures.


In the spirit of the recent OECD report ‘Global Competency’, News Boards have a very powerful role to play in teaching children how to be responsible citizens and how to interact respectfully, appropriately and effectively in connection with a range of issues.

Picture News resources are ideally placed to help children interact with key news events and can help raise awareness of multiple perspectives, develop critical thinking skills, promote analysis, reflection and problem solving.

A News Board is a static feature in the sense that a display board is devoted to the news but the actual content changes weekly making it a vibrant and dynamic classroom feature that children will constantly learn from. News is ever-changing and children are on the same journey.

News Talk

Taking the conscious step to display weekly news items using powerful pictures and news features is a strong characteristic of a dialogic classroom. The news items displayed are there to be discussed, mulled over, explored and crucially, debated.

Recent research by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) shows that teaching children to argue helps their academic development.

Around 2,500 nine and 10-year-olds took part in a trial of “dialogic teaching”, in which teachers asked open questions and encouraged children to explain themselves rather than just state answers. The research found that ‘learning how to dialogue’ helped considerably and children who took part made on average two months more progress in English and science than a similar group of pupils who did not take part.

From a News Board perspective, this is great news because the news items that are posted aren’t just there to be looked at or to fill a space – they are there to be talked about, interacted with and used as a shared experience to exchange views, opinions and ideas. Talking about news content aids conceptual understanding, broadens world views and helps children take creative leaps.  They are ripe for asking open questions and for opening up minds.

Debating news items, peeling back stories and getting under their skin can help children improve their higher order thinking skills, engagement in current affairs and their confidence to articulate their views. The quality of talk can dramatically improve when teachers give time to focus on the news.

In the LKMco report ‘Oracy: The State of Speaking in Our Schools, the authors make the point that,

“School leaders and class teachers should provide a mix of activities that enable pupils to practice and develop different types of talk in lessons and across the school, ensuring pupils are exposed to a range of opportunities and contexts for meaningful talk.”

News Boards help children learn how to talk and discussing news items provides an opportunity for them to reflect on the nature of society itself and understand social issues. In this sense, making news a feature of class and school life feeds and fuels oracy and helps children engage democratically with each other.


Interacting with the news via News Boards and resources like Picture News can help you cover a wide range of subjects and connect to all areas of the curriculum too. Talking about the news dips its toes into the whole curriculum. This helps build language, vocabulary, oral expression and listening skills.

But learning how to dialogue isn’t all talk. Reading about the news boosts reading comprehension and helps children become more effective readers too. Interacting with the news also helps children develop their writing skills as they can learn about the different styles of journalism and writing used to portray news information.

In The News

News Boards are an essential tool for classroom communication between teachers and children, children and their peers as well as between children and parents, visitors and volunteers. They are natural talking points and when used habitually as part of class life they can make great waves.

Setting up a News Board is simple and easy to do and changing the news from week to week is not onerous. The backing paper can be a newspaper and what you display on it can be a poster, photo, headline or newsletter such as the Picture News newspaper. These can be combined with class news items and any other local features that are newsworthy.

Weekly news communicates the message that domestic and global current events aren’t just something that happen ‘out there in the big wide world’. They connect children to their immediate surroundings, their home environments, their country and the wider world by making them an integral part of different contexts.

Children are part of the news not just as consumers but as active participants talking and debating what has happened and what might happen. Views and opinions can be posted around news boards quickly and easily using Post-it Notes and so children can take ownership of the News Boards.

Despite all the busyness and back to school business that can cloud your vision, one thing it is important not to lose sight of is the power of involving children in the news. So, make that display and make news a regular talking point so that children become commentators, reflectors and debaters of information not passive recipients or news victims.

And finally….

Champion the news and you’ll have a class full of worldly-wise news champions who know what’s going on and won’t accept the news at face value.

Children who have a regular news intake as part of a current affairs programme at school tend to have a far more positive attitude toward the news. It helps them learn about and understand the importance of people, issues and events in the news and feeds their interest in finding out more about what they see and hear around them.

They increase their awareness of and interest in current events and develop into adults who interact intelligently with the world around them by being informed citizens and lifelong active participants in the news.


Reflecting on a year of posters…

As we move closer to the summer break and move through the final weeks of term, we’ve been thinking about our posters and news stories from the year and asking some of the Picture News team which has been their favourite…

Pupil premium and the real world

If you work in education it’s highly likely that you are aware of pupil premium funding, perhaps your school has become hugely reliant on this additional income stream in the budget cuts of recent times, or envious that you don’t receive much of this ‘extra’ money. According to the Department for Education:

“The pupil premium is additional funding for publicly funded schools in England to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils of all abilities and to close the gaps between them and their peers.”

For children from reception year to year 6 the funding is currently set at over £1,300 for each eligible child. Every school has to justify how they have chosen to allocate the funding and the impact. In 2003, Ofsted released an overview as to how schools were choosing to spend their funding, success stories and ineffective strategies. One of the key findings, which may not come as a surprise was that, “Employing new teaching assistants or extending the roles of those already in post were common ways for the schools visited, especially primary schools, to spend some of the funding. As previous Ofsted work has indicated, the indiscriminate use of teaching assistants can represent very poor value for money, with little or even negative impact on learning.”

The dilemma many schools face is that if they are not intending on spending the money on extra staff to help close the attainment gap, how can they balance spending funds on interventions that will not add more of a work burden on existing staff whilst still raising standards and having a positive impact on pupil premium children? The EEF (The Education Endowment Foundation) has created a pupil premium toolkit to help schools decide how to spend money. It contains a useful chart which maps the cost of interventions against their effectiveness. Two of the examples of interventions with the lowest cost and greatest impact provided are:

Collaborative learning  – effective collaborative learning requires much more than just sitting pupils together and asking them to work together; structured approaches with well-designed tasks lead to the greatest learning gains.

Social and emotional learning – interventions which  seek to improve attainment by improving the social and emotional dimensions of learning, as opposed to focusing directly on the academic or cognitive elements of learning but ultimately having a positive impact on academic attainment.

Neither of these involve 1:1 tuition, intense catch up classes or extra homework. Daniel Sobel, founder of the Inclusion Expert outlines some very innovative and unusual ways schools have decided to spend some of their funding here including the purchase of a bike for a child who was under performing in maths. Maths was often his first lesson, which he regularly arrived late for. Providing him with a bike meant he was able to arrive at school earlier each day and not miss the first part of the same subject so often. The strategy worked well for this child as the school were able to highlight his individual needs and come up with a solution, but to buy 20 bikes for the other pupil premium children wouldn’t make any sense!

Although schools may find it hard to perfect this balance of how to spend their money wisely and prove accountable successes; one of the most fantastic and often overlooked elements is that schools do have complete freedom to spend it how ever they see would be of best benefit to the pupils in their school. To conclude with the words of Mr Sobel: “Any individual intervention is only as good as the extent to which it addresses the real need. The phenomenon of the gap itself involves multiple issues and to think they can all be solved simply by additional literacy or numeracy is missing the point.”

Night Zookeeper – Partnership

We are very excited to announce our new partnership with the fantastic online writing tool Night Zookeeper.

At Picture News, we are passionate about using both images and current affairs to inspire and engage children. Night Zookeper is a fun and interesting way to improve children’s writing both at home and at school. We believe that by combining the two; through using Night Zookeeper as a platform for our news resources, a motivating opportunity to instigate both original and create writing is provided.

We believe that the power and real life nature of the news can evoke passion and emotion – the perfect combination for brilliant writing!

Each month we will send one of our packs through to the team at Night Zookeeper which will then become an exciting stimulus for writing for children at home or at school.

We are also producing a very special pack for all our schools in collaboration with Night Zookeeper – so look out for some very creative news and resources in your tube over the summer term!

Please click here to find out more and to register for a 30-day free trial of Night Zookeeper.


Picture News on tour!

This week we ran our first “Picture News: Using the news to inspire young minds” workshops in Pontefract and Hull, we were delighted with the engagement and positivity from all of the teachers who attended!

In the sessions, we challenged our attendees with a quiz, asked them to create and complete news based activities, tackled perceptions on why and how we should engage with current affairs with children from a young age and provided everyone with free posters to use at their schools!

We are looking to run three more events in the Summer Term, if you would like your school to be considered as a host school, please email for further details.  As a host school the training will be free of charge for all your own staff.

Top 20 reasons for using Picture News!

Compiled by teacher and writer, John Dabell 


Picture News is an excellent resource for developing spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and can boast many benefits:

  1. Accessible to all children
  2. Helps children develop their prediction skills
  3. Fires imaginations and creative thinking
  4. Connects children to the wider world; local, national and international
  5. Promotes diversity and cross-cultural competency and knowledge
  6. Champions oracy by encouraging children to talk about the news
  7. Helps to develop empathy, sympathy and respect
  8. Helps identify British values, shared values and differences
  9. Facilitates opportunities for children to be open with each other and safely discover what others’ perspectives may be
  10. Makes concepts memorable
  11. Fuels verbal and written communication
  12. Can accelerate understanding
  13. They are enjoyable, thought-provoking and challenging prompts
  14. Encourage children to question credibility, reliability and intentions
  15. Builds vocabulary and strengthens rapport
  16. Trains children to be reflective and interactive
  17. Builds investigative and journalistic thinking
  18. Contributes to being a global classroom and school
  19. Bridges geographic, linguistic, ideological and cultural barriers
  20. Encourages children to see themselves as player in the world and participating reflectively


Picture News events: Using the news to inspire young minds!

We’re getting ready to launch into the world of CPD and share our love of teaching the news with schools around the UK! We’ve spent a long time working with existing Picture News schools, asking their thoughts and feedback for what what our training should feature and what would be the most effective use of their time.  Knowing that teachers are incredibly busy people, we wanted to make our sessions short, concise and provide instant and inspirational ideas that could be used straight away.

Our sessions will:

  • Introduce simple but powerful questioning strategies to encourage deep thinking;
  • Link British values into your assemblies and SMSC work each week;
  • Bring your assemblies to life and help make them much easier!
  • Learn how the power of images can engage and inspire children;
  • Really make a difference to children’s attitudes of their world!

Our first session will take place in Pontefract, at North Featherstone Junior and Infants School, Tuesday 28th March 1-3pm. Further information can be found here

At each session, attendees will receive a sample tube with the current week’s poster and a wide range of simple, practical tips to take back to school.

We are looking for a limited number of schools to host future sessions – in return, all of your staff will receive the training free of charge! For more details please email:

To the ERAs!

We are delighted to announce that we’ve been shortlisted for the Primary Resource Award at the Education Resource Awards held next month at the NEC in Birmingham. The winners will be announced at the event on Friday 17th March following the Education Show held at the same venue. We will be present at both and look forward to meeting all the other shortlisted companies!

The Education Resources Awards (ERA) are now in their 18th successful year and are firmly established as the premier annual event to celebrate outstanding success for the suppliers and teaching professionals of the education sector throughout the UK.

Meet Mbali!

At Picture News, all of the schools we work with are based in the UK where every child is lucky enough to have an education provided free of charge, until they are 16. As with most things that are free, education can sometimes be taken for granted – by all of us! Research for the Independent Schools Council found that state school education costs at least £9,000 per child, per year on average. We believe we should all fully appreciate how lucky we are to live in a society that places such a high value on our children’s education.

Through teaching about the news and making children more aware of what’s going on in the world around them, we believe children can grow up to become more informed and responsible adults. It is for this very reason that we also want to raise awareness (for the children in our schools) of the many children that do not have access to an education: a United Nations report from 2014 estimated around 57 million children do not attend any educational establishment.

Awareness is the first step to change but more important is what should come next – action. This statistic is staggering and highly disappointing but there must be something we can do. One of the reasons we chose to work with SOS Africa as we truly believe in their mission statement:

At Picture News we spend a lot of our time reading and watching the news, choosing relevant and interesting stories that children can learn from – it is an incredibly fulfilling purpose – but we also want to do more. We wanted to help show that we can all make a difference.

Mbali (pictured) lives with her mother, father and four siblings in Lwandle Township, South Africa. Her father works full time and her mother is at home looking after the children. They are wonderful caring parents doing the best they can for their children but the family struggle financially. Mbali is a quiet, well-spoken little girl who always wants to help in class. She is described by her teacher as hard working and diligent in all that she does. She loves to sing and play with her friends.

Working with SOS Africa, we are sponsoring Mbali’s education throughout her school years. The sponsorship ensures that Mbali, receives a high standard of education at one of the schools attended by the SOS Africa children. Without this sponsorship,  many of the children SOS Africa support would have little hope of securing any education at all.

We will regularly update our Picture News schools with Mbali’s progress via our weekly newspaper. We believe this can show the difference helping someone, even in what may seem a small way, can make to their lives. We hope this will lead children to realise how lucky they are to have the opportunity to go to school and also encourage them to help others and feel empowered to bring about positive change to the world in many different ways!

If you wish to get involved in the work of SOS Africa please visit their website: or email: