The News Is Fake, Totally Fake by John Dabell

False, bogus, phony,  sham, hoax, artificial, mock, pseudo, spurious….take your pick but the one word that has upended all of these synonyms is ‘fake’ and it’s a word we hear a lot about in relation to the news.

‘Fake news’ has become big news itself these days as more and more people remind us that there is  a lot of it about.

Spurious news stories have always been around but the weaponised buzzword ‘fake news’ rocketed and went viral after Donald Trump used it to describe some news reporting in the run-up to the US Presidential election and beyond. He has described himself as a victim of ‘fake news’ although it has been alleged that fake news might have been pivotal in his election success.

Donald Trump is probably the most prolific user of the sticky phrase ‘fake news’ and milks media moment to voice his disapproval of dishonest reporting.

In July this year during a joint press conference with the Polish President Andrzej Duda, Mr Trump took the opportunity to say,

“What we want to see in the United States is honest – beautiful, free – but honest press,” Mr Trump said. “We want to see fair press. I think it’s a very important thing. We don’t want fake news. By the way, not everybody is fake news, but we don’t want fake news. Bad thing. Very bad for our country.”

The media ecosystem is full of ‘fake news’ and we are all vulnerable to being tricked, deceived and misled with children especially susceptible.

According to the NASUWT in a survey of over 1500 teachers, more than 1/3 said their pupils have quoted fake news as fact in lessons and written work (see here).

Digital Safeguarding and ‘fake news’

Fake news is of growing importance and Mr Trump is right – fake news is ‘very bad’ and not just for the US but the whole world and as teachers we share the responsibility of helping children sort the wheat from the chaff.

Talking about the science of fake news is now a key part of our news literacy and digital safeguarding efforts. Develop critical thinking and helping children to analyse and judge the truth and accuracy of stories or information online is a core skill.

According to the National Literacy Trust’s 2017 August report, ‘Fake news and critical literacy’;   “children and young people in England do not have the critical literacy skills they need to identify fake news.” (see here). This must-read report is packed with insights and includes practical guidance for teachers.

Following on from this report, on 13 September 2017, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Literacy launched the Commission on Fake News and the Teaching of Critical Literacy Skills in Schools. To inform the commission, the National Literacy Trust has launched three surveys for primary and secondary school pupils, to discover what children know about fake news and to measure their ability to identify phoney news.

The surveys are open from 13 September to 22 October 2017 and after completing them you can get access to free teaching resources to use with your pupils. Access the surveys here.

But what exactly is ‘fake news’? 

To kick-start any discussion about fake news and develop children’s news literacy we need to talk about the concept itself, join forces and come to an understanding of what it is.

A quick trawl of the internet shows that there are lots of definitions ‘out there’ with plenty of cross-overs but no real consensus. For example, compare the following:

We define “fake news”’ to be news articles that are intentionally and verifiably false, and could mislead readers.

(Source: Hunt Allcott and Matthew Gentzkow,  ‘Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Volume 31, Number 2, Spring 2017, Pages 211–236)

A type of hoax or deliberate spread of misinformation published under the guise of being authentic news to mislead in order to gain financially or politically.


Fake news means fictions deliberately fabricated and presented as non-fiction with the intent to mislead recipients into treating fiction as fact or into doubting verifiable fact.

(Source: Paul Chadwick)

Fake news is made-up stuff, masterfully manipulated to look like credible journalistic reports that are easily spread online to large audiences willing to believe the fictions and spread the word. 

Which definition do children think offers the best description? Can they write their own?

In January 2017 the chair of the Culture, Media and Sport select committee (now called Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) launched an inquiry into fake news. Damian Collins argues we need to fight for a clear definition of the term fake news. He says,

Fake news is when people knowingly spread lies, but dress it up to look like real news. The intention of people spreading fake news is to confuse and mislead people, and to undermine confidence in the media and public institutions in general…

(for more information about the inquiry click here).

Fake news has lots of cousins and it is important to differentiate between them.  For example, fake news could be confused with flawed journalism and intentional reporting mistakes, rumours, conspiracy theories, propaganda, satire, innocuous entertainment, partially true reports and biased reports. There are mischief makers who mean no harm and then there are extremists and tyrants who mean plenty of harm.

Barriers to entry in the media industry have dropped precipitously and this democratisation of media allows anyone now the opportunity to be a “journalist”. Coupled with that, it is now easy to set up websites and sharing via social media means news can travel fast and often generates significant advertising revenue.

A 2017 report from Harvard University about combatting fake news talks about the power of social media (see here)

“Social media platforms provide a megaphone to anyone who can attract followers. This new power structure enables small numbers of individuals, armed with technical, social or political know-how, to distribute large volumes of disinformation, or “fake news.” Misinformation on social media is particularly potent and dangerous for two reasons: an abundance of sources and the creation of echo chambers.”

Under new plans agreed by the German government, social networks that fail to remove defamatory “fake news”, hate speech and other illegal content will be fined up to €50m (£43m).

A slice of fake       

The proliferation of phoney news online has been enormous and dubious news features appear on several types of websites. Some of these are set up wholly to print deliberately untrue and misleading stories. The names of these websites are often carefully selected to resemble those of legitimate news organizations.

Other sites that parody the news contain features that might be interpreted as factual when seen out of context. There are then sites that mix factual articles with some false articles.

The entertainment website has been set up to show how easy it is to create a fake news story.

How to spot a fake

Andreas Schleicher, the education lead of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says that children should be taught how to spot fake news in schools. He says that being able to distinguish fact from fiction is an essential skill in the modern age and teachers are well placed to provide guidance, leadership and support.

“Exposing fake news, even being aware that there is something like fake news, that there is something that is written that is not necessarily true, that you have to question, think critically. That is very important. This is something that we believe schools can do something about.”

Teaching children to be news-savvy and read between the lines is crucial but where do we look for resources?

One useful site worth visiting comes from Common Sense Media who have produced a practical and thought-provoking video which looks at ‘5 ways to spot fake news’ (see here)

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) has produced an excellent infographic to help support us when spotting whether a news item is for real or not.

Another resource you can use comes from the News Literacy Project. They have produced the checklist ‘Ten Questions For Fake News Detection’ and supports children with identifying whether they have spotted an illegitimate news source – for more details see here.

Sometimes websites are so convincing they can hoodwink us into thinking they are credible especially when they use images and videos. Worryingly, it is clear that many young people are not making critical judgments about the information they find online.

For example, take a look at the BBC ‘Fake News’ report found here. They visited one school and gave children six stories to read on their iPads and they were asked to try and work out which ones were fake– in fact they all were and the children’s reactions are interesting and insightful. Take a look at their fake news quiz too found here.

The UK Safer Internet Centre ‘Power of Image Report’ (see here) found that images and videos “found that despite 70% of 8-17 year olds recognising that images and videos can be misleading and don’t always tell the full story, just a third (33%) of young people said they find it easy to check if the images and videos they find online are truthful. Almost half (48%) said they are more likely to trust something has happened if they see an image or video of it.”

Ofcom’s 2016 report ‘Children and parents: media use and attitudes report’ found that 28% of 8-11s (28%) and 27% of 12-15s believe that if a website has been listed by Google then it can be trusted, while around one in ten in each age group don’t think about whether the results can be trusted.

Reality check

The UK’s independent fact-checking charity is and they provide free tools, information and advice so that anyone can check the claims we hear from politicians and the media. Their toolkit is well worth looking through at

Since the mid-1990s has been writing about viral claims and online rumours and it maintains a list of known fake news websites.

Other fact-checking sites include ,, and See as well, the home of the International Fact-Checking Network.

You can also use Google Reverse Image Search to check an image (see In March 2017 Google introduced Project Owl, their initiative to combat the fake news that’s corrupting the web (see

Social media platforms are often demonised and get considerable bad press but children need to see the efforts some companies are making to combat fake news too. For example, Facebook has developed 10 Tips to Spot False News (in partnership with Full Fact) which can be found at

And finally….

Whilst children might have high levels of digital literacy, we mustn’t let this fool us into thinking that they can understand the torrent of information they see every day. Media literacy is a key life skill and part of our duty of care is to help children develop an active and critical relationship with the news.

We can do this by making sure that they have strategies for spotting what’s fake and what’s for real, stopping the spread of false information and promoting a culture of truth. Schools have a key role to play in encouraging the generation of factual information and making the truth louder.

In the US, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication hold an annual News Engagement Day and this year it is on 3rd October. This has now grown into a global event, where people of all ages across the world are encouraged to read, watch, listen to and discuss news. Perhaps we can start our own version in the UK so that children can engage with the news positively and not accept ‘the news’ at face value (see here).

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.