World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Ireland - youth engagement & news literacy

Ireland - youth engagement & news literacy

Article ID:



CONTACT: Enda Buckley, EBuckley [at]


First National 'Press Pass' programme sees massive success

Press Pass coverPress Pass cover“We’ve had phenomenal feedback,” said Enda Buckley, NiE and Sustainability Director at National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI, Ireland’s representative body for national newspapers), referring to the association's  “Press Pass,” initiative launched in 250 Irish schools in fall 2012. The project reached fully half of all the country's 16-year-old transtion students, the only group eligible to join it.

The programme aimed to familiarize young people with and encouraging an appreciation for the newspaper's role in society and ended with a prize ceremony for student work that featured the country's prime minister handing out the awards and noting that initiative would help students to develop analytical skills and stimulate social awareness.. More on the results here. 

 Press Pass had three components:

1. Offering national, regional and local newspapers to 14,500 students for free every day for two weeks

2. Distributing a workbook filled with news-related exercises to each student

3. Hosting an essay/article-writing/photojournalism competition

At the outset, Ireland’s Department of Education, which co-operated with NNI on the project, offered a word advice: target a specific age group. The initiative’s founders decided upon 16-year-old students in what Ireland calls the “transition year:” a skill-building year that some schools offer between the junior and senior cycles of high school.

Schools registered to participate in the programme over the spring, and Press Pass held court in classrooms at the opening of this academic year, for the two weeks following September 24.

Despite working with a modest budget, the results were overwhelmingly positive.

Press Pass section  gay marriagePress Pass section gay marriageSchools reported that the activities in the workbooks, which focused on such relevant issues as same-sex marriage, obesity and teenage drinking, “generated amazing debates within the classroom.” The books apparently outlived their designated two-week shelf life, and were passed down to younger students who wanted to join the conversation.

Buckley read an excerpt from one of the “dozens” of emails he has received in praise of the initiative: “They practically grabbed the newspapers each day,” one educator wrote. “It was gratifying to see them reading newspapers rather than just Googling information.” 

The verdict? There is a good chance that the Press Pass programme will remain part of the curriculum in coming years. Next year, Buckley hopes that there will be a bigger budget, which would help to fund a social media component, for which the resources were lacking this year.

“We should do a lot more of this,” he said.

A 'first' young reader first place for People Newspapers

As part of the inaugural NNI Journalist of the year awards ‘The People Newspaper’ group “Transition Year Project" won the country's first Newspapers in Education award for a project in which journalists collaborated with transition year students to produce an in-depth look at their lives and times.

In Ireland, the vast majority of students must take a “transition year” school-based programme at age 15-16 to move from a more dependent learning of the “Junior Cycle” to the more independent self-directed learning required for final examinations at the end of the “senior cycle.”

The project, which will be repeated in 2012, calls for students from secondary schools throughout the county to team up with People Newspapers to produce a special 36-page transition year newspaper to be distributed free in several of the company’s titles. The transition year students-turned-journalists developed story ideas, wrote the articles and sourced images for the newspaper, as well as having an input into the editing and design process.

The international jury commented: “This project has a clear link to encouraging young people to read newspapers as seeing their own writing in print is a huge ‘prize.’ We know this from experience elsewhere around the world: getting onto the newspaper's website is fine, however getting into print means the result has been judged by experts and passed some tough tests. It also means you can cut it out for the fridge or to send to grandparents. Finally, letting the students participate in the professional editing was an excellent way to teach the role of the newspapers in providing news at a professional level. And I'll bet readers loved the resulting content as well.”

Pictured above: People Newspapers Design Editor John Donoghoe; Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte; Jim Hayes, People Newspapers Deputy Group Editor and David Tucker, People Newspapers Assistant Editor, at the NNI 2011 Journalism Awards. Inset is cover of the special edition.

Association, education department work together toward national NIE programme

The seeds for an NiE program in Ireland were planted by the WAN-IFRA Young Reader committee when they met in Dublin on April 6th and 7th. The meeting focused on starting and enhancing young readership development with emphasis on projects developed by various members around the world.

The National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI) have 15 national titles, and 32 regional titles. After the “Young Reader” presentations in April, it was decided that NNI should focus its attention on the establishment of an NiE initiative and that Enda Buckley would lead it. To get the ball rolling a committee was set up and held its first meeting on the 23 June. A real good-will factor prevailed throughout the meeting, and a sub-committee was set up and met on the 12 of July to craft a strategy and go about its subsequent implementation.

In the intervening period, the sub-committee met on a total of six occasions to craft both short-term and long-trm NiE strategies for NNI but also to set in motion the structures required to implement an NiE project.

Before committing to any project the NNI ‘Young Reader’ committee first had to seek endorsement from the Department of Education. On the 9 November, Enda Buckley and a selection of the Irish ‘Young Reader’ sub-committee made a presentation to the Principal Officer with responsibility for curriculum and literacy at the Dept. of Education and a number of his staff. The presentation was well-received and the department endorsed the strategy and approach outlined by the NNI ‘Young Reader’ committee.

The main objective of the program will be to target literacy and numeracy as targeted by Minister Quinn and the Department of Education and develop initiatives that attract young people to print.

In a presentation to the WAN-IFRA ‘Young Reader’ committee in Paris in November, Enda Buckley said that the concept was to get students using and interacting with newspapers in the classroom, he said he wanted to emphasize education and provide students with information on how content is gathered as well as other professional standards required for journalists. He said the audience would be primary school, secondary school, and third level university students, with a main focus on the secondary level. In the medium to longer term suitable sponsorship from appropriate partners will be sought.

Buckley then introduced a "Press Pass Initiative" targeting transition year for students, which is an optional preparation year for most leaving certificate students. Typically this year is used for for developing students' critical skills.

. What is Press Pass? Basically, it consists a week of activities available to all Transition Year teachers throughout Ireland (550) in advance of National Reading Week. Schools and teachers who choose to participata wil receive free newspapers every day for a week, one copy of each daily NNI title per pupil, to be collected at a local newsagent. Newspapers and the department will work together about how to best assure that schools are properly informed. Students would start with free reading time, skimming the papers, and then have a vote on the most important news item.

PRESS PASS WEEK – Discussion and related activities

Monday: Power of the Press: Role of Newspaper in society. Who controls the papers and who decides what's printed? Why are they important in a democracy? Where is the press controlled by the state? What is the effect of state-controlled media in society? There may be an online component.

Tuesday: Exploring the different types of newspapers.

Wednesday: Exploring opinion content

Thursday: Press as a medium

Friday: Accuracy...Checking sources, libel, slander, etc.

Another initiative  calls for students to create their own newspapers. 

Buckley mentioned that this is a difficult time for newspapers in Ireland and in the future they will be looking for appropriate partners. In the intervening period, NNI are developing a good relationship with the Dept. of Education and are looking forward to immersing themselves into some serious NiE projects in the years ahead.




Aralynn McMane's picture

Aralynn McMane


2011-11-25 18:25

Author information