Adam Hartley, Central TV’s youngest broadcaster, had visited Ballingham High School many times in the two years he had worked for Central TV to report stories. Most of them had been bad news.
There had been the arson attack. Then there had been gang warfare, when rival school gangs battled it out for control of the school’s drug supplies. The worst incident, however, had been when one pupil murdered another in a fit of jealous rage.
Central TV’s newsroom boss – Sharon Watson – had stopped by Adam’s desk that morning. He had been doing his best to look busy, as Sharon was a very scary boss and liked to catch her staff out when she thought they weren’t doing enough work.
“Adam, I find this hard to believe but I’ve just had a phone call from the education boss at the council – you know, Donald Chips – and he tells me there has been a remarkable improvement at Ballingham High School. They’ve had a 50% improvement in their exam results. What are you working on at the moment?”
Adam, who had been doing nothing – there never seemed to be any new news on a Tuesday afternoon – quickly thought up something that he thought might impress Scary Sharon.
“I was looking back at some of the stories I worked on last week seeing if there were ways that I could have done them better Sharon.”
Sharon shook her head. “Really? Useful as that sounds, I need you to go out to Ballingham High straight away and do a piece about the exam results. Talk to the head teacher and see if you can find a couple of pupils to interview – ones who passed and hadn’t expected to pass, that sort of thing.
“Oh, and make sure they are good-looking pupils. Our viewers don’t want to see any fat, spotty teenagers on the six o’clock news. It’ll put them off their dinner.”
Adam, who had been a fat, spotty teenager himself before going on a strict diet so that he could get a job on TV, stuck his tongue out behind Sharon’s back as she walked away before grabbing his camera and driving to Ballingham High.
He noticed a difference as soon as he arrived at the school. Usually, he was too scared to park his car in the school’s car park or indeed anywhere near the school. There was too much of a risk that he would return to the car afterwards and find the windows smashed or the car itself stolen. This time though, the school janitor told him that the head teacher had now set up patrols so his car would be safe.
Mrs Almond, the head teacher, hadn’t been told about Mr Chips’ telephone call to the TV station. She was flustered, but Adam could tell that she was very happy indeed to be interviewed and delighted that for once Ballingham High would be appearing on the six o’clock news for good reasons instead of bad.
Once he had finished interviewing her, Adam went in search of some non-fat and spot-free teenagers.
Luckily enough, there were plenty of volunteers. One girl told him that the previous year, she had received the lowest marks ever for history when they’d had class tests. She’d now passed her history exam and said she was thinking of staying on at school to study for more exams.
Another boy said his step-dad had bet him £100 that he wouldn’t pass any of his exams and he’d managed to get As in five subjects, which meant his step-dad now owed him £500.
The last pupil he interviewed said that he would be going to university because of his exam passes – the first person in his family to go to university ever.
Best of all was Scary Sharon’s reaction to the piece. In the two years Adam had worked at Central TV, she had always found fault with every single story he did. She would moan at him for not managing to interview someone, or she would point out that his camera angle was wrong. She watched the Ballingham High news piece and didn’t say anything at all.