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Lesson 4

Holding power to account - the Windrush scandal

Journalist training school background:
Sometimes journalists can make a difference to people’s lives by reporting stories that the public didn’t know about before, exposing the truth and, in turn, challenging power

NewsWise values

This lesson focuses on the NewsWise values: truthful and fair

Learning objective

To understand how news can challenge power.

Learning outcomes

  • Define what power means.

  • Explain why it is sometimes important to challenge power.

  • Identify how the Windrush news reporting changed how people in power acted.

  • Describe the different effects the Windrush news reporting had on the people involved.

Starter/baseline assessment

  • Powerful people role-play: introduce the concept of power. In pairs, pupils role-play a given scenario where one person has more power. Invite pupils to share roleplays with the class and consider: who has more power and why? Who was affected by their actions? Is the person in power acting fairly? Why/why not? Could they be challenged and, if so, how?

  • Create a class definition of power and discuss: who has power? Can ‘powerful’ people be anyone and anywhere? Is it good to be powerful? When is it important to challenge power?

Learning activity

  • Watch the Albert Thompson or Paulette Wilson video and consider: how did the video make you feel? Did the situation seem fair? Why or why not? Why do you think the Guardian made this video? Refer back to the starter discussion on power. In this situation, who has power and who doesn’t have power? What needs to change?

  • Pupils read the four Windrush headlines and summaries of Guardian news reports. Pupils arrange the reports in chronological order to see how the reporting affected what happened next (hide the dates to extend the level of challenge). At each stage of reporting, pupils answer: who has the most and least power and why (ie the Windrush citizens; the government; journalists)?

  • As a class, discuss the way power changes throughout the reporting. Who began with power and who ends with power? Why did this happen? How did the news reports help to bring about change for the Windrush citizens? How was power challenged?


  • Revisit role-play scenarios from the starter activity. Can pupils identify whether the people in power should be challenged? If so, how and why? Pupils could change their role-plays to demonstrate this. Are there examples where power is being exercised positively? What might happen if these scenarios were reported in the news?

Questions for assessment

  • What is power? 

  • Who has power? 

  • Is power good or bad? 

  • How can journalists challenge people in power?

  • Why is it important to challenge people in power?

  • If someone is being treated badly, how can news reporting help?

Core knowledge and skills

  • People with lots of power (eg big companies, the government) have a responsibility to use that power fairly.

  • When people are being treated unfairly, or when powerful people are doing something wrong, journalists can investigate what is happening and reveal the truth about it, which is one way to challenge power. This is one of the reasons why news is important: it can bring about change and help to restore justice. 

  • The news reporting about the Windrush scandal is an example of how journalists challenged power and helped the Windrush citizens, by revealing how they were being treated unfairly by the government.

  • See teacher notes in the Windrush explainer to help explain the Windrush history and scandal to your pupils.

Extension opportunities

  • Pupils write, record or film their own explainers about the Windrush scandal.

  • Pupils write from the perspective of one of the Windrush citizens, before the news reporting began and then at the end of the reporting. Encourage pupils to explore the citizens’ thoughts and feelings at both stages and consider how their lives changed over this period. This could be run as a drama activity: a press conference with pupils hot-seating in role as Windrush citizens.


Curriculum links

Reading comprehension

  • Fact retrieval, drawing inferences about thoughts, feelings and motives     

Writing (if completing extension writing task)

  • Planning ideas and drawing on research; selecting vocabulary for effect 

PSHE education

Living in the wider world 

  • how to discuss and debate topical issues, respect other people’s point of view and constructively challenge those they disagree with;

  • discrimination: what it means and how to challenge it

More lessons
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