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BeXcellent, the experience

March 18th, 2014

BeXcellent: before October I’d been guilty. I’d never heard of it. The dusted and dated website had been begging for a makeover.  Finally, the Scottish Government realised this too.  They realised the only way to create a website young people would enjoy would be to have young people make it themselves.

The Government contacted Children in Scotland, asking them to take on this task. Applications were sent out all over Scotland. They searched for 5-18 year olds with an interest in design, writing, photography and IT being just some of the key areas.

Being a 16 year old with a passion for writing and designing, it immediately grabbed my attention. I sent away my application, trying not to get my hopes up too much. You can imagine the surprise when I received a reply saying not only had I been accepted, but I had also been offered a position as a board member.

Not long after, I found myself on my way to Edinburgh for my first meeting. The board of 8 was very mixed. The youngest member being just 9. The oldest being 17.

The amount of ideas that poured out was astounding. Walls were littered with post-it notes from the brainstorming session. Games, blogs, log-ins, debates, articles, photos. Everything we thought it might possibly need. But now came the hard part – understanding what BeXcellent was all about.

It’s the only site covering the Curriculum for Excellence that is aimed at young people. Even adults cringe when they hear the words ‘Curriculum for Excellence’. Even the people that work in training people about it – I would know. I live with one.

The Curriculum for Excellence is basically a confusing way of saying ‘Skills from them all was for being awesome’. It’s all about being a successful learner, effective contributor, a confident individual and a responsible citizen. Not exactly rocket science. It hasn’t actually changed what we’re taught. Simply, how we’re taught it.

The BeXcellent team was put together to redesign the website. To actually become eye catching for the target audience. The first meeting paled in comparison to the first action day, with the entire team of around 17 active young people.

Children in Scotland used their network of connections to reel in a group of experts to help us with every aspect of the website. Sean Young and James McKenzie from Film Education Scotland passed on some advice for our filmers and photographers for the site. The reduced writing was guided by Alan Bisset and Alex Wood. Mark MacGillivray and Rebecca Perchard were very much involved with explaining web design and development. It was also decided by the team that a major issue with the site was a lack of games; so Graeme McKellan kindly agreed to teach us – in simplified terms.

We gained skills that we wouldn’t have the chance to learn in any other circumstance. WordPress? Never heard of that in school. Game design? Not a clue. And don’t even bother asking me about the technical side of how to upload things onto a site. But with BeXcellent it was so easy.

The staff at Children in Scotland didn’t try to take over. The team of mentors were very helpful and relaxed. It was very much the team that laid down the foundations. Young people from all over Scotland, all cooperating on the task. People had the chance to not only work and think individually – They also built up their teamwork skills.

We were trusted with a budget of £10,000. A bit more than the average pocket money. Already on our way to becoming responsible citizens.

Rather than having a technical expert come in to upload the content for us, the team decided they were going to manage everything amongst themselves.

Everyone was drawn to one particular area that appealed the most to them. For me it happened to be the more creative side. Writing content and designing. But more than that, it was the overall experience of it. Meeting a variety of new people. Being put out of your comfort zone, you had to build up your confidence.

BeXcellent has had a complete makeover. Even in just five months, it’s come on leaps and bounds. It is almost unrecognisable as the wordy, childish and dull site it used to be. The experience of being on the team has taught me skills that I’ll be able to use throughout the rest of my life.

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