Switching off

by Lizzy and Neha, Year 10



Here are our two accounts from our efforts to ditch our phones. 



After being phoneless for a day, a week didn’t feel as difficult to handle as I thought it would. But I’ve become so attached to my phone these last few years that being without my phone, felt like losing a part of me. It was a habit for me to constantly check social media, but in this phoneless week I came to realise how much I used social media and how it wasted the time I had to be doing something productive. It has become so engraved in our minds that we need social media to show people how we are doing and what we are doing 24/7.


I had thought of this challenge to stop using all of the technology that is available to me on a daily basis because I had gathered that I spent many hours of my day, glued to my phone screen or any other screen. The final realisation came when I got into more and more trouble in school about not doing any homework or enough revision, I knew that my phone and other technologies were the source of this and for me to improve in school, I had to limit the time I spent “switched on”. I became aware of the fact that I am addicted to using the technology around me.

So, what were the rules of this self-imposed challenge?

  1. To switch my phone off and hand it over to my parents and to not be allowed to see it or touch it for five whole days (torture!).
  2. No TV, laptop, tablet or any form of electrical entertainment for five days. (I don’t have any lessons at school that require the use of a computer so there was no getting round this one!)
  3. Not allowed to use or look at anybody else’s phones or devices during this time. I had to stay strictly away from them if they had them out or were responding to notifications (and let’s face it, people always have their phones out).

I gave my phone to my parents to keep for five days (well... that was the goal) and talked them into not giving it back to me until these five days were over... which didn’t take much persuasion for them and they happily agreed to keep it.

The start date for this challenge was Monday 5th March 2018 7.00am and the end date was Friday 9th March 2018 3.00pm. (eeek)


At 7.00am when I gave my phone in to my parents, I didn’t have much to worry about since I was going to school anyway but I knew that my mind would always go back to my phone whilst I was in my classes (no offense to my teachers, I have an addiction remember). However, when I was getting ready for school, I got through my morning routine much faster than normal and I had time to spare (I took that time to actually eat breakfast). This made me realise that I always pause during activities to scroll through my phone, which really slows me down.

When I came back from school, I had a lot of homework waiting for me and without the immediate distraction of my phone I got about half of it done without stopping. I never realised how much time I wasted just scrolling through Instagram and Twitter and sending Snapchats until the option wasn't readily available to me. When I had nothing else to do, I spent the rest of my day cleaning and organising, which I was very satisfied with. (blah blah blah write about how I spent a lot of time with my siblings downstairs rather than upstairs)


I started my day as soon as I woke up, rather than scrolling through my phone for 15 minutes first. I had my brother wake me up since I wasn’t able to use an alarm; I got through my morning routine extra quick and had everything ready for the day. When I got to school, I was feeling more refreshed and ready to face the challenges of the day. I still felt that I was missing out on things and I didn’t feel very involved with my friends since I had no way to contact them but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. In the evening, I sat with my mum and had some mother/daughter talk which I hadn’t done in a long time, we gossiped about others and I spoke about my aspirations to her. Once we caught up about the events of our lives, it was time to make dinner, I helped her cook and set the table. She was grateful for my help and it became apparent that I didn’t help my mum enough.


Most of today went by very quickly, however, when I got home, things started going very downhill. I had the urge to use my phone because the day was just dragging along. I had nothing to do since all of my tasks were completed in the last couple of days but I managed to get through the evening by reading and taking a small nap. It was very hard for me to not watch the TV whilst eating dinner, just like all of my family members were but eventually I gave in and joined them for a couple of minutes but because I knew that I shouldn’t be, I asked them to turn it off until I finished eating. My parents were really proud that I was sticking to this challenge very seriously and they were joking around telling me that if I get through all five days, they may keep it for longer since I’m doing so well. (Not funny)

When I went up to bed, I read my book again just to keep me busy (makes me feel tired because of the boredom) before I go to sleep. I have to admit that without the constant flashing of my phone from the notifications, I was able to sleep very quickly and early which made it easier to wake up the next day. 


The day it all went wrong…

This is how it went down; I kept looking in my pockets for my phone and went into a frenzy because of my phone’s absence. This day I found out in school that I missed out on something BIG and me not being able to use or look at anybody else’s phone prevented me from finding out. When I got home, the first thing I wanted to do was use my phone or get onto any of my social medias to catch up on the daily gossip. I felt like I was living under a rock. I had asked to get my phone back but my mum wasn’t allowing me to get it because she wanted me to get through this challenge. Later on in the evening, I went on a secret search for my phone and successfully found it after a good 15-20 minutes. Arrrrggghhhhh it felt so good, I was reunited with my one true love, the only one that I can depend on and the one thing that’s always by my side (literally). I didn’t feel any remorse over taking it back from my parents’ hold, I needed to catch up with the world and I needed to feel like a normal 14-year-old girl again.


I think that throughout the first three days I was getting on well but seeing everyone around me with their digital devices made me realise that I couldn’t keep up with this challenge. It was a novelty at first to spend time reading, tidying my room, completing homework on time, but let’s face it; it just isn’t normal in the 21st century. We are who we are and we have to accept that our lives are digital now and technology is an extension of our life. However, it doesn’t have to be a compulsion. I have learnt that I need to work on this feeling of having to check my phone so often, not focus on a bright screen right before going to bed and putting my phone away when eating. Small steps are the way forward; it is possible to have a digital and non-digital balance in life.


The challenge:

I have decided to challenge myself to see if I can go five days without my: phone, tablet, laptop and T.V. Fundamentally, anything to do with the 21st century. The reason I decided to do this was because I wanted to see what else I would do to entertain myself or what things I would do to distract myself from the fact that I didn’t have my phone. In addition, although the previous generations did not have smart technology, I wanted to get as close as possible to feel what it was like for them.

Day 1:

Living in a society where everywhere you look people have either got headphones on or are just fixated on a screen makes you reflect on the world that we live in today when you are not a part of this.

Although today was a struggle, I managed to get by; I distracted myself and I was able to complete all of my homework for the next day and even pieces given today due for next week. By doing this I felt so organised and up to date on my work. The reason why I wouldn’t usually get this done is because I am easily distracted by anything whether it’s Snapchat, Instagram or even Facetime.

On the other hand, there were some times today when I felt so disconnected from the world and I did feel left out. An example of when I felt like this was when I was walking home with a couple of friends and they all had their phones and obviously I did not. They were all listening to music, scrolling through Instagram and giggling whilst watching Snaps (Snapchat notifications for those who are too old to have it) that they had received. Watching everyone enjoying their phones, I felt bored and at this point I did miss my phone. Another time when things felt tough was when I had to walk past the living room and hearing my sisters watch the television. I would usually go in and relax with them and spend some quality time with them, this was not able to happen as I was so determined to not fail my task I wanted to get through this. I did, I went upstairs to my room and I sat down at my desk and began to do my homework.

Day 2: 

I've been waiting ten minutes already for my bus and it still hasn't arrived; I must have just missed one. Usually I would be listening to music or at least checking the bus times on my app.  So I've just seen the 417, this means that my bus is arriving in around two minutes; it did, what a relief! 

On the bus I have noticed that the majority of people who are on their phones or plugged into headphones are young people. This just shows how much we rely on our mobile devices.  You do see older generations actually having a conversation with one another; this is because when they were growing up you had to actually talk to someone in real life in order to have a proper conversation with someone; that's just how things were.

Most importantly, I think that in some senses the older generations have benefitted from this as they have learnt key communication skills whereas those that have grown up in today's society, we have different communication skills but it is definitely not comparable. In today's society, we do rely on things such as: Snapchat, Instagram, Whatsapp and even FaceTime to communicate with our peers.  

However, I'm not in any way, shape or form unappreciative that we have the internet; in fact I’m glad that we have this creation because without it I wouldn't be able to stay in contact with friends or family that have either moved abroad or just live really far.  

A young boy has just come and sat next to me on the bus and it is really interesting because he actually isn't fixated on a screen, he's reading a book! 

I have just arrived home and I'm now looking outside of my bedroom window at one of my favourite things, a sunset. This evening, it's my favourite kind of sunset because it's pink and purple, it is so beautiful! Right about now I would be taking the perfect picture of this sunset before sending it to my friends, however I do like that I can just appreciate this view by myself rather than getting that “perfect picture” and sharing it with my friends.  

As today is Tuesday, I usually iron my air cadet uniform whilst watching YouTube or Netflix. On Netflix around 85% of the time I would be re-watching 'The Blue Lagoon: The Awakening'. Of course today was an exception of this so I decided to listen to the radio (not against one of my rules), it wasn't that bad I actually kind of enjoyed it.  

Day 3:

Things have got so easy and I'm proud to say that I am not missing my phone! Although this is probably down to the fact that I have cadets today and I haven't spoken to my friends from cadets since Sunday so it helps to look forward to things rather than always knowing everything about everyone.

I managed to get ready for cadets around twice as fast as I usually would.  You don't realise how much time you waste on your phone until you don't have it anymore.  As well as getting ready twice as fast I also managed to make it so early to cadets as well. 

Day 4 and 5:

Nothing much has really changed; I am still listening to the radio and every morning when I go downstairs to prepare my breakfast I listen to the radio, so the radio has really saved me whilst doing this challenge. 

As well as listening to the radio, I have also been wearing a watch since Monday (Day 1). I really enjoy wearing a watch and I will 100% continue wearing a watch after completing this challenge. (This might not sound like a big deal, but if you think about it, how many young people wear watches anymore?)

Overall, I'm so glad that I did this challenge because although, it was hard at times, it makes you open your eyes and realise that there are way better things to be doing with your time rather than spending it pointlessly scrolling through Instagram or just messing around on Snapchat. 

Thank you for reading this and I hope it inspires you to try and take this challenge on. Good luck!

Video: Laws affecting young people

by Shyann, Rachel and Angelina, year 8



Can black people be more than tokens of white narratives?

By Shiden Tekle, Year 12

Growing up, seeing black people in major tv roles was somewhat non existent. However, being part of the Legally Black Campaign has allowed me to explore the ways in which media portrayals can have a substantial effect on young black men, women and non-binary people.  

Without the Advocacy Academy, Legally Black wouldn’t be what it is today, the Advocacy Academy is a transformational Social Justice Fellowship for young people who are passionate about making a difference in the world, it allows young people to turn that cold anger they have of the injustices in the world and transform it into political activism. Through the programme, the campaign was formed. Legally Black is a campaign created by me, Shiden Tekle and 3 other advocates Kofi Asante, Liv Francis-Cornibert and Belmiro Matos da Costa. It aims to increase awareness surrounding the lack of black representation in the media and furthermore create dialogue and discussion around the often inaccurate and harmful depictions that do occur.

Our first form of action was to recreate iconic posters such as Bridget Jones and Harry Potter and transform all the characters from white to black, this is to raise the issue of underrepresentation and the negative depictions of black people in UK Film and TV. The actors in the posters were kindly done by our friends and family, the James Bond poster was done by my dad, Doctor Who was Kofi’s friend's mum and Neil Sutherland from the inbetweeners was played by Liv’s twin brother. Research by the British Film Institute shows that black actors played only 218 roles in the 1,172 British films released between 2006 and 2016. There were 45,000 roles in total, which means black British actors played just 0.5% of them.


Our main intentions were to promote the posters on our individual social media platforms and on our website, but surprisingly and thankfully, a group of activists who go by the name of Special Patrol Group took our posters and put them on bus stops in Brixton. This was done to surprise us on the day of our Graduation from the Advocacy Academy, which we were!

Ever since that day (March 1st 2018) we’ve been getting a lot of media attention, our Instagram and Twitter accounts received 3,000 followers in the first 2 days, we were getting a lot of support from the likes of Diane Abbott, Lenny Henry and so many other famous names. We are four teenagers from South London who were getting calls from the BBC, Al Jazeera, Channel 4, Channel 5 ITN, Sky, ITV, AJ+, Gal-dem, The Guardian and many more media outlets who wanted to speak to us about the campaign and what we were doing… while doing A levels. The pressure of speaking on Al Jazeera, BBC Breakfast and all the other media outlets was somewhat more that I could’ve imagined, it went from lunch time discussions in the canteen to the whole country hearing what you have to say and with great power comes great responsibility.

This has allowed us to speak on the issues we care about and the issues that needs to be brought to light. Through research and awareness some of the most important things I have learnt is that power may have a monolithic structure but it’s the people who are able to make tangible change, if you get the people talking then the people at the top will come to you and secondly, the fact that the media are such a powerful agency in influencing the way we think and what we have subconsciously come to believe, which can be extremely dangerous. Dangerous for the world and dangerous for you.   

Political cartoon challenge: poison 

by Zarah, Year 10

I set the challenge to try and come up with a political cartoon about the top news story of the day. Here is my effort. 



by Taneisha, Year 10

-A report on the struggles of a teenager and part of the project: ‘We’re Slowly Marching towards Our Deaths (And nobody cares…)’

We’re faking the smiles. We’re faking the achievements. We’re faking the happiness... But, the isolation is real. The pain is real. The suffering is real. Suicide is real – we’re real.

Goals. Goals. Goals. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of the word ‘goal’ is an aim or a desired result - something in which requires effort and great determination. There is nothing wrong with being ambitious and driven, however, what is wrong is when ‘goals’ become something of an obligation. What happens when a certain image, one image, becomes that of an image that we all aspire to? What happens when those aspirations turn into constitution? And that law turns into a faction? What happens to the factionless, the people that can’t reach those unmaintainable goals? What do they do?

In the UK, one in ten children suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder, a statistic from the online website, YoungMinds. That’s roughly three people in every classroom. Three people with a future - a purpose. Three people suffering in silence.

As a fifteen year old living in the UK, I know exactly where I’m coming from when I say that not enough is being done to tackle the causes behind mental health issues. There are some triggers of these disorders that cannot be avoided.  For example, social media and its link to the ‘ideal body image’. Social media is undeniably an absolutely incredible invention, however, things such as ‘ideal body images’ can really destroy a person.  


Time to invest in young people's mental health

However, to say that we should simply destroy traces of the idea of an ‘ideal body’ is in fact ludicrous simply because all throughout Earth’s history, an ‘ideal body image’ has been prevalent. It is human nature to construct ‘idealistic’ images and ideals. However, the problem lies with the fact that not enough attention is being paid to helping us children to see that it is not necessary for each of us to conform to the social policies. So instead, young people are left feeling worthless and alone. And from there, mental health disorders become a problem. “I wanted to be a model, and in order to look like that I thought I would have to stop eating.” says a fifteen year old from London who wishes to remain anonymous This just goes to show that not enough is being done to educate UK’s youth about the importance of self-love and being content with who you already are, not chasing socially constructed ‘goals’.

As a community, we have a duty to embrace, empower and protect our young people. As a country who claims to be one of the most advanced in the world, why is it that we are sitting back and watching our future generation suffer so greatly? In 2018? What is being done to prevent these problems? I strongly believe that the government should be setting aside more money to help run workshops within primary and secondary schools, teaching children about the importance of self-love and self-appreciation as part of PSHE.  In the UK’s next HM Treasury meeting, an agreement about the amount of money allocated towards helping with mental health within children needs to be made. As a child myself, I know how much just an hour a month of being taught and reminded of the importance of loving who you are would make a great positive impact on my state of mind and other people my age too.

Let’s make a change. Not next year, the year after or any other time in the future.

Let’s make a change - today.

Video: Are young people growing up too fast?

By Natalia and Crystal, Year 12


My button is bigger than yours: Cartoon

by Zarah, Year 10  

I decided to design this cartoon in response to all the news articles about North Korea and the USA. 


My button is bigger than yours

What does La Retraite think?

by Taneisha and Zarah, Year 10

Both Zarah and I decided it would be quite intriguing and beneficial to do a poll on a current trending news topic here in the UK.

For this poll, we walked around our school picking random people (both teachers and pupils) to ask the question ‘considering the recent feud between Russia and Great Britain in relation to the poisoning of a Russian spy and his daughter, do you think that it would be a good idea for England to send our football team to participate in the World Cup of which is being held in Russia?’

Out of the 134 people that had been questioned, 120 people opted for ‘No’ and 14 decided that their answer would be ‘yes’. We asked those who had chosen that their answer to the question was ‘yes’ why they believed this. The majority of people’s answers were that sports and politics are two separate topics and so what happens in politics should not jeopardise the progress of sports - personally, I found this to be a fair and reasonable answer.

Both Zarah and I were surprised for their reasoning behind why exactly the people who believed that we shouldn’t send our football team to Russia this summer. Many answered that it was too risky as the team players might be hurt or in danger due to the current high political tension between the two countries.

These responses were extremely saddening as they showed the great lack of faith that people living in our community have in humanity, especially children as young as 11 years old. This just goes to show what kind of ‘closed off’ and threatening society that we live in, here, in 2018.

The global warming warning

by Sophia, Year 7



My BFI Experience

By Denise, Year 12

You might have heard about a residential media course you had doubts about, or considered about applying? Wanted a detailed and realistic insight of what a no-ordinary cinema is like?

Well I want to give you an idea about it, with my own events at the BFI Film & Video Workshop and the BFI IMAX Waterloo! Both are products owned by the BFI (British Film Institute). 

Below is my first blog entry about my time there. You can read more of my blogs here

Summary: A day to meet each other, discuss story ideas, split into groups etc, the BFI set the location for the students available on the day at the Cinema Museum in Elephant & Castle.

9.20 AM-Before the intro starts 

I’m on the train to Elephant & Castle. And currently quite nervous. But excited. Those kind of feelings jumbled into a tangle. I know I’m prepared. But on the other hand, have a alien instinct because I’m going to meet people around my age, who I’ve never met before. Oh well, thoughts gotta halt to a stop like the train stopping at my stop and time for me to get off.  

3.25 PM- Break

The schedule for the day is shown as seen below. Because you may not be able to see what it says, clicking here, will reveal a separate page for you to read it easier. We were introduced to Simon Oatley, who was in charge of the trip and what happens with it. When were made to meet one another during a 5 minute activity, names were called out to meet with a form tutor. My group's tutor was named Jodie. Jodie asked Anna, Tegan, Avan ​(students who I was grouped with) and I separately of our ideas, while she jotted down notes of what ideas we had and if we had any background of editing. 

Then we discussed of a story plot, which merged my faint idea of a superhero with Avan's idea about a girl who discovers has superpowers but hides it from her guardian, who turns out to be a villain who is actually after her power. We went into detail about the ending of how the storyline would be shown. We were asked by jodie five words that summed it up, but came to no conclusion, as time was up.  After activities to meet a number of people and the awkward alien feeling is did and done, I’m having a decent time.

It is also found that Haben, who attends the same school as me, is also on the course. Which skips the meeting-someone-for-the- first- time conversation and straight into the comfort of seeing someone you know, out of new ​people you've never met before.

7.00PM -After the introduction day I liked brainstorming story plots, suggesting ideas and seeing what would be brought together. The most fun activity was making a cut out animation  in a group. Because although we were timed, it was challenging to think of an idea, create the scenes and learn how to do a short cut out motion film. Everyone was grouped for this activity twice, where me and Haben met Aiden. And was introduced to Libby and Faiza when we were grouped a second time. 

​​The tutors and students pitching their ideas was hard because there was three story plots I liked most and had to take everything into consideration. The similar intensity from the TV show Countdown when you don't have all day to decide, or when the judges are deciding in a competitive show akin to the X Factor or The Voice.

My top tip: If you have any story ideas, either detailed and full-out-described, or loose and faint, note them down. It can be useful when sharing story ideas with other individuals in a group. 


Protecting endangered animals 

by Shazay, year 7

Endangered Animals-page-0

Endangered Animals-page-1

Good morning and welcome to La Retraite's BBC School Report 2018. Throughout the day we will be uploading a number of stories, features and videos we have been working on throughout the year. 

Some of our stories include: 

  • Are young people growing up too fast? 
  • Surviving without a phone for a week 
  • A Trump cartoon 
  • Young people's mental health 
  • Laws affecting young people 
  • Global warming and protecting the environment 

We also have some reaction to the biggest news stories of today. 

school report and bbc news block (2)

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