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Freelance Journalist Interview with Sue Learner

Sue Learner has been a freelance journalist for 10 years, having contributed to publications such as the Guardian, Daily Mail, The Times Educational Supplement, Nursery World, Nursing Standard and the BMJ (British Medical Journal). She specialises in education, the early years and health, and is currently available for commissions ranging from news stories and news analysis pieces to features. Her website can be viewed at Read on to find out more.

What do you write about?

I tend to specialise in education, early years and health although I have also written about social housing, lifestyle and the retail sector.

Where are we likely to see your work?

The Guardian, Nursery World, Practical Pre-School, Nursing Standard, British Medical Journal, Premium Practice Dentistry, SecEd, Times Educational Supplement.

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done

Probably the most memorable is an interview I did with some refugee children from Afghanistan, a while ago, for the Times Educational Supplement. I interviewed a 10-year-old boy who had fled Afghanistan and made the hazardous journey to Britain on his own. He was persecuted by the Taliban for being Sikh. He described how he hid in a truck full of water melons and the Taliban came to check the truck and they got their swords and stabbed the water melons to make sure no one was hiding underneath. The swords just missed him. He had to jump onto a moving train and when he finally got to England, he was unable to speak a word of English. I felt very touched by his story as he was so young and he had been through so much.

Also a school I visited last year in Stoke Newington where a very inspirational teacher called Elly Barnes teaches teachers from other schools how to fight homophobia in schools. I watched as she took a class and talked openly with the children and even changed the way some of them thought. The story has picked up lots of media.

What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I like writing features that change people’s opinions and make them question what they think.

Where do you source ideas for articles?
Press releases, reading newspapers and magazines, looking at the internet and googling.

How can PRs be useful to you?
By sending me press releases or info about interesting and innovative projects or people related to education, early years, health, nursing dentistry and general women’s issues. I like quirky stories and real life stories.

How and when do you like them to get in touch?
By email at

Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
They have to be very good for me to go on them as, unless I can get a good story out of them, it is not worth it for me. Especially as I don’t live in London anymore.

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
I am happy with the way they approach me.

How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
I have no idea. So far in my life I have taught English abroad and worked in publishing and been a journalist. Maybe I would write a book.

If we gave you £1,000, how would you spend it?
I would spend it on a trip to a Greek island with my partner and our three lovely boys.

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
I am reading The Bookseller of Kabulby by Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad.
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