Our pioneering, long-running Young Reporter scheme has come under unfair attack this week and we would now like to set the record straight.

It started with the National Union of Journalists publishing an inaccurate and misleading article, which quickly spread around Twitter and was picked up by several other media organisations that based their stories purely on the same misinformation.

Contrary to reports, the scheme has been run by Newsquest South London for the past seven years with local schools. Almost 1,000 students and 100 schools took part in 2014.

Far from each student being charged £120 for bylines, each education establishment pays a single fee of £100, and each student wishing to take part contributes £20. These fees purely cover the costs of running the scheme, including an awards ceremony at the end of the year, and for 2015 we have opened it up to colleges and universities.

This is a community-focused project that offers young people who might wish to enter the media an opportunity to get a taste of journalism and experience involvement with a real newsroom. A number of those taking part have gone on to study journalism at university, inspired by their experiences on our scheme.

To suggest that this is in any way an attempt to replace professional journalists is nonsense.

We have had nothing but praise from the education establishments involved.

Dan Townend, associate professor of journalism at Kingston University, has helped with the scheme in the past two years.

He said: “The Newsquest school journalism scheme has been a tremendous effort to get youngsters involved in the industry and develop their skills and writing ability.

“I saw some of the winners last year when we ran a press day with them and the enthusiasm and excitement of the young writers was brilliant.

“Newsquest don’t make money out of the scheme and do it as a service to the community and to show how good journalism is a as career."

Darren Sowerbutts, assistant headteacher at Charles Darwin School in Biggin Hill, said: "Work experience placements in the media are much sought-after and hard to secure and we have found the Young Reporter scheme to be invaluable.

"The charge is only nominal and represents real value for money as the students gain some industry experience, hone their writing skills and learn the discipline of meeting deadlines while still at school.

"Obviously, the more students who join, the more cost-effective the scheme is to individual schools. At Charles Darwin School we have subscribed to the scheme for several years and are delighted that Newsquest is offering our students this extended work experience, supporting them and helping to prepare them for the future.”

Gumley House Convent School in Isleworth, which has been involved in the scheme for the past six years, said: “Given the skills benefit of this initiative, our students see this as a very valuable opportunity and the administration cost, a small price to pay.”

Careers advisor Anthony Fitzgerald, who has been involved since the scheme launched, said: "This is an excellent scheme that I have run with students in three schools where I have worked. It teaches students about meeting deadlines, creativity and builds confidence. It is often difficult for students to find placements with magazines and newspapers when they are of school age.

“At a time when the government is encouraging employers to inspire young people about different career areas this scheme gives them both an insight into journalism and builds important employability skills. There is inevitably a cost involved in running a scheme such as this and we believe it is value for money."