The NCTJ will administer the new qualification, which will see the best elements of the Level 4 NVQ in Newspaper Journalism, including the funding, standards and work-based training ethos, added to the NCE.
News groups such as the Kent Messenger Group, NWN Media, Archant Norfolk and Suffolk and the Midland News Association, which all use the NVQ, will join the NCTJ’s awarding body structure, and will be involved in further development of the “new” NCE.
All new trainees will be registered with the NCTJ and complete a logbook and sit the NCE, and candidates already working towards an NVQ will be able to choose whether to continue or transfer to the NCE. New candidates will not have the option of starting an NVQ.
Russell Whitehair, president of the Newspaper Society and chairman of NWN Media, led the merger talks and said the aim was to create a universally recognised industry relevant training scheme, to set the highest standards for journalists.
He said: “With wide support from publishers I am confident this move will help fulfill that expectation.
“The NCTJ is well placed to provide a progressive one-stop shop for training and qualifications for all those wanting to join our newspapers as well as those who are developing their journalism careers with us.”
John Fry, chief executive of Archant – which previously used both the NVQ and NCE system, is chair of the working group overseeing the merger and will join the NCTJ board.
He said: “Our industry is undergoing huge change with digital developments that present us with both challenges and opportunities.
“Journalists are at the heart of this revolution and it makes sense that we have a completely joined-up approach to skills and qualifications.
“Archant newspaper divisions have been using the NCE and the NVQ successfully and there are benefits of both systems.
“But we need a more coherent strategy for journalism training and qualifications and the time is right for the industry to give the NCTJ its backing to oversee a merger of training routes.”
NCTJ chief executive Joanne Butcher added: “I have been hugely impressed by the training schemes of companies using the NVQ and their commitment to high standards of journalism training.
“They have a great deal to offer the NCTJ and I am pleased that our discussions have been so positive and constructive and that we have been trusted with overseeing all journalism training and qualifications.”
To qualify to sit the NCE, trainees must first have passed all of the NCTJ’s preliminary examinations, usually whilst on a college course, and have undertaken a period of full-time employment on a newspaper or news agency – 18 months for pre-entrants or two years for direct entrants.
They must then successfully pass four parts of the NCE, sitting news interview, news report and newspaper practice exams as well as completing an on-the-job training logbook.
The NVQ system requires trainees to put together a portfolio of published work and tests knowledge of law, ethics and public affairs. There are six mandatory units for writing, including shorthand, five units for sub-editing and eight units for photography.
Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell told holdthefrontpage: “Both as a director of the NCTJ and speaking on behalf of the Society of Editors, this is a welcome step in creating a single body that is setting the standard for journalism training.
“It is so important that we have one kitemark for journalistic standards. This is a significant move which will be seen in time as a huge benefit to the industry.”