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Prof test rules about to change

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Neil Webber, editorial training manager for the Kent Messenger Group, is not convinced that the open book move is a good idea, but said that the vast majority of the group’s trainees studied NVQs rather than sitting the NCE, as this was the group’s preferred method of training.

He said: “I find it strange that a test on trainees’ knowledge of the law would allow them to take a reference book in.

“I’m yet to be convinced that it is a good thing and am looking forward to listening to the debate.”

Training company manager Cleland Thom, who runs several NCE refresher courses, said he was in favour of the change.

He said: “It makes the exam closer to real-life journalism where you are able to look at a book or consult a colleague when you need to.

“My only concern is that the current edition of McNae’s is quite out of date and I’m just hoping the candidates won’t be penalised for mentioning laws which have since been revised.

“I don’t think the NCTJ could ever be accused of dumbing down as its standards are so high. They have responded to criticisms from editors that the paper doesn’t match the problems faced in real-life, particularly in the age of mobile phones, and most reporters carry a small version of the Code of Practice in their wallets.”

And at Trinity Mirror – where trainees do not sit the NCE but instead follow the group’s own training and examination programme which operates outside the NCTJ – editors are being consulted on the possibility of introducing its own open book policy.

Head of editorial staff development Tony Johnston said: “We are currently reviewing our own policy with regard to allowing open books in our final exams, but have yet to reach a decision on the way forward.”

To be eligible to sit the NCE, journalists must first pass preliminary examinations in practical journalism, media law, public affairs and shorthand at 100wpm.

They also have to complete a minimum of 18 months employment and training with a newspaper and submit a logbook which includes a record of their development, three-monthly assessments for their training period and 34 cuttings of original work for 17 different reporting tasks.

  • NCTJ chief executive Joanne Butcher was unavailable for comment.

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