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Training Matters: NCTJ accreditation and the Premier League

This week’s blog is written by John Cary, head of accreditation at the NCTJ. John is an NCTJ graduate and has spent over 30 years as a working journalist. He began his career with the Eastern Daily Press, and has worked at BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 5Live and is also former deputy editor of the Cambridge News.

So now I know what it must be like to be a Premier League footballer. Sort of.

OK, they earn a bit more than I do as head of accreditation at the NCTJ. They’re more famous too.

But bear with me. They are kept busy across a long season, with key dates in a fixture list stretching across many months, until finally, they have a few weeks to draw breath, reflect and plan for the next campaign.

For the NCTJ too, the accreditation season is at an end. Since last autumn, we’ve completed the same number of fixtures – in our case visits to centres teaching journalism – as a footballer would in the Premier League.

Having signed in the spring transfer window, I know the end-of-season fixture pile-up – a dozen accreditation panel visits in as many weeks – is pretty hectic.

The NCTJ has been asking questions and checking standards at centres all over: from Coleraine to Kent and from Sheffield to Southampton. Everywhere we go, assisted by senior working journalists who join us on accreditation panels, we are assessing and advising journalism courses against a single industry standard for training.

Every accredited course will be visited at least every two years by a panel who will question tutors and students before making recommendations to be approved by the NCTJ accreditation board.

Accreditation is not easily won. The process is challenging, but fair and supportive. We know it is valued by students, centres and employers alike.

To keep it that way, these precious close-season weeks are needed to review examinations and programmes of study, as well as to draw up the schedule for the next year of visits.

This summer, much of the work is centred on introducing the module on practical journalism ethics that will be taught at every accredited course from the autumn. It’s just the latest step in ensuring that accredited courses are in touch with the times.

Come to think of it, ethics is perhaps one area where the NCTJ and professional footballers do live in very different worlds.