An important aspect of the NCTJ’s work is to champion training for all. The NCTJ accreditation board have taken a special interest in diverse recruitment on accredited courses and have encouraged all centres to take action to address the diversity issue.
One example of how centres are engaging diverse communities is Glasgow Caledonian University’s Caledonian Club, an award-winning widening participation and community engagement initiative, which works with schools at all ages to encourage applications to university.
In our latest blog Ronnie Charters, right, and Liam Bruce, left, two students studying the NCTJ-accredited BA (hons) multimedia journalism course at Glasgow Caledonian University, talk about their work as student mentors on the programme.
Journalism isn’t often hailed as a progressive profession. The old maxim; “it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know” applies more to journalism than perhaps any other job. In Glasgow, a kid who wishes to be a journalist no longer has to have an editor as a neighbour, or a reporter as a godparent to get into the field.
At Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) an innovative approach is taken to ensure that anyone, no matter their background, is given equal footing in the race to be one of the 25 lucky undergrads joining the NCTJ-accredited multimedia journalism course each year at GCU.
The UK Recruitment and Outreach team work through the Caledonian Club and the Schools and College Outreach Team (SCOT) to offer pupils the chance to study at GCU, despite their background.
With a focus of ‘opening doors to pupils on the doorstep of GCU’, the team looks at the schools in Glasgow where the attainment rates are particularly low, with an emphasis on those going to university.
However the club is not an extension of the marketing department’s efforts to get more students to GCU. The programmes being run are designed to widen attainment in all areas of education with a focus on the child, ensuring that opportunity is open for all.
Due to the work of the Caledonian Club/SCOT in the school community and the high level of support offered to the pupil throughout their vocational journey, there has been a year on year increase in the number of applications to journalism from partner schools including St Andrews and Whitehill. This allows children from these low-achieving areas to access some of Scotland’s best journalism training.
The club are not shy in utilising their assets and it is undeniable that we, as journalism mentors, are assets.
Throughout the various projects we open up the department and develop exercises to give the pupils a taste of the ‘journo life’ in a fun, engaging way. The 2015 summer pilot project for example brought St Andrews’ year fives on campus to experience a zombie apocalypse. Naturally we focussed on reporting the tragedy to the world: we organised a mock press conference with an apocalypse survivor and worked with the pupils to write and record a story suitable for print, TV and radio. We even managed to teach them some shorthand by printing warning signs in Teeline which they had to decipher when they were sent out in search of vox-pops.
As well as working through the school year, the team also works extensively with the pupil along the UCAS process and we as mentors are involved in that: we work with students on their personal statements, do tours of the facilities to help students get more familiar with the journalism department and contribute to interview prep sessions. This is all done in an effort to ensure those who have what it takes but are maybe shy in new situations are given the best opportunity to shine when it comes to the interview.
Through the course of the club’s activities we play a big role in many projects and also have a close relationship with the staff having built up over time from being mentored in school through university and working on the projects the staff take a real interest in our lives and prospective careers.
As a result of us working in partnership with schools, we have seen the inspiration levels of pupils aspiring to journalism skyrocket. It is undoubtedly very rewarding to be in the department when there are interviews going on and a pupil you’ve been working with comes out brimming with confidence. It is that scenario which makes our job as journalism student mentors so enjoyable.
We can say, without a shadow of a doubt, we certainly would not be where we are today, were it not for the hard work and untold dedication of the Caledonian Club and the School and College Outreach Team, and we are sure we speak for many other students at GCU when we say that.