‘Evolution’ not ‘revolution’ for the NCE

A major review of the National Certificate Examination has concluded that: “What is required is for the exam to evolve; there is no demand for a revolution.”

The National Council for the Training of Journalists has published a report on the qualification following a comprehensive review which ran from January to May 2011.

More than 100 newspaper editors took part in an online survey where they were encouraged to give their views on the current exam.  The research also included a number of focus groups for editors and recently qualified seniors, and editors and senior managers from the sector’s leading publishers were interviewed.

The report was written by the NCTJ’s editorial consultant, Paul Watson.  He concluded that the NCE remains a good test and needs to continue to “move with the times” and reflect what is happening in most newsrooms, particularly in the way reporters operate and deal with digital publishing.  The review did not, however, find demand for radical changes and acknowledged that systems for digital publishing across the country vary greatly.

The headline findings in the executive summary were:

  • The NCE is held in high regard by those within the NCTJ’s traditional “constituency”
  • It remains a good test
  • It reflects traditional and on-going values: accuracy, unique content and good story-telling skills
  • It is a national scheme, to a standard that everyone understands
  • Testing of the core skills of journalism should be at the heart of the test
  • The NCE should continue to concentrate on the fundamentals of the job
  • Examination papers should reflect the way newsrooms are working but it is noted that systems and procedures for digital publishing vary greatly across the country
  • The NCE is used as a recruiting tool by editors
  • The value of the NCE “currency” has risen as the number of jobs has declined
  • The four current components of the NCE all achieve high approval ratings

The author identified a key industry issue as the need for reporters to find and tell original stories. 

Reflecting on cost and time pressures and major changes underway he said wholesale changes to the NCE would not be welcomed by editors and employers.

The NCTJ wishes to thank all those who took part in the research and for giving their time, effort and thoughts about the NCE. A copy of the report is available here.  It will be used by the NCTJ to inform the future direction of the qualification and will be considered with the author’s recommendations.