Glasgow & West Scotland

Journalism course review after backlash over disabled student

Kyle Gunn Image copyright Kyle Gunn

A journalism course is to be reviewed after a student was told his disability would cause him to miss out on a qualification.

Kyle Gunn, who has cerebral palsy, applied for the two-year HND Practical Journalism course at Glasgow Clyde College.

But he was informed that without shorthand he could not gain an award.

The college said they could not make changes without Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) approval.

The SQA said it designed assessments to meet requirements set by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ), including shorthand.

Now though, the course is to be reviewed after the NCTJ said that shorthand is an "elective" component of the diploma in journalism and that students can complete the qualification without it.

A statement from the organisation said: "In all of the NCTJ's qualifications, including shorthand, we make reasonable adjustments and give special considerations to learners with particular needs.

"The NCTJ diploma in journalism is an industry-designed vocational qualification and is recognised as the industry standard, pre-entry qualification for trainee journalists.

'Reasonable assistance'

"Shorthand is an elective component of the diploma, which means that learners may complete the qualification without shorthand."

A spokesman from the SQA said: "We are seeking urgent clarification from the NCTJ on their position with regard to reasonable assistance and exemption from shorthand requirements for disabled learners.

"This is in light of new information about these procedures posted online by NCTJ.

"We will review our assessment criteria for the SQA HNC/D in practical journalism once this clarification is received."

Mr Gunn, who regularly attends football press conferences and has completed placements with a number of Scottish media groups, welcomed the development.

He said: "It's certainly looking better than yesterday, hopefully it can be sorted soon."

The 19-year-old from Johnstone, Renfrewshire, shared his story on social media and says he has been amazed by the response.

It has included messages from politicians offering their support and senior journalists who told him they have succeeded without shorthand.

"It's been amazing," the student said. "A lot of the people who've been in touch I already know but there have been reporters from England and America who have been sending messages supporting me. It's nice to have that."

The Equality and Human Rights Commission said that more disabled people should be working in journalism.

A spokesman said: "It cannot be right that such an outdated rule is prohibiting disabled people from entering a profession in which they are woefully under-represented."

Scottish Conservatives MSP Maurice Golden had raised the issue with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and urged the SQA to reconsider.

He said: "Kyle is a bright young man who is looking to make a career for himself in journalism but he is being told that he can't because of his disability.

"We should be encouraging people with disabilities to pursue their dreams, not putting up barriers."

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