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6th February 2023

Journalism student celebrated for top NCTJ exam results

Journalism student, Conal Cunningham, has been awarded with the Newsquest essential journalism prize, for achieving some of the best results in the country in the 2021-22 NCTJ Diploma in Journalism exams.



A total of 8,255 NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) diploma exams were sat throughout the academic year, with Conal achieving the best grade in the country for the Essential Journalism exam and receiving a cash prize of £250.

For the past 18 months, Conal has been working as a trainee journalist at the St Helens Star and Leigh Journal, reporting on a variety of people, court cases, council meetings and charity events.

We spoke to Conal to find out more…

How does it feel to have achieved the best exam results in your year?

“I’m thrilled to have achieved the best grade in the country for my Essential Journalism exam. It’s not something I was expecting but it’s been great to have been recognised and congratulated on the award. It shows I’m on the right path!”

How did the College prepare you for your exams?

“The college were thorough in preparing me for all the journalism exams I had to take. I wasn’t familiar with too many of the modules, so course tutors Joanna and Kate really helped get me up to speed, despite it being a fast-track course.”

What did you enjoy most about your time at the College?

“As I had already undertaken a degree and masters at university, I was really pleased that the College offered a fast-track journalism course so I could quickly get the qualifications I needed. It was a fairly laidback but also very thorough course with supportive tutors.”

Have you enjoyed working at the St Helens Star and Leigh Journal?

“I’ve really enjoyed working for the St Helens Star and Leigh Journal. It’s given me a good platform to start my career and the opportunity to interview a range of people on a variety of topics and events.”

What ambitions do you have for the future?

“I’m not sure what’s next but I do enjoy the local aspect of journalism and getting to be a voice for ordinary people in the community. In the future I could perhaps specialise in a specific field of journalism.”

Would you recommend the NCTJ course to other aspiring journalists?

“I would definitely recommend the NCTJ course and the College to aspiring journalists. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after university, so it was a great way to quickly get up to speed in journalism and gain the necessary qualifications to start my career.”

If, like Conal, you’re interested in a career in journalism and would like to find out more about our fast-track NCTJ accredited course, click here.

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