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Disabled student told he won't pass Scottish journalism course because he can't write shorthand

A student in Scotland has been told he will fail a journalism course because his disability means he cannot write shorthand, the Glasgow Evening Times has reported.

Nineteen-year-old Kyle Gunn, who has cerebral palsy, is planning to do a two-year higher national diploma in Practical Journalism after completing a Media Studies course at Glasgow’s Clyde College.

But he was told by the Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) that if he takes the diploma course he would not be awarded the qualification as a result of not being able to pass shorthand exams.

He told the Evening Times: “I already do a lot of my work electronically, so I don’t understand why there is such a big issue about this.

“I know a lot of other journalists and some have said they don’t have shorthand.

“It’s not that I am unable to learn it, this is something I cannot help. Journalism is something that I really want to do. It seems really unfair…”

Tory Member of Scottish Parliament Maurice Golden has taken up the issue with the SQA, labelling it “deeply unfair”, and has also raised it with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

“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,” Golden told the paper.

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

A spokesperson for the SQA said: “SQA is responsible for developing qualifications and assessments that meet the needs and requirements of sector skills councils across the country, in this instance the National Council of the Training of Journalists (NCTJ).

“The NCTJ is responsible for setting the training standards for journalists in the UK. Following extensive consultation with the industry, the NCTJ has confirmed that shorthand is a vital skill which is demanded by employers.

“As part of the Equality Act, we allow reasonable adjustments to our qualifications for disabled candidates. However, we are unable to adjust the competency standard stipulated by the industry itself, in this case the NCTJ.”

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8 thoughts on “Disabled student told he won't pass Scottish journalism course because he can't write shorthand”

  1. I understand this situation all too well, as I have cerebral palsy also. I have decades of journalism experience, mainly in Ireland (where I worked for over 18 years for a newspaper which closed in the recession, as senior reporter and assistant news editor) but also in London, where I was a sub with Associated Press. However, an ill-fated return to Ireland saw me made redundant in the economic crash. I had planned on returning to London in 2011 but this was not feasible, so came to Liverpool with the intention of seeking to return to regional journalism. I found, however, that the regionals, unlike the London titles, insist on NCTJ, so that Irish experience is not recognized. Like the subject of the story, the nature of my disability means that shorthand would be impossible, yet I have been told by newspapers that they cannot hire me for this reason, arguing that a judge would have to be able to read my notes. With tablet devices now used in courts, that does not make sense. The accuracy of my court reporting has been acknowledged by solicitors, so it is soul-destroying that I am unable to use my talents and have only been able to find work which someone who left school at 15 could do.

  2. Oh dear me. How stupid can some arrogant uncaring public parasites be ?

    The man is impressively doing his best, yet the SQA wants to victimise him because of his unfortunate disability. How callous can these public parasites get ?

    Anyone with any sense (a rare commodity in some parts) knows, or should know, or are being restlessly indifferent to knowing, it is the MESSAGE which is much more important than the messenger. If the man can write stories acceptable to his employer then it seems really nasty than some with no disabilities (apart from a severe commonsense deficiency) deliberately want to punish him unjustifiably. Where on earth has basic Humanity gone ? It is shameful.

    The public parasites should resign in disgrace with no golden goodbyes.

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