By Jason MacKenzie
In 1915 American academic, Abraham Flexner presented a paper at the National Conference of Charities and Correction on behalf of the New York City’s General Education Board entitled Is Social Work a Profession? Flexner surmised that professions were intrinsically connected with education and learning.
“Professions…derive their raw material from science and learning; they possess an educationally communicable technique; they tend to self-organise; they are becoming increasingly altruistic in motivation”
More than 100 years later, Flexner’s words ring true as the PR industry’s close ties with academia continue to play a pivotal role in the march to professionalism. For the CIPR, our relationship with education and academic institutions has never been more valuable. The CIPR’s Education & Skills group embodies the Institute’s connection with the academic world and plays an invaluable role for education communicators.
On 17th November, I was privileged to attend the group’s flagship showcase – The CIPR Education Journalism Awards. Now in its twelfth year, the awards celebrate exceptional journalism in the academic, further and vocational education and skills sectors. Public relations practitioners as well as journalists from organisations including the BBC, FE Week, the Financial Times, the Guardian, ITV, Schools Week, the Sunday Times, Times Educational Supplement and Times Higher Education gathered to celebrate on the stunning 17th floor of the Shard in London. The panoramic views of the capital offered a fitting backdrop for a celebration of outstanding journalism from the 2015/16 academic year.
The evening began with a candid address from Labour MP and Education and Research Bill committee member, Wes Streeting. Wes heralded education as “the greatest social leveller available to tackle dramatic inequality in society” and praised the role of journalists in holding politicians accountable.
The ceremony itself did justice to Wes’s words as inspiring stories of determined, investigative journalism emerged throughout the evening. The room was packed with journalists at the forefront of their craft but there was one award winner whose achievements were truly remarkable.
The Ted Wragg Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education Journalism was presented to the former Daily Telegraph Education Correspondent, John Izbicki. The silence in the room as John took to the stage to give his acceptance speech spoke volumes to his character and the contribution he’s made to his profession. John fled Nazi persecution in 1939 with his family before arriving in the United Kingdom with a limited grasp of English. Yet he forged a distinguished career as a Fleet Street journalist, which saw him passionately champion education. It was an honour to watch him humbly accept the award he called “his greatest achievement”.
Led by Simon Butt-Bethlendy, the Education and Skills Group deserves tremendous praise for cultivating these awards. Under Simon’s leadership, the Awards have earned industry-wide recognition for their commitment to the highest standards of practice. The prestige and popularity of the awards amongst journalists is evidenced by the growing number of entries, with over 100 entries submitted across ten categories for this year’s competition. The Awards offer a compelling example of what a group of motivated volunteers can achieve and are a model for Institute’s sector groups.
As a chartered professional body, the CIPR must live and breathe education. It underpins all of our organisational objectives. Our efforts to augment professional standards of practice are dependent on our ability to educate ourselves and the wider public relations community. Our Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programme, which is free for members, is the primary vehicle that allows us to achieve this. It opens the door to members seeking Accredited and Chartered Practitioner (Chart.PR) status and acts as validation of professionalism to clients, colleagues and the public.
More CIPR members than ever are completing CPD and getting chartered. The final Chartership Assessment Day for 2016 has sold out and members have already started securing places for 2017 assessments. If you value your education, career development and professional integrity, I’d urge you to join them.