This post was first published on the Parliamentary Digital Service blog
Now that you’ve read all about what it's like to be a Hansard reporter, you probably want to know how to sign up immediately. If not, maybe you’ll be tempted by the prospect of a return to student life. That phrase probably brings to mind passive-aggressive post-it notes, nights out in sticky bars and no money. You might even recall a voice in your head whispering, “What the heck am I going to do after graduation?”
Well, Hansard’s postgraduate diploma in parliamentary reporting couldn't be further from that picture. I can’t promise you days under the duvet watching Countdown and eating beans on toast. I can guarantee no student debt this time, a full salary and expert tutoring. You see, you don’t just join Hansard and start to report proceedings. It’s a job like no other, so there’s a lot to learn first.
New recruits to Hansard train for three months in a classroom on the parliamentary estate followed by another three on the job. The tutors are a team of three experienced Hansard editors and reporters who teach you to work as a team and report debates according to Hansard’s editing style. They also explain the rules governing debates in the chambers and committees.
The course gained academic accreditation from City, University of London in 2012. It took Hansard staff a lot of hard work over several years to get to that point. The aim was to give the existing high standard of training formal status to show that Hansard employees have specialist skills.
Assessments include exams and presentations. Trainees are also marked on a selection of commentaries. These are essays in which you describe the decisions behind your editing choices.
Although the first three months involve a lot of classroom hours, students spend several hours each week seeing the theory in practice. You attend debates to become familiar with the names, faces and voices of 650 MPs, and the different parliamentary settings. This is crucial because when you finish training you become a Parliamentary Reporter. That means that you’re responsible for reporting proceedings of legislative committees, select committees and Westminster Hall, which is the second Chamber of the House of Commons.
For the second three months, you’re launched into a team of experienced Parliamentary Reporters, including previous graduates of the course, who are always on hand to provide support. As the workload increases, this is the period when you build up stamina. This level of endurance is crucial because Hansard reporters can work for long hours during busy times.
When I began the diploma in January 2014, I had no idea what was in store. I enjoyed the recruitment process, which involved a grammar and fact-checking test, but I had no idea what it really took to become a reporter. What followed was an immersive and rewarding learning experience.
I was in a small group of five students which made it easy to ask questions and to learn. I was paid a full salary and got to study in one of the world’s most iconic buildings. I also knew that as long as I worked hard I would have a full-time career in Hansard when the course ended. It became clear to me a few days after starting that this was exactly what I wanted.
The graduation ceremony was the icing on the cake. Few people can say they graduated in full Gryffindor gowns in the Speaker’s residence at the House of Commons beneath the chimes of Big Ben. The canapés alone were worth the work.
Find out more
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