Jack Farrell, a talented Transition Year student from Causeway Comprehensive School, has been awarded 1st prize for his photo ‘An Autumn Stroll’ at the annual NewsBrands Ireland Press Pass Awards which took place in Dublin’s Convention Centre on Friday, 10 March 2017.

The awards, which are now in their fifth year, seek to improve literacy and critical thinking skills while helping students to develop a deeper understanding of news media and how it communicates about the world around them. The national competition seeks original journalism entries in 5 categories: Features, Opinion, News, Sport and Photojournalism.

8,000 Transition Year students took part in this year’s initiative and 16 of those students were awarded for their original journalism, created as part of the NewsBrands Ireland Newspapers-in-Education programme.

Finian McGrath T.D., Minister for State with special responsibility for Disabilities, attended the awards and presented students with their awards. Speaking at the awards in the Convention Centre he said: “Newspapers have a vital role to play in any free society. They are watchdogs, chroniclers and the eyes and ears that go where most can not be. Press Pass is a wonderful initiative that promotes literacy and critical thinking skills by bringing newspapers into classrooms and encouraging students to study them in depth.

“When you engage with newspapers you engage with society. When young people engage with society, that society benefits enormously from their input and their energy. I am delighted that 70,000 Transition Year students have had the opportunity to study newspapers in their classrooms through the Press Pass programme and I am certain that each and every one of them is a more engaged and better informed citizen as a result.” Mr McGrath commented.”

The audience, made up of nominated students, their teachers and families also heard from Michael Clifford of the Irish Examiner, who was the NewsBrands Ireland Journalist of the Year 2016. Mr Clifford highlighted the value of quality, professional journalism and the importance of a trusted media.

Participating schools receive newspapers and a specially created workbook free of charge. Students are encouraged to engage with the newspapers in the classroom, to analyse them and then to create their own original journalism, the best of which was entered into a national competition.

The winners were selected by a panel of newspaper editors and journalists, chaired by Professor John Horgan, the former Press Ombudsman.