The Times’ Education Correspondent Nicola Woolcock’s tips for getting your story published

Nicola Woolcock is the Education Correspondent at The Times. Nicola has been in this role for over ten years, during which time there have been five education secretaries and numerous changes to schools and universities. She has broken stories and led investigations into home education, student mental health and the teacher recruitment crisis. The event was an opportunity for PRs to hear directly from Nicola and to ask her their burning questions.

We successfully packed a lot into the hour-long breakfast session, getting the inside track from one of the most well regarded national education correspondents. Here’s what we learnt…

Key issues

Nicola’s focus on education is broad but she is particularly concerned with issues that interest the core Times readership, which is middle-class parents. Subjects she regularly covers include school standards, universities, personal tutoring, qualifications (GCSEs, A-Levels & new qualifications such as T Levels) social mobility, and mental health, amongst others.

Timing and planning

Nicola works closely with Rosemary Bennet, Education Editor for The Times and the two divide up stories between them.

Getting out of the office is hard for Nicola, because it takes up so much of the day. If she is going to leave the office to cover a story, Tuesday is the best day for her to do so. It is worth noting that Nicola doesn’t work on Mondays, and Rosemary doesn’t work on Fridays.

Stories for the day are pitched to the news editor by 10 am. These are then reviewed in the main conference with the editor at 11 am. Of course, there are other meetings during the day including the afternoon conference at 3.30 pm.

Meetings for digital planning take place twice weekly and The Times works towards four online updates each day. These happen at 9 am, 12 noon, 5 pm and midnight. Filing for these updates takes place about an hour before stories go live.

Nicola reminded us to be aware of the ‘education diary’ when pitching, so don’t forget to watch out for league tables month, 11+ exams in September and A level and GCSE results in August.


Nicola prefers to receive stories via email and the optimum time is between 11 am and 3 pm. She also added that in education Thursday seems to be the biggest news day, so get ahead by pitching earlier in the week.

We learned that exclusives will usually generate more interest and these should be pitched a couple of days before general release. Nicola told our audience to try not to send a press release after 3.30 pm, which is when she’s trying to file stories.

Nicola gave us further advice; telling us to always ensure the subject line is clear, to keep emails short and to make sure the top line of the news story is high up. She told us not to attach a press release, rather paste one in the body of the email so it can be easily read on a mobile.

Nicola also placed emphasis on the benefit of case studies which resonate with The Times readership and explained that a case study should bring to life what a story means for a parent or child. A compelling case study can really help push a story over the line and well-respected spokespeople are also useful for adding to a story.

She added that the Saturday edition features stories that have a more ‘lifestyle’ feel to them – usually more reflective pieces, which directly affect parents and their children.

What to watch out for

Nicola explained that stories about tech in education need to have a really strong education peg and should demonstrate the impact on children or schools. International education stories also need a UK peg and The Times tends to cover vocational education less frequently.

She added that surveys can be of interest, but they need to be current, with a decent sample size and they need to tell us something new. Nicola told us that she regularly receives great pitches but that often the data (or lack of) lets the story down.

Nicola left us with one final word of warning. She told us that she gets regular calls from PRs asking if the Times Educational Supplement is linked to The Times. The answer? It is not!

This event was one of Roxhill’s 15:1 sessions. These sessions give you the opportunity to meet and talk to respected journalists. You can find out more about these sessions here. Pedroza Comms will be working with Roxhill on another education session in the New Year and we’d love to know which journalists you’d like to meet. Email with your suggestions.