Thursday, 19 December 2013

Celebrating success

The right course at the right time can change your life

The opportunity to study by distance learning can really make a difference to people. Whether it be for an A level or an IGCSE, a vocational qualification or something just for fun, being able to study around other commitments or without having to attend face-to-face classes is the only possible way for some. At NEC this is at the heart of what we do, and working here it is difficult not to be inspired by some of the amazing people we support and the great things they go on to achieve.

We told you recently about partnerships we have formed with 3 charities, to provide bursaries to disadvantaged students in our blog NEC tutor’s lifelong learning legacy. On Friday last week I was lucky enough to see  this in action at an event held by Crisis the homeless charity called the ‘Celebration of Success’. I was invited to say a few words about the bursaries available at an event they hold each year to celebrate the successes of their members, and I want to share with you my experience of what was an inspirational and moving day.

The first thing that was clear is how important this annual celebration is to Crisis members. It was standing room only, and the excitement in the air was electric. Several members of the Crisis team spoke, including CEO Lesley Morphy. We heard all about the cafe, and how it is educating members not only to help them move into the catering industry, but also teaching them about seasonal produce and healthy eating.

We also heard how the private renting campaign is helping more and more people into suitable accommodation and the employment services have helped more than 113 people into jobs since July this year. We also clapped and cheered as a huge amount of members, including some studying with NEC, received certificates for the educational programmes they are either working through or have completed.

The stories that some of the members shared were very emotional, at some points there was not a dry eye in the house. There were deportation issues, identification issues, substance abuse, punishments for crimes committed long ago carrying on long after the sentence is done. The gentleman I sat next to shared some of his experiences with me, and he had been through more than I thought possible. He was there to be presented with a certificate for a course he had done, and even shared with me a poem he had written since becoming involved with the education programme. It was beautiful! The afternoon finished with a great performance from the choir, which had everyone in the room clapping along.

Despite all of the challenges members of Crisis have faced, the outlook is positive thanks to the help and support that Crisis provides, and education is a really big part of that. Be that education by way of formal qualifications, teaching them some ballroom dancing or helping them to learn what it is they want and how they can get there. The positivity in the room was overwhelming and I feel both honoured and privileged to have been witness to it.

The NEC guide to courses (PDF) says on the cover ‘The right course at the right time can change your life’, and my afternoon spent celebrating the successes of these truly inspirational people reminded me just how true that is.

Carly Mason

Sales & Marketing Manager

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Making sense of Economics

Making sense of Economics

The economy has been in the news a lot in recent times. It has always been a core influence on how our world and society works, but it seems to have become more relevant than ever today. How would someone unfamiliar with economics go about making sense of the way these issues affect us all?

If you are, or have become, interested in how the economy works, studying economics is an effective way to help you understand it. NEC’s distance learning A level Economics course has been written by experts to give you all the knowledge you need to get started.

A level Economics is also a first step towards the many career paths that make use of economic theory. This could be any career in finance, but it could also be something less immediately obvious; even journalism stands to benefit from a good understanding of economic principles.

As with all our courses, learners who enrol on A level Economics will be supported by an experienced and knowledgeable personal tutor throughout their studies. Terry Cook, who has been teaching Economics since 1974, is one such tutor. Here are some of his thoughts on the subject and how studying it will increase your understanding of the contemporary issues affecting us today:

“The subject of economics is fascinating, and it has increasingly become a very popular choice at AS and A Level. Everything that we do is affected in some way by economics. One topic that has been in the news in recent months is the deficit that the UK has in its public finances, i.e. we have been spending more money than we have been receiving. The present government is aiming to reduce the size of this deficit.”

“Some people seem to think that reducing the size of the deficit means the same as reducing the size of our debt, but this is not the case. Even if we managed to reduce the size of the deficit by half, there would still be a deficit and so the total debt owed would increase. The best way to understand this is to see a deficit as a ‘flow’ concept and a debt as a ‘stock’ concept.”

“It just goes to show that in economics, you have to look very carefully at the statistics. Another example to illustrate this is the rate of inflation. For example, last year the rate of inflation in the UK (as measured by the Consumer Prices Index) fell from 2.5% per annum to 2.2% per annum. A lot of people think this means that prices are falling, but this is not the case. Prices are still rising, but the rate of increase is slowing down, i.e. goods and services are costing 2.2% more than a year ago compared with costing 2.5% more than a year ago.”

If you’re looking to gain a qualification towards your career, or simply wish to study the subject out of interest, visit our website for full details on our Economics and other tutor-supported distance learning courses. You can also get in touch and speak to one of our team, who will be happy to answer your questions.

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Thursday, 5 December 2013

The true potential of second-chance learning

Society’s conventions on education dictate that you do your GCSEs at 16, your A levels at 18, perhaps a degree after that, then enter work until you retire sometime between the ages of 65 and 70.

Naturally, this isn’t always the way that life works out.

The value of second chances in education is something that has always been at the core of NEC’s work, and it has become ever more important in today’s changing economic climate. The recent OECD Survey of Adult Skills has recommended that adults need more second-chance opportunities to learn, and NIACE believes this to be critical for our economy.

Flexible studying methods such as distance learning and on-the-job training mean that education and full-time work do not have to be mutually exclusive. Not everyone retires when they reach a pensionable age, and swathes of learners study when they want to and go on to achieve more than they ever imagined possible.

Last year, British developmental biologist Sir John Gurdon was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his pioneering work in cloning. His discovery that mature cells can be converted to stem cells completely transformed global understanding of how cells and organisms develop.

However, it wasn’t always apparent that Sir John was destined for such greatness. Educated at Eton, he was ranked last out of the 250 boys in his year for achievement in Biology, and was in the bottom set for every other science too. In one school report his schoolmaster commented, ‘I believe he has ideas about becoming a scientist; on his present showing this is quite ridiculous.’

What would that schoolmaster have thought if he’d known that decades later, at the age of 79, Sir John would go on to collect one of the most prestigious awards in the scientific world?

Sir John is not the only person to work around the constraints of society; thousands of people go back into education every year and gain qualifications they may once have thought they could never achieve. Singer BeyoncĂ© Knowles left school at 15 and went back after the birth of her daughter to achieve her General Equivalency Diploma. Actress Emma Watson took time out from her thriving career to get her A levels and go on to university. And director Steven Spielberg returned aged 55 to finish the film degree he’d dropped out of years before.

The National Extension College was set up by Michael Young in 1963 to provide exactly this sort of opportunity: to ensure that all adults could have that essential second chance at education. Lord Young understood the potential for loss of knowledge and discovery that would be caused by denying adults access to education if they missed out the first time around, and that the right course at the right time could change someone’s life.

Fifty years later, the College continues to provide second chances to learners who want to try again, whether to pursue an interest or change a career. Sir John’s success against the odds will be an inspiration to everyone whose first experience of education may have been a negative one.

If you feel like you missed out on an opportunity to fulfil your potential earlier in life, and would like to learn something new or gain a new qualification to help you take the next step, visit our website to view our full range of courses, or get in touch and speak to one of our team.

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