Thursday, 30 July 2015

Tips for studying a course in childcare, early years or supporting teaching and learning

Kids with Bricks.jpg

At NEC, we often hear from people who want to train up and get qualified as a professional childcarer, early years practitioner or teaching assistant, but are nervous about whether they will find the time for studying on top of work, caring responsibilities, or both. In this blog we will be sharing some tips from our experienced tutors that we hope you will find helpful if you want to qualify for a career working with children and young people.

What will I be studying, and why?

NEC’s own courses are delivered through distance learning and, with no set class times or travel involved, are already designed to give learners as much flexibility as possible when it comes to study time. The topics covered will be wide-ranging and in-depth to equip you with the knowledge you will need in your role. You might discover there is more to looking after children than you think!

NEC tutor Kate, who supports learners enrolled on our courses in Childcare and Early Years, points out that while many learners first become interested in a career working with children or young people when they themselves become a parent, it is important to understand that parenting is quite a different skill to supporting and caring for other people’s children. Qualifications in Childcare, Early Years and Supporting Teaching and Learning will therefore cover a variety of topics which practitioners will need to know in order to implement the Government’s legislation, curriculum plans and other guidance.

‘You will need to understand not only what to do, but why you do it,’ explains Kate. ‘When you work with children, you are part of a profession. While as a parent, what you do in private is largely up to you, as a childcare professional what you do is visible to many other people. You are accountable to Ofsted, as well as the parents of the children you care for.’

How do I go about studying it all?

It will be helpful to establish a routine or a system of study that you can easily maintain throughout the duration of your course, whether that be 4 months or 24 months. Kate and fellow NEC tutor Felicity have the following advice and tips to offer anyone studying for, or thinking of enrolling on, a course:

  • The most likely strategy to ensure that you make reasonable, steady progress in your course is to plan. For example, at the weekend you can plan your study slots for the next week. These can be different times each week, but if you don't plan they won't happen!

  • Take advantage of opportunities to read, even if just for 15-20 minutes at a time, for example at bed time, over breakfast, even on the toilet! This way you will get through and make progress. Don't wait for a whole free morning, it won't happen that way.

  • Set yourself short deadlines to aim for. Generally, aim to submit something once or twice a week.

  • Never let yourself get to Friday evening without having done some study.

  • Work out a reward system so that when you get to Friday night and you have achieved your study goals, you can have a treat – a bottle of wine, a chocolate cake, a long bath, a magazine, whatever is your “thing”.

  • You may find it helpful to set aside specific times each week to study, and to stick to these times just as if you were attending a timetabled course.

  • Re-prioritise, just for the short term – go without one or two "other" things you do, such as hobbies or chores. Find someone to help with chores while you study, such as family or friends.

  • Find a study buddy who will keep a check on what you are doing and give you a nudge if you are lacking motivation. This could be a friend, colleague or even just a neighbour. They don't have to understand the course, just be prepared to ask how things are going, for example by texting you once a week to ask for an update.

  • If you work with children in the early years, you will know how effective a star chart is. Well, we are never too old for a star chart! Set one up in the kitchen, share it with your family, and award yourself a star for every piece of work submitted. Share your goals and your successes with your family.

  • Keep a reflective diary while working in your setting. Every time you observe a child doing something interesting, or you feel an activity went well or didn't go as expected, make a note of what happened and why. As well as helping you learn, you will then be able to use these reflections as evidence.

As a final piece of reassurance, you will find that once you have started studying regularly you will build up momentum and it will get easier.

If you have children of your own, you may also be interested in reading our Tips for studying with a young family blog post.

Want to find out more about NEC and our distance learning Childcare, Early Years and Supporting Teaching and Learning courses? Visit our website or contact our team – we are always happy to help! You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook. To keep up with all the latest NEC news and events, subscribe to our Newsletter.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Shining tribute to star tutor

We recently heard the sad news of the death of long-standing NEC tutor Liz Shiner. Liz tutored English Literature, English Language & Literature and English Language at GCSE, AS and A2 level. She also taught A levels in Sociology, Psychology and Philosophy for the college.


Over the last few years, she worked her magic on learners as young as 13 and as old as 87. Often, the learners who crossed her path would have been unlikely or unable to enrol on a college-based further education course. They included Royal Naval personnel, prisoners and young offenders, people living in inaccessible places such as on an oil rig and students from overseas, as well as students with disabling conditions which make access to learning difficult for them.

Teachers used to working in a classroom may think that rarely encountering learners face-to-face puts distance learning tutors at a disadvantage. Liz was quick to point out the advantages, championing distance learning for people with low self esteem and little confidence. She grasped intuitively that some older people feel they may be too old to go back into learning ‘school’ subjects. Liz, though, could draw out their enthusiasm by gently encouraging them to go at their own pace, both in their learning and in getting to know her.

Here are the words of just two of Liz’s recent young students when they heard of her death.

Olivia had periods of poor health as a child which led to her becoming home-schooled. She is now studying for a degree. Liz taught Olivia for GCSE and A Level English and Psychology. She said: ‘I am deeply saddened to hear this news as Liz was not just a great tutor to me and a constant source of support throughout my home education and exam phase, but a lovely person too! She will be very missed and fondly remembered. Liz had an extremely valuable impact upon my success. It’s down to her that I managed to achieve A* and A grades in each one of the AS levels I took in 2013. Liz treated every student as an individual and exuded enthusiasm for her work, an enthusiasm that was truly infectious and gave her pupils a real love for learning.’

Joe is a 14-year-old boy who has lived in France for most of his life and who studied English Language IGCSE with Liz. He had never done any homework in English before enrolling with NEC and was understandably apprehensive and unsure about what he was taking on. From the word go, Liz made a really positive impression on him, encouraging him to produce good work and to keep going. ‘Liz always gave constructive criticism, encouraging comments, making it feel more familiar for me to send work to someone I had never met. Liz was the ideal teacher!’ Joe’s mother said: ‘Really sad news. Joe had an instant connection with her, which we very rarely see.’

Liz had many qualities that made her a remarkable tutor. The one that stands out above all the rest was her ability to strike up constructive relationships with learners of many different ages and backgrounds. We shall all miss her.