Blog: March 2016

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Turning the tables: from waitress to midwife

BIology course page images, including a molecular model, a butterfly feeding from flowers, and a curious child looking down through a microscope

Lottie Blunden, a single parent of four, is in her first year at university studying for a Bachelor of Science degree in midwifery. Getting to university meant starting virtually from scratch with science after a 25-year gap, at the same time as holding down waitressing, admin and cleaning jobs to support her family. She started studying AS level biology with NEC in January 2014, taking the exam and passing with a grade B 18 months later.

Midwifery has been Lottie’s dream career for years. When she qualifies, she wants to work in the National Health Service. It’s a sound career choice. According to the Royal College of Midwives, the country needs an additional 2,600 trained midwives to make up a shortage that has persisted for over a decade.

‘Having children really puts you on the back foot career-wise, especially if you want to spend some time at home with them and haven’t had much of a career before you have them,’ explains Lottie. ‘But I always knew I wanted a career where you didn’t stop learning, that was focussed on people and improving health and family life, that wasn’t driven by profit margins and that combined cerebral and practical skills. Midwifery is all that and more.’

Lottie knew when she began studying with NEC that she had a strong study ethic. She had studied for an undergraduate degree, sitting her finals and being awarded a 2:1 just five weeks before the birth of her first child. Three years later, at the age of 24, she trained as a Citizens’ Advice Bureau worker, did an MA in Women’s Studies and had her second child. Moving from a university city in the north of England back to her home town in the Midlands after she graduated had limited her career options, especially with two small children to care for. That’s why she has earned her living in a wide variety of ways – as an administrator for charities and educational organisations, at a Welfare Rights Advice Centre, as an adult education tutor and as a library assistant.

When Lottie first came across NEC, she was impressed that it has students all over the country and a website that shows the college is serious about education. This positive view was confirmed when she phoned up, finding knowledgeable and friendly staff at the end of the line. Her local college offers A level biology and she had considered studying there but working full-time and bringing up four children meant she wasn’t in a position to attend classes at a regular time each week. Not only did NEC offer her essential flexibility, it also offered the best value for money when compared with other distance learning organisations she looked at.

High points of studying with NEC were the freedom to study when it suited her, the support of NEC staff and being part of the Facebook group set up by A level biology students. She also has views on things that would improve the experience of NEC students studying A and AS level biology. At the same time as working through the AS level course, she also managed to complete several functional maths (pre-GCSE and GCSE level maths used in everyday life) qualifications at her local college.

Lottie concludes: ‘At last, I will have a qualification which gives me the chance to develop my career doing something meaningful and rewarding. If you’re determined and prepared to work hard, you can change direction, whatever your age. I would strongly encourage anyone with ambition and who needs additional qualifications to let NEC help them do it. After all, I began my biology AS with no real science knowledge, and managed to get a B.’

To learn more about NEC and our wide range of flexible distance learning courses, browse our website by navigating to the Courses sections listed under the menu at the top of the page, or talk to our friendly team of course advisors by calling free from any UK landline: 0800 389 2839

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Thursday, 17 March 2016

Why study business or economics A level?

Woman sitting at a desk in front of a laptop computer, calculator and notebook, planning her finances and business strategy

With a multitude of subjects to choose at A level, how do you decide which is right for you? Do you chose subjects that you’re best at or subjects that you find fascinating? Do you think about what your parents and teachers say or what future career you aspire to? Or do you choose something that allows you to keep your options open?

In our blog this week we explore five of the reasons you might want to choose Business or Economics A levels as the next step on your learning journey. We’ll also take a look at how studying them with NEC works.

So, why business or economics?

  1. They can help you to become a billionaire! We’re not saying study these and you’ll be rich, but a recent study reported in The Independent had these, along with engineering, in the top 3 subjects likely to create a billionaire. Of course studying either of these subjects is no guarantee of success, but you have to start somewhere if you want to make it in business and with an unlimited earning potential, you should consider these as options if you are motivated by the thought of potentially high earnings.
  2. Develop an awareness of the world around you. Considering how volatile the economy has been in recent years, you might be interested in developing a good understanding of how the effects of certain actions can be felt globally. Studying economics can help to satisfy your curiosity for the world around you.
  3. A range of career choices. The study of business and economics can help you on a variety of career paths. You might consider working in marketing, human resources or management. Studying business or economics can also lead to careers in almost any sector of industry, from banking to fashion, every company needs business minded individuals.
  4. University. If you are planning to study either of these or a related subject at Higher Education level, then an A level is essential to give you the background knowledge that you’ll need and the best possible chance of success. Both of these subjects also promote independent learning and essay writing skills which are invaluable for university study.
  5. Starting your own business empire. If you dream of becoming the next Lord Alan Sugar with your very own business empire, then the study of business or economics can help you to develop the fundamental skills that you’ll need to succeed. A solid understanding of business and economics can set you on the right path.

So those are our reasons. Are you or have you studied either business or economics? What are your reasons? Leave a comment below or tweet us to share your thoughts.

NEC offers both Business and Economics as part of our range of Gold Star A levels. High-quality learning resources are delivered through our excellent online system learn@nec in a range of media, including PDFs, interactive quizzes, e-books and video. An experienced subject expert tutor will be with you every step of the way to mark your work and give you feedback and encouragement, as well as our team of course co-ordinators here at NEC HQ.

To learn more about NEC and our wide range of flexible distance learning courses, browse our website by navigating to the Courses sections listed under the menu at the top of the page, or talk to our friendly team of course advisors by calling free from any UK landline: 0800 389 2839.

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Thursday, 03 March 2016

World Book Day – how it's inspired us

World Book Day 2016 logo

Today is the 19th annual World Book Day. Children across the country are arriving at school today dressed as their favourite characters from books, from Alice in Wonderland to The Cat in the Hat.

From the authors that write them, to the illustrators that bring our favourite characters to life, World Book Day is a celebration of all things book. Unesco have designated it as a worldwide celebration with over 100 countries taking part.

The main aim of World Book Day is to encourage children to explore the wonders of books and the joys of reading. Schools across the country will have received tokens courtesy of National Book Tokens Ltd which they can take into a local bookseller and choose one of ten free books!

Naturally talk has turned to favourite books in the office today, here are some of our favourite reads and what World Book Day has inspired us to add to our reading lists:

‘I might start The Castle by Franz Kafka... or maybe re-read To Kill a Mockingbird and follow it up with Go Set a Watchman. I really should read the updated Getting Things Done by David Allen. I use the principles of the original one all the time. Moby Dick, Ulysses and Don Quixote have been on my reading list for years but somehow the next volume of Game of Thrones is always more appealing!’
— Paul, NEC’s resident IT expert

‘I'm reading Andy Griffith’s The 52-Storey Treehouse. It's quite fun as it has a lot of cartoons in it, villains and mucking about. Following the plot might be difficult because I alternate bedtimes with mum, but it’s not essential really.’
— Dan, Course Adviser at NEC and father to Lois, aged 7

‘I am planning to read Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. It is one of my daughter's favourite books. I first heard about it properly when she read it in the summer before starting her A Levels. She didn't like it at all. Then once she started studying it, she saw the value in the pages! Now she is studying her degree in English and plans to write her thesis on Virginia Woolf next year. We are going to the play together in April, so I have started with the audio book, and will then read the book itself, starting this weekend hopefully. I have to see what has grabbed my daughter's attention. So far I am thoroughly enjoying the audio version. I can see why it would be a difficult text to read. I am fascinated to see how it will transfer to the stage.’
— Stephanie, NEC’s expert in CACHE accredited qualifications

‘I want to recommend this book: The Photographer. I can read it over and over again... it is a non-fiction graphic novel/comic. The Photographer tells the true story of Didier Lefèvre, a French photojournalist, who accompanied a Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) mission during the height of the Soviet war in Afghanistan in 1986. The book interweaves Lefèvre's black-and-white photographs and Guibert's illustrations – combined with captions and word balloons – to create the narrative.’
— Margarita, NEC’s co-ordinator for General Education

‘I am currently reading a book on King John. I won't pretend that it is not a challenge getting to grips with the misunderstood monarch's obsession with administration and his love of moving around England to pass justice on all manner of criminal cases. One day his treasure will turn up, under the mud of the Wash where his infamous baggage train was swamped by the incoming tide... Also on the go at the moment is yet another book on the Wars of the Roses, the original template for Game of Thrones. If there's a book about that period in Medieval history, you can be pretty sure that it is in my bookcase. My husband felt compelled to ask if another of my bedside books – The Later Middle Ages – was about us as a couple or really about the social structure of the 14th and 15th centuries. Also on my bedside table is Winter is Coming, a book about all the various medieval references that have gone into Game of Thrones; a book about the hidden treasures of parish churches; a massive book on stained glass through history; numerous books about the great cathedrals of England and some pretty hefty tomes on Henry II, King Stephen, and Edward III. What else do I want to learn about? Mary Queen of Scots is coming up the list, and the lives of the last Romanovs. And for a little light relief... a novel about my heroine Eleanor of Aquitaine.’
— Alison, expert in the Wars of the Roses period and NEC’s Education Manager

What’s on your list to read this year? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #WorldBookDay!

If all this talk of books has has inspired you to learn more about literature, why not take a look at NEC’s IGCSE English Literature course and A level English Literature course?

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