Blog: July 2016

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Why study GCSEs outside of school?

 Our Learn@NEC online IGCSE Biology course
Image: Our Learn@NEC online IGCSE Biology course

If you’re considering studying GCSEs but not sure how you can study without going to school, then you’ve come to the right place...

It’s that important time of year when you may be considering options for furthering your education or brushing up on other skills but need pointing in the right direction. At NEC, we are here to guide you through the benefits of studying outside of a school to help you make a decision that’s most suited to you.

What are GCSEs and IGCSEs?
GCSEs are the most widely taken qualification in the UK and considered the educational standard for school-leavers at 16. If you’re looking to get into college or university they’ll prove essential, and passes in English, Science and Maths are also required for an increasingly large number of jobs.

You might be thinking - I live in the USA so how do I study for a GCSE? Well, you can enrol onto IGCSEs - International GCSEs which are recognised all over the world. These are perfect for distance learning because they don’t involve controlled assessments and typically don’t feature coursework.

IGCSEs are also popular here in the UK and are widely recognised by employers and education providers in much the same way as a GCSE.

What are the benefits of studying GCSEs at a distance?
Fitting in study around other life commitments can be difficult if you need to attend a college. It’s time consuming and prevents you doing the things you want to do. That’s where distance learning comes into place - students are able to log into a Virtual Learning Environment to access course materials and receive tutor support. This type of learning caters for a wide variety of students who perhaps have disabilities and can’t go out of the house, or for students looking for that extra flexibility to work and study. The flexibility and tutor support are just two benefits of distance learning.

Another benefit is the range of partnership centres that the NEC offer which make it easier for students to take exams nearby. We handle all of the admin side, liaising with the exam centre to make sure you’re entered for the right exams making it stress free. Our partnership exam centres are spread across the UK.

Our students’ reasons for studying GCSEs
There are two main reasons for our students studying for their GCSEs, with 27.3% preparing for a FE/HE course and 20.1% wanting to improve opportunities in their career advancement. GCSEs have also helped our students make decisions on going to university, with around 8% planning to to do a degree at the Open University. Statistics taken from the 2015 NEC student survey.

Here’s what our students have to say:

Catherine Speechley, IGCSE Biology and French
Catherine has what she describes as a haphazard routine, with her hours of work always changing. She enjoyed school, but was frustrated at having to drop some subjects because there was a limit to the number of GCSEs pupils could do. Now in her 40s, she's catching up with the subjects she left behind.

James Barker, IGCSE Combined Science
NEC's location in the UK means many of our students are British residents, but we also have a number of international students for whom our courses provide a means to access education that might otherwise be unavailable. James is one such student, enrolling all the way from Korea to study with us.

Isobel Hughes, GCSEs and IGCSEs
Home-educated Isobel found learning with NEC to be a fantastic way to study for her IGCSEs before moving on to study A levels in a college. Isobel’s father taught her maths himself, but she chose four more subjects from NEC to study as well: English language, geography, biology and child development.

In January 2016, our students achieved a 100% pass rate in their I/GCSE exams so you can be sure of a high standard if you choose to enrol on a course with NEC. To see our fantastic range of subjects, please visit this page.

There’s no need to wait for September to enrol, get a head start. If you enrol before 31st July, you will receive our special Early Bird Discount of 20%.

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Thursday, 21 July 2016

Brexit, a new Prime Minister and your choice of A level subject

 Houses of Parliament, London, UK
Image: Houses of Parliament, London, UK

We’ve seen several high-profile changes within UK politics in the past few weeks including the historic decision to leave the European Union, a new Prime Minister and opposition party leadership contests. This current political climate here in the UK has caused more people than ever to choose to study A level Government and Politics this year.

In our blog this week we shine a light on A level Government and Politics by answering your questions about this subject.

Ben Williams is an NEC tutor for A level Government and Politics. He has a BA in Modern History and Politics, a Masters in Politics and Irish Studies and a PhD in Politics, all from Liverpool University. Ben is also an examiner for two major exam boards and has had a significant amount of academic work published in various books and study guides.

We asked him to share his thoughts on what makes Government and Politics such a popular A level choice.

What interests you about government and politics?

Ever since I was a teenager I have always found Politics to be a fascinating subject! This is because it directly affects every single one of our lives in every single way, even if we sometimes don't realise it. This explains why I studied it at GCSE, A level, degree and at post-graduate level. In fact, I have become something of a political 'nerd' in the process, and many of my friends laugh about my extensive (and often very useful) political knowledge that has built up over the years! The subject's appeal also lies in the fact that it is dynamic and rapidly evolving, as we can see from the many political changes of the past few weeks and months.

What career paths can the A level Government and Politics serve you well in?

A qualification in Government & Politics can open the door for a whole range of jobs, and it keeps your options open in terms of career choice. While it does not necessarily qualify you to be a top politician, it does however provide you with excellent research, writing and broader communication skills, with specific potential to utilise new technology such as social media. After studying Government & Politics, many people go into careers in teaching, lecturing, public relations, journalism, public services and even active politics, and one highly qualified political academic I know has gone on to be a Royal Navy chef!

Why would you recommend government and politics?

It is a fast-moving and multi-dimensional subject that combines the ordinary pressures and demands of everyday life, grand political theory, moving human stories, and much broader and larger-scale issues of international relations and global conflict. It requires us to think of solutions to major long-standing global problems and issues, and also helps broaden our overall knowledge of the ever-changing world that we inhabit.

Tell us an interesting student anecdote…

A level students across all subjects can be highly politicised. On the outbreak of the 2003 Iraq War, the students at the college where I taught at the time walked out on hearing that the war had begun. Half were in favour, and half were against! I also suspect a few just felt like bunking off class!

Government and politics will serve you well in developing a range of transferable skills and preparing you well for higher education.

Our A level in Government and Politics is delivered online through our Virtual Learning Environment, learn@nec. The flexibility of online learning means you fit your study in around other commitments. Perhaps you’ll do some reading on your tablet during your daily commute, or take a short quiz on your phone while waiting for the kids to finish school - the choice is yours! You’ll also benefit from an expert subject tutor, like Ben, who is dedicated to helping you to succeed.

One student that the flexibility of distance learning made a difference to was Ben Witham. Ben studied for an A level in Government and Politics with NEC while working full-time.

‘It secured me a university place through clearing in 2003 and I went on to pass my degree with First Class Honours,’ he told us. ‘Following that, I obtained a Masters, passed with a Distinction and most recently a fully-funded PhD, from which I graduated last year.

'I now work in social policy for a major national charity, sit on the board of a non-governmental organisation (NGO), and teach politics myself at a London university. This whole sequence of events was made possible by my NEC A level, which sparked a passion for politics that has yet to leave me!’

If, like many other people this year, your interest has been piqued by current events in politics and you are considering this as an A level choice, or you have simply been inspired by recent changes to learn more about our government and the world of politics, please do get in touch!

Further details about this and our other GCSE, IGCSE and A level subjects can be found on our website. You can call our Course Advice Team free on 0800 389 2839, or get in touch by email at

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