Thursday, 18 August 2016

Celebrating success this A level results day

Students up and down the country have received their A level results today. News programmes will be filled with teenagers celebrating the hard work of the last two years paying off, or commiserating about having to retake. Colleges and sixth forms across the country will be celebrating the success of the students, proud of what they have achieved.

NEC is no exception, with thousands of students each year studying A levels with NEC we too are proud of their achievements. The difference with many NEC students though, is that they are often studying around other commitments and come from all over the world. They could be any age and studying for any number of reasons.

We are often asked ‘who is a typical NEC student?’ Our answer: They will typically live anywhere and are male or female between the ages of 9 and a half and 86. They are often being educated at home rather than at school, working full time, have a young family to raise, or are retraining to become a teacher, midwife or nurse. You can meet some of them on our website.

As diverse as NECs students are, they all have three things in common: hard work, dedication and the desire to change their lives.

NEC exams expert Louise told us: ‘This year we’ve had more people than ever sitting exams with our partnership centres and submitting coursework for the subjects that require it. This is because of the new A level specifications coming in for popular subjects like Biology and English and 2016 was the final opportunity to take the legacy specifications.’

‘I’ve spoken to a lot of students who are worried about the deadlines that the reforms have created and are convinced that they have done poorly. I would like to reassure those students that even if they have not achieved the grade they hoped for, there is a chance to resit in 2017. Do get in touch if you have any questions or want to talk through your options.’

An area that has been of particular interest to Ros Morpeth, CEO of NEC are the A level French results. ‘This year we have had more students register to sit their French exams with us - 40% more in fact - which is surprising as the trend nationally has declined.This decline was also reported in the Times Educational supplement today.’ She explained:

‘I was delighted to see this morning the excellent results in this subject. 93.33% of our students who sat their A level exams with us achieved a C or above, compared to the national average of 87.12%. This is even more impressive when you consider that most of these students will be studying around other commitments such as work and family life.’

‘A level French is a good example of a subject that is often difficult to do as a private candidate because of the oral exam requirements. As a registered exam centre ourselves, we are able to offer a solution to our students. They can come and take the oral exam with us or at one of our partnership exam centres.’

‘Following on from this success, we’ll be launching A level Spanish shortly as well as launching a new A level French course in line with the revised 2016 specification. Both of these will be delivered online through our new learn@nec platform and feature engaging and interactive content designed to provide a flexible solution for our students.’

If you would like to be opening your results this time next year, get in touch about enrolling with NEC. You can find out more about our wide range of A level subjects on the website, or speak to our Course Advice Team for more information or to register your interest in our new Spanish and French A levels. You can call us free from any UK landline on 0800 389 2839, or you can email us at

Join the conversation and tell us your story! #LifeChangingLearning

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Wednesday, 17 August 2016

A level Results Day - Helping you prepare


Right now you’re probably really anxious about opening that brown envelope or that email that gives you your results - do you rip it open or do you get someone else to open it for you? That feeling of sinking just from the thought of it all. Will I get the grades that I want? What if I fail? How do I tell my family?... All of these thoughts are perfectly normal but sometimes we get so consumed by the fear of failure. But, the good news is NEC are on hand to help you prepare.

1. Ask questions - research, research, research
If you’re worried about whether you’ll still get into university with your grades or you need to know if you can re-sit your exams if you don’t get the results you want there are lots of places to go for information. UCAS is just one example of where to go, they will be able to help answer any questions you may have about getting into University. Hannah Morrish from The Student Room has written a really useful article for the Independent with answers to some of the questions you may have.

2. General well-being
Look after yourself. It’s important to try to get a good night’s sleep but if you’re struggling to drift off try reading a book you really enjoy to take your mind off the next day. You could even try doing a bit of meditation to help relax your mind and body. There are some great apps out there like Headspace and Calm that guide you through letting go of your thoughts and focussing on deep breathing.

3. How do I get my results?
NEC students who took their exams at one of our partnership centres will have an email sent to them with their results. For colleges and schools, you should’ve been told whether you’ll get your results sent to you via email or in an envelope.

4. If you’re away on results day
Make sure you arrange for a friend or family member to collect your results for you. You will need to let the college know that you’ll be away and who will collect these for you. Research all potential options.

5. Celebrate finishing your A levels
Whatever the outcome, you’ve worked so hard getting this far so why not arrange a night in with friends or go out for dinner to celebrate finishing your A levels. Studying for any qualification takes a lot of steam and motivation which is why you should be proud of getting through it.

We wish you all the best of luck for your exam results and hope you get the grades you want. If you’re an NEC student and would like to share your results with us, please get in touch by emailing

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Friday, 12 August 2016

International Youth Day - Celebrating our students achievements


International Youth Day is a United Nations event held annually on 12th August to celebrate young people’s success and initiatives in the global society. It’s also a great way for them to get involved and help encourage active participation in helping the rest of the society.

‘Young people are not only our future - they are our present. Our planet has never been so young, with 1.8 billion young women and men. They are the most connected, the most outspoken and the most open-minded generation the world has ever seen.’ This is what Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO tells us in a recent message.

In 1999, August 12th was declared ‘International Youth Day’ by the United Nations. 17 years later people across the globe highlight the importance of young people in shaping our global future. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said in a message: 'On International Youth Day, I urge others to join this global push for progress. Let us empower young people with the resources, backing and space they need to create lasting change in our world.’

Each year there is a theme, designed to engage and support young people in discussing issues essential to global development, this years theme is “The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production”.

A survey of our current students shows that more than 50% are under the age of 25 compared to that of 25% in 1990, a huge increase of young learners. We also have students based around the world working their studies around all kinds of employment, whether full time or part-time. Students come from all walks of life to learn with NEC.

At NEC, we’re proud of our students achievements and so today is a perfect opportunity to celebrate our young learners as well as shedding a light for other people thinking of becoming a student. We have gathered a few case studies to emphasise just how important our students are and how far they’ve come.

Nineteen-year-old Elliot from Nottinghamshire studied government and politics, history and law A levels with NEC, taking his A2 exams last summer. He achieved top marks: A and A* grades in all three subjects, and was subsequently accepted to study law at Cambridge University’s Robinson College.

In just two years, home-educated Susie has been awarded a grade B in her IGSCE exams in Biology, English Language, Maths and Physics. But that’s just the start for 16-year old Susie. Now, she’s studying for her IGCSE in English Literature and is on the road to fulfilling her ambition to be a full-time writer.

Home-educated Isobel was taught maths by her father, but she chose four more IGCSEs from NEC to study at the same time. She opted for English language, geography and biology, seeing them as key subjects, as well as child development, which she thought would help prepare her for motherhood later in life.

These are just a few of our admirable students who work very hard to get into college and university and even follow their ambitions like being a writer. This is why it’s important to celebrate and recognise our students success.

You can find out more about our students by reading their stories. You too will see the superstars that they are. You can also find out more about our range of courses on our website.

If you’d like to get involved with International Youth Day head over to the United Nations website to find out more. Let’s start celebrating education and young people’s achievements.

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Friday, 05 August 2016

Vocational courses or A levels - what’s in it for me?

NEC Marketing and Communications Officer Kirsty stands in front of a selection of materials for NEC distance learning courses
Above: NEC Marketing and Communications Officer Kirsty stands in front of a selection of materials for NEC distance learning courses

A recent article published in TES: reported “Students enrolling for A levels is set to increase by around 4,000, against a decline in enrolments to vocational programmes.” These statistics were taken from University Admission Service - UCAS.

In this week’s blog, Marketing and Communications Officer - Kirsty Inman reflects on the benefits of vocational courses based on her own experience of studying a BTEC National Certificate in Travel and Tourism.

‘I have never been  natural academic  especially  when it comes to exams, which is why I thought I’d benefit more from taking a vocational course which didn’t include exams but was coursework based - a learning style I was more confident with.

The BTEC National Certificate that I studied was equivalent to two A levels and I am proud to say that I achieved a double grade Distinction, something which I didn’t think I would have been able to achieve if I had taken the more academic A level route. I’m not saying vocational qualifications are easier, (a lot of hard work was put into my course), they just have different learning approaches.  It was important to me to feel comfortable with a course I had chosen and it  helped me onto the correct career path.

I didn’t get that magical C grade in GCSE Maths but the vocational programme, included a Level 3 Applications of Number qualification (equivalent to GCSE’s). I found this really useful and it made me more confident with Maths - acting as a bit of a refresher’.

After I studied the BTEC I decided to find a job but because the Travel and Tourism industry is very competitive I didn’t succeed in finding a job related to that industry but one that was working as a temporary sales assisstant. During my Travel and Tourism course I realised I was passionate about marketing which was one of the sections I learned about so I decided to take up a career in marketing. I have been a marketing professional for over four and a half years and I decided to further my education in marketing. I studied a Level 3 Apprenticeship in Marketing and Communications and an Introductory Certificate in Marketing. This gave me the confidence to find my feet in my marketing career and to continue to progress.

As you can see from my own experience, there are many benefits for vocational programmes. My advice if you are facing a dilemma is to make sure you carry out lots of research into your subject area and identify the pros and cons of A levels compared with vocational programmes. There are many benefits for each but it is down to what learning style you feel more comfortable with. If you’re thinking of going to University - both A levels and vocational programmes count towards earning credits you need to secure you a place.

At the NEC we offer both, with around 20 A level subjects as well as a number of vocational courses in business and management, book-keeping and childcare.

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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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Thursday, 16 June 2016

Inspired to study: A month of celebrating adult learning

Festival of Learning #lovetolearn banner

This week’s Blog is written by NEC team member Carly, who reflects on recent events during the annual Festival of Learning which have, for her, served as an affirmation of the importance of lifelong learning.

Working at the National Extension College, it’s hard not to be inspired everyday by our students. My favourite thing about NEC is meeting people from all walks of life, from a single working mother studying for a career as a midwife, to an 80-year-old learning a new language for the first time.

Whether you’re a student, a tutor, support staff or the friend or relative of someone working through a course, you may have seen a lot of celebration in the last few weeks for adult learning.

The month of May has seen the start of the Festival of Learning (formerly the Adult Learners Week). The festival is co-ordinated by the Learning and Work Institute (formerly NIACE) and brings people from across the country together to promote and celebrate adult learning and the transformative effects it can, and regularly does, have on people’s lives. The festival continues throughout June.

Have-a-go events and taster sessions have been held across the country and people have been joining in with a wide array of activities from learning to cycle to trying digital video production. Awards ceremonies have been held in celebration of the achievements of students, tutors, organisations and projects everywhere.

For all of you, like me, involved in adult education in some way our social media feeds have been dominated by amazing stories, and we have watched our Twitter streams with great interest in what other people would #lovetolearn (incidentally, for me it’s to play the ukulele!).

I have been lucky to attend a couple of great events which highlight the importance of continuing to learn as an adult and the changes it can make to your life and the lives of those around you.

16th-22nd of May was Learning At Work Week, a chance for employers to involve staff in workplace learning initiatives. Organised by the Campaign for Learning, awards are made to creative initiatives such as winners of the ‘Large organisation category promoting a learning culture’ award in 2015, Barclaycard.

Representatives of Barclaycard attended the reception event for Learning At Work Week and gave an overview of their winning initiative. Thousands of employees across the globe attended their digital learning fayre, a platform created specifically for the event but which has continued to be used ever since.

The reception evening was attended by training providers, employers, technology companies and subject societies came together for the same aim, encouraging employees to carry on learning while working.

MP Peter Kyle also attended the event, talking passionately about his own experience as a second-chance learner, encouraged to get back into learning by a former employer.

As well as the festivals and events that have been going on, summer is also the season of the graduation ceremony. I was honoured to attend the Open University East of England graduation ceremony last week held at Ely Cathedral.

Inside Ely Cathedral before the start of the Open University's East of England graduation ceremony
Above: The stage is set: inside Ely Cathedral before the start of the ceremony

The founder of both NEC and the Open University, Michael Young, saw a need for education opportunities for people who, as he said when launching NEC in 1963, ‘cannot turn up regularly for ordinary classes’. Watching the number of people receiving awards at just one of the Open University’s ceremonies this year really illustrates that this is just as true now as it was back then, perhaps even more so.

Like NEC students, every one of the thousands of graduates this year has their own story to tell. We saw serving members of the armed forces, people with caring responsibilities, full time employees, mothers, fathers, retired people, people with a physical disability all coming together to celebrate their momentous achievements.

The ceremony was almost overwhelming with emotion watching people from all backgrounds, ages and cultures come to an end of this part of their learning journey. Whether it was a Doctor of Philosophy being awarded or a Certificate in Early Education, all of the recipients had hard work and dedication in common.

The roof-raising cheers and applause from families and friends was testament to that hard work, and probably to having more time to spend with their loved one now that their course is complete!

I never completed my own degree and have always dreamed of finishing it one day. Like many of us I keep putting it off, using the excuse of not having enough time. Seeing the number of people collecting their awards and hearing some of their stories I feel inspired to get back to it, I aspire to be one of the people receiving my award on stage in front of my family and friends. If you share my dream I encourage you to do the same, I’ll meet you there!

One thing’s for certain, adult learners everywhere deserve our respect and admiration. You can read about some of NEC’s students on our website. If you feel inspired to learn something new, take a look at the courses on offer or call our helpful course advice team free on 0800 389 2839.

Carly Mason
Sales and Marketing Manager at NEC

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Thursday, 19 May 2016

Seven ways to kick-start your studies

Study materials, such as notebooks, on a desk

In the autumn, a million young people in the UK will be immersing themselves for the first time in the hurly-burly of undergraduate life on a university campus. At the same time, online and distance learning students will start a new term studying in the peace and quiet of their own home. Two very different experiences of studying. But new undergraduates and distance learning students have something important in common. As well as getting to grips with their chosen subject, they have to learn how to take responsibility for how and when they study.

NEC is working in partnership with UCAS, the university admissions service, on a series of study skills guides to help students successfully make the transition from school or college to higher education. The guides will also give sixth-formers an insight into what will be expected of them if they want to study for a degree. The first four guides, covering how to present an argument, time management, proofing and editing, and academic essay writing, have just gone live on the UCAS website.

NEC and UCAS believe that everyone needs to invest time in learning the skills needed for independent study if they are to become confident students and get the most out of their course. Successful independent learners don’t trust to luck but learn how to study. Here are our top seven ways to develop the habits of an independent learner.

1. Get to know how you study best

Which do you prefer: detailed instructions, or trying things out for yourself? Are you someone who needs solitude while you are studying, or do you like to work with other people around? How well do you cope with your surroundings being untidy? Understanding the best way for you to study will help you plan when and where to study so you can make the most of your time.

2. Understand what motivation is all about

Daniel Goleman, author of a number of best-selling books on emotional intelligence, identifies four elements that make up motivation. They are the personal drive to achieve; being committed to personal or organisational goals; initiative or ‘readiness to act on opportunities’; and optimism to keep going in the face of setbacks. Understanding how self-motivation works will get you started -and keep you going when things get tough.

3. Keep tabs on your time

How wide a gap is there between how you think you spend your time and how you actually spend it? If you don’t already know, try logging your time in half hours blocks for a week. The chances are you’ll be surprised by how many hours you spend doing things you don’t really consider very important. Taking a cool, hard look at how you spend your time will make it easier to decide on what you can cut out to make more time for studying.

4. Identify key verbs and key ideas

Cut to the chase when you have an essay to write by identifying the key verbs and key ideas in the title before you do anything else. Do it by choosing two highlighting pens in different colours. Use one for the verbs and one for the key ideas. Taken together, key verbs and key ideas will help you focus your approach to planning, reading and note-taking.

5. Brainstorm your ideas

Get started by organising your thoughts. Brainstorming ideas by making notes on your tablet, phone or a scrap of paper makes it easy to sort out strong ideas from weak ones and put the strong ones in a logical order. You can brainstorm whenever you have a spare five minutes - waiting in a queue, on a train or when you first wake up or just before you go to sleep.

6. Be a disciplined note-taker

It’s discouraging when you’re trying to make sense of new ideas, facts and concepts to be faced with piles of disorganised notes. Establish good note-taking habits as soon as you start your course and you’ll feel the benefit all the way through. Good habits include: only taking notes on material you might use, writing down points in your own words rather than copying them and jotting down questions for yourself as you read so you can follow them up later.

7. Draft and redraft

Stop worrying about a perfect final version of your work by writing a first draft, then a second, a third and even subsequent drafts. Forget about spelling, grammar, punctuation and paragraphing for now. Instead, concentrate on presenting your material clearly. Then, before you hand your work in and when you’re producing the final draft, spend time on the details.

Want to know more?

To find out how NEC can help you to fit more learning into your life, browse our wide range of flexible distance learning courses – from GCSEs and A levels to professional qualifications in management and childcare. You can also get in touch and speak directly to our friendly team. We can also be found on social networks including Facebook and Twitter!

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Thursday, 12 May 2016

Testing times

What a SATs paper looks like

In primary and secondary schools across England, pupils are being put through their paces. Last week, key stage 1 children (six and seven-year olds) embarked on a series of four national curriculum tests covering arithmetic, reasoning and SPaG (spelling, punctuation and grammar). This week, it’s the turn of the country’s year 6s (10 and 11-year olds). After seven years of compulsory education, their mastery of reading, writing and maths is under scrutiny. Some year 6 pupils will sit a science sample test too.

GCSE, IGCSE, AS and A level exams also start this month and continue well into next. Imagine doing your driving test and then doing it again and again, several times a week for more than a month. For a million of Britain’s teenagers, that’s what the next few weeks are going to be like.

With schools’ reputation and university places at stake, what is the sensible course of action for parents who want to support their sons and daughters through testing and exams? A straightforward answer is that it depends on the age of the child.

The National Literacy Trust carried out a review of research into the impact of parental involvement with their children’s education. It found unequivocal evidence that the impact on educational attainment is positive, especially in reading. In other words, children whose parents help them learn at home do better at school. A study carried out in 2011 by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) in 14 countries concluded that active parental involvement with school work in the early years of a child’s education is ‘a significant trigger for developing children’s reading skills’. The benefits are long-lasting: children whose parents had actively supported them when they were in primary school were six months ahead in reading even at the age of 15.

Pink Floyd’s famous dictum to ‘leave those kids alone’ seems to be good advice for mum and dad as well as teachers. Research conducted this year by The National Citizenship Service found that young people consider parents a distraction or even a frustration when they need to get down to some serious revision. Leaving teenagers in peace, ignoring the time they spend on their phone and letting them watch hours of TV may seem counterintuitive to an older generation - but it may well be the most helpful thing for parents to do.

NEC student Angela Parfitt is supporting her children’s education by leading by example. Although she gave up A level French when she was 17, she was inspired to make up for lost time when her son opted to study French at A level, knowing his mum would be able to help him. Doing role plays with him during his mock exams, she thought: 'I could do this!'

Angela has kept up her conversational French throughout her career in conversation classes at work, first at Hewlett Packard in the US and now at the law firm in Bristol where she works in human resources. She postponed signing up for French A level herself until October last year as she didn't want to sit it the same year as her son and risk being given a higher grade than him. She studies whenever she can fit it in, including on Fridays, a day when she isn’t at work, and sitting outside her daughter's ballet class each Tuesday evening.

The very best of luck to Angela, all NEC students and the estimated 50,000 people in the UK who are sitting GCSEs , IGCSEs and A levels as private candidates this year!

To find out more about NEC, our learners and the wide range of flexible distance learning courses we offer, get in touch and speak to our team or browse the course pages at our website.

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Friday, 06 May 2016

An American in Tanzania strides forward in her pre-school career

Rural Tanzania

Far away from the UK, NEC has helped one woman qualify for a second career and start planning a business that will have an impact on a whole community.

American citizen Keziah Mwanyika knows just where she wants her career working with children to take her. She has her sights set on running her own pre-school and nursery in the small town in Tanzania where her husband’s parents come from, on the border with Zambia. She’s been living in Africa with her husband, a film-maker, since and works five days a week as a pre-school teacher. Home for Keziah, her husband and their two small daughters is a tiny apartment in the city of Dar es Salaam in eastern Tanzania.

Many of the foreign parents Keziah comes into contact with through the pre-school work for NGOs dealing with education and health. Recognising that her own experience in those areas was limited, she decided to do something about it and in 2013 started studying for a Diploma in Pre-school Practice with NEC, passing two years later.

A good student when she was at school and university in the States, Keziah had dreamt of becoming an artist. She left formal education qualified to work as a nursing assistant, helping care for people at home, and spending as much time in art classes as she could. Only when she arrived in Africa in 2009 did she begin working with children. She took to it immediately and started to keep her ears open for a way of getting qualified.

She chose distance learning because the classroom-based courses on offer in Tanzania last for up to four years – longer than she felt able to commit to. Once she’d investigated other options available online and in America, she chose NEC because she was impressed by the quality of its courses, value for money and established reputation. A personal recommendation from someone who had studied with NEC while they were living abroad clinched her decision.

How did Keziah’s first experience of distance learning live up to expectations? She liked the straightforwardness of the course materials, relying on her mum in the States to ship in books she couldn’t get hold of in Tanzania. ‘The curriculum is directly useful for my work – much more than I expected,’ explains Keziah. ‘Every single thing I studied I have used in my job. I’m really conscious of my practice having developed as a result.’

What she hadn’t planned on was getting pregnant. ‘I swear I felt morning sickness for the first three months every time I picked up my course! I gave birth mid-way through my studies and for the last 18 months read and wrote assignments with a tiny baby at my side,’ says Keziah. ‘Without the flexibility of distance learning and the six-month extension NEC agreed, I couldn’t have coped.’

Keziah is full of praise for the tutor support she received as part of her course. ‘If you have a tutor you click with, it makes all the difference. What I needed was someone who would answer all my questions, no matter how silly they seemed to me. That’s just what happened with both my tutors, particularly the second.’

Summing up her time as an NEC student, Keziah says: ‘Distance learning is ideal for parents of young children because you can study at your own pace and at any time you want. Many a night I spent studying when my two daughters were sleeping. If I can improve my qualifications, as an American living in Africa, and have a baby at the same time, anyone can!’

To find out more about NEC, our students, and the flexible support we offer through our distance learning courses, get in touch and see how we can help you to fit more learning into your life.

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