Many students leave school due to ill health. Is distance learning the answer? Saturday, 28 August 2021

Many students who have had to drop out of school due to illness find that distance learning works for them as a flexible alternative that fits with their lifestyle and allows for more independence in learning. 

Brogan chose to study with NEC after having dropped out from high school due to illness, needing to find a way to study and learn from home. Having attempted to study towards GCSEs on her own using just textbooks, Brogan only passed one of her GCSE exams.  She knew that she needed additional help if she was going to take her A levels outside of school. 

Needing to find a distance learning provider, Brogan was drawn to NEC because of the wide range of subjects available at A level. Compared with self-study, NEC’s high quality course materials, tutor support and detailed feedback on assignments helped Brogan to prepare for the exams and she felt supported as she progressed throughout her courses. As a result of studying with NEC, Brogan has been able to gain a place to study at the University of Worcester, starting in September. Her advice to anyone else trying to gain the qualifications that they need to progress:

“It can be challenging but remember the end goal and stay focused and motivated.” 

Student stories – distance learning as an option for students with health problems

Brogan’s experience of distance learning as she coped with illness is one that has been shared by other NEC students. 

In 2020, Mohammed studied 7 GCSEs with NEC, making the decision to home study as he felt that school was not catering for his special needs with visual impairment. Of his experience studying with NEC, Mohammed said: 

“It would have been impossible to fulfil my dreams without my parent’s and NEC’s patience, support, motivation and 24/7 accessibility to my learning materials during my learning. NEC has equipped me to thrive and achieve higher grades to prove my true potential and determination to fulfil my future aspirations of being a heart physician.”

Laura studied A level Chemistry with NEC, having spent a large amount of time in hospital in the 5 years prior. She studied with NEC at the same time as working a job in the events industry, studying two biology modules with the Open University and a maths higher in Scotland. She amazingly achieved an A* in her A level, and gained a place to study Natural Science in Cambridge, proving that she wasn’t going to allow adversity to prevent her from reaching her goals. 

Twins Laura and Rebecca also decided to study with NEC as a way of gaining the qualifications that they needed, both having struggled at school due to health problems with Crohn’s Disease. Both Laura and Rebecca studied GCSE Psychology, Maths and English Language with NEC. For Laura, studying with NEC made her dream of going to university achievable, saying of her experience: 

“Going to university was something that never seemed achievable to me. Since doing the course, I have not only gained a Psychology GCSE qualification which opens up opportunities I never would have had, but I have a new found confidence with learning that I never had back when I was at school.”

For Rebecca, maths had always been an obstacle to progressing in her education, but she found that distance learning with NEC in a flexible way that fit to her lifestyle allowed her to begin to enjoy the subject: 

“Studying with NEC allowed me to use my time how I wanted without being restricted by a timetable. I could make mistakes in Maths in my own time and figure out a way of learning the content in my way, there was no pressure. Slowly Maths became comfortable and, dare I say, enjoyable.”

Distance learning was also a positive choice for Hannah who was struggling for studying towards her International Baccalaureate in Spain whilst dealing with mental health problems. She switched to studying A level Spanish and Sociology with NEC.  The flexibility of studying with NEC meant that Hannah could take a break from studying, whenever she felt her mental health needed it, without having to worry about falling behind: 

“I loved having the flexibility of being able to study and also have time to do other things I enjoyed… I had a good experience and managed to finish my A levels in around 6 months instead of the whole 2 years whilst dealing with mental health issues on the side. If I can do it I think anyone can do it.”

Who are NEC students? 

Whilst we don’t have all the answers for students for whom school is not the best option as a result of health issues, many of our students have found that distance learning with NEC has been the best option for them. 

A 2019-20 survey shows that nearly a quarter (24.8%) of our students identified as having a disability or health condition. Of those 24.8%, 50% identified as having a mental health condition, 31.8% a physical health condition and 18.2% a combination of both. 

Each year, our students recount that due to having a disability or health condition, online distance learning is the best option for them (as can be seen in the stories above) and has helped them achieve their learning aspirations and qualifications, which had previously been unattainable. 

As a charity dedicated to opening access to education for all, we are proud to make distance learning a helpful option for students who are unable to take the traditional route through education, and are committed to helping all of our students reach their aspirations. 

A better option? 

The flexibility of online learning with no fixed timetable is helpful in reducing pressure on students preparing for exams who might otherwise fall behind at school if they have to take time out or can’t keep up with a demanding school timetable and workload. The flexibility of studying with NEC also means that students can make time to do other things that they enjoy, allowing students to also prioritise their mental health. 

Whilst distance learning can provide its own challenges, requiring self-motivation, our tutors support our students throughout the whole journey, and learning is split into manageable modules and assignments. One student who struggled with motivation to study is Anna Ellis, who has since written a blog post about her second, and more successful, attempt at distance learning with NEC. She shares advice on staying motivated while distance learning, if this is a potential concern. 

If you have other concerns or queries about enrolling yourself or your child on our courses as an alternative to studying through school, get in touch with our Course Advice Team on 0800 389 2839 or fill in the form below to arrange a call back.

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