Thursday, 27 February 2014

TES FE Awards 2014: Leader of the Year nominees

FE Leader of Year - medium_A.jpg
Tomorrow, representatives of the further education community gather in London to celebrate the sector’s achievements over the past year at the Times Educational Supplement FE Awards 2014. Among them will be the six people shortlisted for the FE Leader of the Year Award, including NEC’s Chief Executive Ros Morpeth. To get us in the mood for Friday’s celebrations, let’s meet the five people on the shortlist alongside Ros.
Former national kickboxing champion Anthony Bravo was appointed Principal of Basingstoke College of Technology in 2009. He made the experience of learners his first priority, with the college’s use of IT and developing links with employers also high on the list. He qualified as a teacher after graduating from Newcastle University with a degree in agriculture and environmental science but decided to go into management, becoming Marks & Spencer’s first black graduate trainee. Partnership, community, income generation and workforce development are the aspects of FE leadership that most interest him. In the college’s OfSTED inspection last year, leadership was rated outstanding.

Mandy Exley, Principal of Jewel & Esk College, was appointed in 2012 to lead Edinburgh College when it opened on 1 October 2012, an amalgamation of the former Telford, Stevenson and Jewel & Esk colleges. Mandy has worked in education for over 20 years, first in large inner city colleges in Birmingham, Manchester and Stoke, and subsequently in the rural areas of Gloucestershire and the Highlands & Islands. Education isn’t the only thing she knows about, though. Her move to Scotland in 2000 was prompted by buying a 12-bedroom hotel on the shores of Loch Tay. She trebled its turnover in three years.
Tim Eyton-Jones was appointed Principal and Chief Executive of John Ruskin College in 2009. The Croydon sixth form college had received an inadequate grade from OfSTED, but the new principal took decisive action, including controversially scrapping traditional A levels to focus on vocational courses. By 2013 the college was rated outstanding, and new A level pathways are now being introduced to help the college retain its position as one of the capital’s top institutions for progression to employment and higher education. Tim began his career as a product designer for Canon, and held management roles in general colleges of further education before moving to John Ruskin.
Director of work based learning and school partnerships Julie McLean of City College Plymouth was awarded TES’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. By her own admission ‘a challenging teenager’, she has dedicated the last 30-plus years of her life to working with teenagers at risk of exclusion from mainstream education. The inspiration to turn her own life around came from a vocational teacher who showed her a new way of learning. Julie pioneered new courses and organised projects to involve thousands of young people in their local community, including creating a sensory garden for people with learning difficulties and partnering with the charity Age UK to provide company for older people.
Keen cricketer Graham Razey held leadership roles at East Surrey College and Hastings College, before becoming Principal and Chief Executive of East Kent College in 2010. His further education career in the south east of England began when he graduated from the University of Kent in 1993. From head of mathematics at South Kent College in 1999 to head of academic studies in 2000, to director of business and creative sixth form studies in 2002 and assistant principal in 2004, his achievements included moving the college on from an unsatisfactory OfSTED grade and the accolade of it being placed second in England for value-added on A level programmes.

Good luck to the nominees in all categories for tomorrow’s awards ceremony in London!

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Introducing our new Guide to Courses

The world of education is full of change, from reformed A levels and new childcare qualifications, to proposals for longer school days and shorter holidays. One thing that has remained consistent for the last 50 years is NEC: we are still providing second chances to gain qualifications by distance learning to thousands of people across the UK.
We believe that getting a qualification or learning a new skill is an investment in your future. Whether that future is a place at university, a promotion, writing your first poem or that dream career change, a course with NEC really can be an investment in yourself.
In fact, we believe this so much that we’ve made it the theme of our newly updated Guide to Courses!
Available to download from our website now, and due in from the printers any day, we believe it really showcases what we’re about and is an essential tool for anyone looking to gain qualifications, or who works with those that are.
Some of the new features include a useful guide on page six, which shows all of the subjects we offer at GCSE, IGCSE and A level, complete with which awarding body and specification the course follows. If you’re thinking about changing career to work in teaching and learning, the tool on page 20 will help you decide which course is right for you, whatever age group or job role you’re looking for.
As we said earlier, making the decision to enrol on a course is an investment, and like all investments you’re bound to have a lot of questions. Pages two and three give you an overview of how a course with NEC works, all the way from enrolment to completion. You can also find a list of frequently asked questions on page 32, which might also serve as a useful checklist of things to ask if you’re talking to other providers and comparing your choices.
One news story from education that has been making headlines recently is the announcement of  more budget cuts in further education. Many people fear this will lead to more courses being cut from local colleges, but as you’ll see from looking through our new Guide, we’re not planning on cutting any courses. In fact, you’ll notice we have some new additions, including the Level 2 Certificate for the Children and Young People’s Workforce and a whole suite of teaching assistant courses. We’re working on getting these ready right now, so if you want to know more, check our website regularly for updates or call our course advice team to register your interest.
If you’re not sure whether distance learning is right for you, why not read some of our students’ stories that you’ll find throughout the Guide. Isobel and Elliot on page eight were both home-educated, while James on page nine is an English teacher with an interest in the sciences. Joe, Charlotte and Kathryn all chose to study A levels for very different reasons, and you can read about them on pages 13 to 15. Sarah on page 19 wanted a complete change of direction after having children, and Astero and Patricia studied purely for interest. So as you can see, distance learning is ideal for many different kinds of people with many different goals.
Whatever your circumstances or reasons for learning, there is always an option open to you at NEC to make that investment in your future, and investment in yourself.
To request a copy of our Guide to Courses by post, please contact the course advice team on 0800 389 2839 or email us at You can also download a copy by clicking here.
For more information about our full range of flexible distance learning courses, visit our website, or get in touch and speak to our team. You can also keep up with all the latest NEC news and events by subscribing to our email newsletter or following our blog. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Of learning, love, and chocolate

Photo credit: Ardinnnn :) via photopin cc

Tomorrow, 14th February 2014, is Valentine’s Day. With adverts and gift ideas everywhere this week, it got us thinking: what are the origins of this celebration? NEC is an organisation dedicated to learning so we thought it would be interesting to find out, and in this week’s blog we’re sharing what we found.

We’re also getting into the spirit things by giving anyone who enrols with us during Valentine’s Day an extra treat of chocolate! More on that later, but first here’s what we learned.

The roots of our modern festivities are believed to be traceable back to ancient Rome. Early on, there was another event celebrated around 14th February in the Roman calendar, known as the Lupercalia festival. However, this festival was more closely connected to fertility than the romantic love we associate with Valentine’s Day these days.

We also learned that when it came to later Christian influences there were actually lots of saints who carried the name of Valentine, and more than one of them could be linked with the date of 14th February. Two such saints were a Roman priest and a bishop of Terni, both said to have died on 14th February and been buried near Rome along an ancient road.

It appears that at some point the Lupercalia festival and the commemoration of those particular Saint Valentines were merged into one event, or perhaps one was merely overwritten by the other. Either way, around 496 AD, Pope Gelasius established 14th February as the day of the Feast of Saint Valentine, and the tradition of festivities around this particular day of the year seems to have continued in some form or another ever since.

Valentine’s Day became particularly associated with romance after Chaucer wrote his poem, ‘Parlement of Foules’. The poem includes the verse, ‘For this was on St. Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate,’ though many have pointed out this may actually refer to 3rd May, which is the date of the celebration of Saint Valentine of Genoa in the liturgical calendar (see, we told you there were lots of Saint Valentines!).

Around the year 1415, the French Duke of Orleans is believed to have written the earliest surviving example of a Valentine’s note to his wife, while imprisoned in the Tower of London after being captured during the Battle of Agincourt. By the 18th century, the passing of paper notes with romantic messages to a loved one became a popular tradition.

This tradition became so widespread that by the next century factories in England were producing paper and lace Valentine’s notes for people to buy ready made–an early form of the Valentine’s cards we know today. The giving of paper notes and cards eventually extended to other gifts including flowers, chocolate and jewellery, and the tradition spread to other parts of the world. The modern Valentine’s Day we recognise in the 21st century is now celebrated as far away as China!

We enjoyed the opportunity to learn something new, and hope you have as well. Earlier on we mentioned free chocolate and promised we’d come back to it, so here it is:

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, anyone who enrols with us on 14th February 2014 will get some free chocolates in the post as well as their course materials. This offer will only last during Valentine’s Day, so don’t miss out!

You can view our full range of flexible distance learning courses by visiting our website, or getting in touch and speaking to our team who will be happy to help.

To keep up with all the latest NEC news and events, subscribe to our email newsletter or follow our blog. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

International students study NEC courses too!

NEC is based in the beautiful city of Cambridge, a world-renowned hub of education and learning. Our location within the UK means that many of the students enrolling with us are British residents, but we also have a number of international students for whom our flexible distance learning courses provide a method to access education that might otherwise be unavailable.

In this week’s blog we are shining the spotlight on one of our students, James Barker, who enrolled with us all the way from the far east. James chose to study IGCSE Combined Science, and was kind enough to write back to us to share his experiences; this is his story, in his own words.

“The last time I studied science was at school over twenty years ago. I’m now 38 years of age. I wasn’t particularly keen on the subject when I was at school, preferring other subjects.

However, my interest in science was recently rekindled when I started my scuba-diver instructor course which requires knowledge of physics and biology. It was then that I realised that science wasn’t beyond my comprehension and could help me better understand the world around me.

As I live and work abroad it was impossible for me to pursue a course at a school or university so I chose so study by distance learning, but the question on my lips was who should I enrol with and who would accept me considering that I live and work in the Republic of Korea? I enquired at the Department of Education in the UK and they recommended the NEC and needless to say it was music to my ears to learn that they could take me on.

However, I did hesitate before enrolling. This is because I work full-time as an English teacher and time-management was my biggest concern. I kept asking myself if I would be able to fit in all of the study hours into my already busy schedule. I also wondered if I would have the stamina to see it through to the end.

But considering that when you enrol you have 18 months to complete the course and an extension of six months if need be, this gave me the flexibility I needed to convince me to enrol and I’m very happy that I did.

As was hoped, my understanding of physics, chemistry and biology has deepened and I found the course so interesting that I’m now seriously considering studying these subjects at A-level.

For those who are considering studying through distance learning I think it's important to have good time-management skills, and the self-discipline and self-motivation to stick to your study schedule in order to succeed. If you have these skills and qualities then studying through distance learning will be very rewarding for you.

I’d highly recommend studying with the NEC because of the excellent materials both on paper and online you receive, which are all clearly presented and well-organised to ensure step-by-step progression.

What's more, the one-on-one tuition means that every single query you may have about any aspect of the course is answered for you, helping you reach all the required learning objectives. This happened to me on several occasions but my first-rate tutor who was quickly responsive never failed to help me get around whatever learning stumbling block that got in my way.

On top of that, as a student at the NEC you can get access to past exam papers to help you practice for the exams which can also be marked by your tutor. Finally, student support is readily available to answer any questions you may have regarding exams like finding an exam centre, prolonging your period of study etc. which I found very helpful.”

If you have been inspired by James’ story to learn something new with us, you can take a look at the full range of courses we offer by visiting our website. You can also get in touch with our course advice team, who will be happy to answer any questions and help you choose a subject.

To keep up with all the latest NEC news and events, subscribe to our email newsletter or follow our blog. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.