Wednesday, 02 November 2016

Why NEC is campaigning for a public exam system that works for everyone

Dr Ros Morpeth OBE, Chief Executive of NEC
Above: Dr Ros Morpeth OBE, Chief Executive of NEC

Today's blog is written by Ros Morpeth, our Chief Executive, and is a follow-up to our previous blog: “Barriers need breaking down for private exam candidates”.

Just over six months ago, the JCQ (Joint Council for Qualifications), which represents the UK’s main qualifications providers, published regulations for the new GCSE and A level exams. They detail how candidates will be examined from summer 2017, and include for the first time a requirement for non-examined assessments (NEA) to be examined in the same exam centre as the written papers.

The subjects affected include A level English, history, physics, chemistry and biology, and English GCSE. They are all mainstream subjects and popular choices for distance learners. English Language GCSE, for example, now has an endorsed component covering spoken language. For A levels sciences, the NEA assesses practical skills – hands-on activities that test understanding of scientific concepts and phenomena.

Ofqual’s deceptively small change in exam procedure went virtually unnoticed by schools and colleges. Just as they have done in the past, schools and colleges will enter students for exams and look after NEA. But for the UK’s estimated 50,000 private candidates taking GCSEs and A level exams each year, the picture is rather different. Most of them study at home and have to find an exam centre willing to let them sit their exams.

Finding a centre isn’t easy for private candidates. That’s why NEC has a network of partner centres across the country where our students can go if they choose. Having to find a centre where they could sit the written paper and do the NEA element would have been yet another barrier for them to climb. There was the risk that students unable to take GCSEs and A levels if they couldn’t study through distance learning would be so discouraged at this extra hurdle that they would think twice about enrolling.

I’m in no doubt that an exam system that isn’t sufficiently flexible to young people studying at home because of illness or people who want to gain qualifications for a career change isn’t a public exam system that works for everyone.

Private candidates account for only 5% of the total number sitting public exams. In the midst of a programme of extensive curriculum change, we were all too aware that finding a solution was unlikely to be seen to be a priority. But we knew that for private candidates across the country who had enrolled in good faith in autumn 2015 to sit exams in summer 2017, as well as for those planning to enrol in September this year, we had to find a way forward – and to find it quickly.

By September, the exam boards had proposed a solution. Now, each distance learning provider can register as an exam centre to enable them to enter students for exams and manage the NEA elements. That means students no longer need to find an exam centre willing to enter them for both the written paper and the NEA.

It’s a solution that means no student is disadvantaged and quality assurance is maintained across the exam system, regardless of whether students are studying at school, college or with a distance learning provider. It’s particularly important that the new arrangements will be in place in time for the exams in summer 2017.

Two NEC students who would have struggled to complete their A level qualifications had the new NEA regulations been applied to distance learners are Lottie Blunden and Angela Parfitt. Lottie is a single parent in her second year of a midwifery degree at a university in the Midlands. She studied Biology with NEC so that she could change career, working part-time waitressing, cleaning and in admin jobs to support her family. Angela, who works in a legal practice in Bristol, passed her A level French with NEC this summer. When she started French A level at school, she soon dropped it because she didn’t enjoy the focus on literature. Years later, her son inspired her to have another go when he was studying French A level himself.

Here’s what led to the change in direction for NEA. In July, I wrote to Justine Greening MP, the newly appointed Secretary of State for Education, outlining the issues and proposing possible solutions. A copy of the letter went to the chief executives of the exam boards in England and Wales, Ofqual’s Chief Regulator and representatives of organisations that support widening access to education, including the Learning and Work Institute.

Daniel Zeichner, NEC’s MP, supported our campaign by asking questions in Parliament, challenging Ministers to have the new procedures reviewed. The TES, the UK education magazine read by nearly half a million people each week, got on board. Its coverage spelt out how the changes would put up yet another barrier for adults and young people who take GCSEs and A levels under their own steam.  In August, I was invited by the TES’s further education editor Stephen Exley to make the case for changing the regulations. UCAS went public on the issue in the TES, stressing that private candidates play a key role in widening participation in higher education.

Two factors in particular have made the difference that was needed for the regulations to be changed for distance learning students: Ofqual and the exam boards’ willingness to work with us, and the support of individuals and institutions who know that it’s quite simply unfair that anyone who wants to improve their qualifications should have barriers put in their way.

The Prime Minister’s emphasis on ‘a country that works for everyone’ was the springboard for NEC’s campaign to get the regulations changed. Less than a year since the new regulations were published, we’re well on the way to having an exam system that works for everyone.

Dr Ros Morpeth OBE
Chief Executive of NEC

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Thursday, 20 October 2016

Why I recommend the Award in Education and Training – even if you don’t teach

 NEC team member Carly (far right) with fellow staff
Above: NEC team member Carly (far right) with fellow staff

Today’s blog is written by NEC team member Carly.

Like many people, I’m guilty of thinking I haven’t got time to study. There always seems to be something that comes up. Maybe it’s busy in the office, or I’ve got too much to do at home – I can always find an excuse to procrastinate when it comes to doing a new course.

Working at NEC though, it’s impossible not to be inspired to fit learning into your life. When you see a student that has a full-time job and is a single mother finishing an A level, or someone serving in the armed forces, managing to fit in a GCSE while on deployment overseas, you can’t help but realise that you can do it too – if you want to.

When the opportunity came up to be the guinea pig on the new Award in Education and Training course I decided to put the procrastination days behind me and go for it!

I’m not a teacher nor do I plan on becoming one, so why this course?

The Award in Education and Training is designed for anyone with training responsibilities. That may well be as an adult learning tutor in a college or training centre, or in the workplace or voluntary organisation.

As a Sales and Marketing Manager, my role involves training colleagues on new courses, best practice and new procedures. I also have to present to groups on a regular basis. This course was my way of improving those skills and bringing some more structure into my preparation for such tasks.

I found the course materials easy to access through learn@nec – NEC’s virtual learning environment. Being online meant I could do some study on my lunch break and some at home – without having to carry lots of paperwork around. I think of myself as a ‘scribbler’ – I like to study with a pen in my hand so I can make notes on the course materials as I go along. I could even print out the online course materials – so I ended up with the best of both worlds.

I did get the recommended textbook which I would agree is extremely useful when studying this course. I chose the e-book so that I could make use of my time on the train to and from work by reading it on my Kindle.

At NEC we talk a lot about taking the ‘distance’ out of distance learning and the forums on learn@nec are a really good example of how technology makes this possible. A great way to interact with other people doing the course as well as speaking to the course tutors. It was really easy to get in touch with my tutor when I needed her. She gave me support and encouragement when I needed it and the feedback on my work really helped me to make the most of the opportunity.

For me, the microteach session was a particular highlight. I was slightly nervous meeting a group of people I hadn’t met before and delivering a session to them, but because I had already got to know my tutor I didn’t feel alone.

At the microteach session you not only deliver your own session, but participate and observe others. In the space of one day I learned how to do a sudoku puzzle, make a lavender scented cushion, do CPR on a baby and speak a few phrases of Mandarin. It was excellent!

All in all, I’m really glad I made the effort to fit this course in and I would encourage anyone to do the same. Not only do I have a new set of skills that make me better in my job and a recognised qualification, but I now have the confidence to take on new challenges – not to mention a new found love of sudoku puzzles!

If you want to find out more about the Level 3 Award in Education and Training with NEC, you can see full details on the course page.

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Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Why I love Biology

Photo credit: M Pinarci DNA strand via photopin (license)

For Biology Week, we thought we’d feature our Biology Tutor – Josie Briggs who writes about how fascinating Biology is and why she loves it so much.

Biology is inherently fascinating. From a very young age I have always loved reading and learning about science. Biology is unique because of the complexity of living things and how they interact with each other and the environment. It's intriguing to think that many rocks and minerals on Earth originated from living things. It is well known that chalk and limestone are the remains of small aquatic creatures – especially shellfish, which died and fell onto the seabed and were buried and pressurised to turn them into rock. Also, marble is metamorphosed limestone or chalk which has been subjected to high temperatures and pressures. Less well known is that flints began as sponges. If it wasn't for living things, the mineralogy and geology of Earth would be completely different.

When you look at a single cell under a microscope or in a micrograph, remember that this cell is awesomely complex. Nessa Carey's book 'The Epigenetics Revolution' describes how genes are activated and deactivated to cause cells to become specialised. Biologists have found that some of these epigenetic changes may be passed even to the fourth and fifth generations. This means that some behaviour or living conditions experienced by your great great grandparents may be affecting the way you are today.

I've now started on her second book, 'Junk DNA', and biologists are finding that more and more of the non-protein coding bits of DNA have important functions, and a mutation in 'junk' DNA may cause a devastating inherited disease. Fascinating, and I'll put a review on the forums when I've finished it.

A student once asked me if we knew everything about cells and I replied no, we know almost nothing. I think there is a lot more to discover about biology and I like to keep an eye on the scientific news to learn about the latest findings.

If, like Josie, you’re fascinated by Biology, why not find out about our A level and IGCSE science courses? You can even download a free sample to give you a taste of what it’s like to study in depth, or simply to learn more from at your leisure.

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Friday, 14 October 2016

Why is maths so important at GCSE level?

Silver laptop on a wooden desk, next to a pen resting on an open notebook with notes written inside the pages

This week, Unionlearn have been promoting the benefits of studying maths with their Maths Workout Week. If you’ve missed it you can catch-up with the action on social media with #ULmathsworkout.

As part of the campaign they have featured a series of blogs about maths from a variety of perspectives. Today’s contribution is from NEC maths tutor Sally, who talks about her love of maths and why it’s so important at GCSE level – head over to the Unionlearn website to read more.

NEC and Unionlearn work together to provide learning opportunities to union members and union learning representatives. Some benefits of the Unionlearn partnership include a 10% discount for union members on all NEC courses and free taster courses exclusive to union members. Find out more about the partnership here.

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Tuesday, 11 October 2016

A round-up of highlights from World Space Week 2016

 NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center Weekly Recap From the Expedition Lead Scientist via photopin
Photo credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center Weekly Recap From the Expedition Lead Scientist via photopin (license)

World Space Week takes place every year – encouraging everyone to “celebrate, educate and inspire” people about space, science and technology. There is always a theme to help focus on something specific – this year’s theme was “Remote sensing: Enabling our future”. If you missed World Space Week you don’t need to worry – you can read about the events that took place on the World Space Week website.

Drawing from this year’s theme, one of the highlights was “remote-sensing: enabling our future” which reflects Inmarsat’s focus on developing satellite-enabled applications to power the “internet of all things”. Phil Myers – head of Innovation at Inmarsat published a blog about how it’s shaping our future – farmers can track their cows with this latest technology. If you’re interested in seeing how it can help, check out their blog.

Another highlight was when former NASA Astronaut – Dr. Leroy Chiao visited the Discovery Centre where he met with the next generation of space explorers (now called the Mars generation) to inspire them to become Astronauts.

What qualifications do I need for a career in the space industry?

The space industry is a fast growing one, with more and more careers emerging all of the time. From an Astrobiologist to a Space Engineer, a career in this industry could be fascinating and hugely rewarding. But what do you need to start your career?

There are some qualifications that can help including; A level Physics and A level Maths. You will undoubtedly be expected to use mathematics, and a good grounding in physics will serve you well and be essential for most careers in this field. If you’re not quite ready for an A level yet, why not think about a GCSE or IGCSE course? NEC offer IGCSE’s in both physics and maths. If you’d like to learn more about the range of jobs available in the space industry, you can find out what jobs are on offer by visiting the Space Careers Website.

NEC’s A level Physics course is one of our new Gold Star A levels which features many benefits for students. Designed to help you fit study in around your lifestyle and giving you the best possible chance of success. These courses are delivered online through learn@nec where you have access to all of your course materials. Our range of resources such as; videos, a free e-book and online quizzes make the course interactive for you to enjoy and benefit from your studying. Once you’ve enrolled you’ll be assigned a personal tutor who will provide you with support and mark your assignments for you.

The course also has a section about space which includes the following topics:

  • How far is it to the stars
  • The life cycle of stars
  • Stellar fusion
  • The Big Bang theory and the expanding Universe
  • How will it all end?

So if this World Space Week has inspired you, why not start here?

For full information about our courses please browse our website, or contact us and speak to our friendly Course Advice Team.

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Friday, 07 October 2016

Taking the stigma out of dyslexia by raising awareness

In support of Dyslexia Awareness Week, we thought we'd highlight the features available on NEC courses that can help support our students with dyslexia.

What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a learning difficulty which affects the person’s ability to read, write and spell – around 1 in 10 people are affected in the UK. When somoene with dyslexia reads a book or a bit of text, it may seem like the words are moving around on the page. When someone with dyslexia writes, they may write their d’s as b’s and b’s as d’s and so on. It can also be hard for the person experiencing difficulties to explain to others what they’re struggling with.

How can dyslexia affect you?
- It affects your ability to read, write and spell.
You may struggle with the sounds of words.
Can affect your short-term memory.
Sometimes problems with maths and co-ordination can go alongside dyslexia.
Dyslexia can be mild or severe.

How can NEC help if you have dyslexia?
Students who enrol with us have access to their course materials online via our learn@nec platform. There is an accessibility bar at the top of the page which you can set to appear via the Course Tools. The Course Tools can be found at the end of the Contents list of your course in learn@nec. Various options are available to help whilst you're studying, for example you can change the background colour to one that you feel more comfortable with when you read text.

Here’s an example of what one of our courses looks like with a yellow overlay:

You can also change the text size, type of font and colour. You can even hear the text read aloud by clicking on the speaker icon. So what are you waiting for? Have a play around with the accessibility features to create your ideal learning environment.

If you sit your exams at one of our partnership exam centres, we can help you with exam access arrangements – this might include providing extra time or a scribe. If you do need additional help with your exams let us know as early as possible and we can advise you what supporting evidence of your dyslexia you will need to support your exam entry.

One of our partnership exam centres works in collaboration with specialists (part of AMBDA – British Dyslexia Association) who can offer tests for diagnosing dyslexia.

If you, your child, or someone you know has dyslexia, remember that support is available. Having a learning difficulty isn’t a test of intelligence – people with dyslexia are more than capable, they might just find certain things more difficult than other people do. Here are some useful links where you can find out more information:

If you’re looking to study via distance-learning, all of our courses have accessibility features to support people with dyslexia. You can find out more on our website.

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Thursday, 06 October 2016

Tweet a poem for National Poetry Day

 miss.libertine Prose. via photopin
Photo credit: miss.libertine Prose. via photopin (license)

In today’s NEC Blog, English tutor Kathryn writes about poetry as part of our celebrations for National Poetry Day 2016.

'What's the point in poetry?' I hear my students groan as I hand out this year's GCSE poetry anthology. Yet by the end of the course students most often cite poetry as being their favourite literary genre.

Perhaps this is because, in the words of the American Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 'Poetry is eternal graffiti written in the heart of everybody'. Or maybe it's simply because poems are relatively short, making it easier to squeeze them into our busy lives (which is why Poems on the Underground has been so successful since its launch in 1986). One thing for certain is that by making words sing from the page, poetry illuminates the world with a startling intensity that helps us see beneath the surface of things often in a matter of moments.

As this year's theme for National Poetry Day is 'messages', we thought it would be fitting to invite you to tweet your own poem or a favourite quotation from a poem in 140 characters or fewer to staff and students at NEC. You can interpret the theme in any way you wish.

If you would like to write your own poem, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • You could write a message to or from: outer space; an animal; a historical figure; a lover; a traveller; a relative, a friend or person you know; a person asking for help; an inanimate object; somebody who has died/not yet been born; an older/younger you.
  • You could write about the different ways in which we have communicated through time or about an important message you sent or received in your life.
  • You could write a poem by yourself or as a group. It can be about an imagined experience or about real life; funny or serious.
  • It can be in free verse (a poem with no particular form, rhyme or rhythm) or you could have a go at writing in a more structured form such as a Haiku (which traditionally contains 3 lines of 5,7 and 5 syllables) or a short limerick.

Here's an example of a poem in free verse written with my young nieces early one morning as we waited for everybody else to wake up in our holiday apartment:

With the crunch of cornflakes/the wink of the sun/and the grumpy, slumpy slippers of the grown ups/the day tells us it's morning. (132 characters)

And here's an example of a haiku that took shape as I doused calamine lotion on my children's chicken pox:

The skin's Braille erupts/White blood cells win the battle:/Nature's miracle (74 characters)

You can compose poetry on a bus, in the bath or in a dentist's waiting room, so join in the celebration on National Poetry Day 2016 and get tweeting!

Here are some more contributions from NEC staff:

Favourite quotations

"'Do not go gentle into that good night/Rage, rage against the dying of the light' (Dylan Thomas). I love Thomas's passionate plea to approach the final stage of life with gusto and tenacity. It brings to mind WW2 veteran Bernard Jordan who made the news last year when he escaped from his nursing home and made his way to France to attend the 70th anniversary commemorations of the D-day landings. As an English teacher I also get rather excited about the masterful way in which Thomas moulds language into a villanelle - one of the most complex poetic forms."
 — Kathryn, English tutor

"Rudyard Kipling's 'My Boy Jack', spoken by David Haig (Kipling) as an aside at the close of the Daniel Radcliffe (Jack Kipling) movie. A tearjerker of course. Weepiest moment since Funeral 'Blues (Stop All the Clocks)' in Four Weddings."
 — Daniel, Senior Course Adviser

"I have a weakness for slam poetry and spoken word. My favourite is probably either 'Shrinking Women' by Lily Myers or 'Pretty' by Katie Makkai. It was those or Shakespeare's 'Sonnet 27' if we're doing classic poetry, but if I went with Shakespeare I felt I would be too much a cliche of myself. I have a lot of favourite poems. It was impossible to narrow down to just one."
 — Simone, Course Adviser

"'Lo, thus by day my limbs, by night my mind
For thee, and for myself, no quiet find.'

"This poem always makes me smile: Mrs Darwin, 7 April 1852. 'Went to the Zoo'. 'I said to Him – Something about that Chimpanzee over there reminds me of you'. – Carol Ann Duffy
It's from a collection I recommend called 'The World’s Wife', in which Duffy writes from the perspective of the women in the lives of famous male figures from history, mythology and fiction."
Helen, Editor

"I love 'The Glory of the Garden' by Rudyard Kipling. I first read it when I was in a book group with close friends. It was featured in the book 'The Nation's 100 Favourite Poems' which we had chosen as that month's read. The reading of this poem happened to occur just before my grandmother passed away. My grandparents' garden was full of 'tool- and potting-sheds', 'cold-frames and ... hot-houses'. I remember 'grubbing weeds from gravel-paths with broken dinner-knives'. This poem was such a wonderful revival of special memories for me. It could have been written about their garden. I read the poem at my grandmother's funeral, and copied it out for several family members afterwards. I read it again for my grandfather's funeral just six months later. Whenever I read the poem I think of my grandparents with joy, not sadness. I remember happy holidays playing in their garden, enjoying the fruits of the not inconsiderable labour. It was a glorious garden, and will always be in my mind's eye. This poem, so beautifully written, I am sure will invoke similar memories for many others. This is the power of a great poem, perhaps moving us to tears of joy or sadness, so often awakening memories so vividly."
 — Stephanie, Senior Course Co-ordinator

"'The naming of cats' from 'Old possums book of practical cats' by TS Elliott. Also the inspiration for the hit musical 'Cats'. I love the poem because the idea of a cat needing three different names, one of which no human could ever know, really appealed to me as a kid. Growing up as and surrounded by cat lovers I just find this intriguing! 'You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter when I tell you a cat, must have three different names.'"
 — Carly, Sales and Marketing Manager

Original poems

If you would like to find out more information about National Poetry Day and to read more examples of longer poems about the theme of 'messages' visit

If you’re an aspiring writer, or already enjoy putting pen to paper in some capacity but want to brush up on your skills, our writing courses will teach you all about the techniques professional writers use and enable you to produce polished and well-structured pieces of writing.

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Thursday, 29 September 2016

Home education paves the way to Russell Group university

NEC learner Kathryn Corrall
Above: NEC learner Kathryn Corrall

Kathryn Corrall is on a high. In September, she’s off to King’s College London to study for an English degree. She can hardly wait to leave her family home in the countryside for a new life in the big city and is already getting her teeth into Cervantes’ Don Quixote, the first novel on the syllabus.

Going to university has long been Kathryn’s ambition but her experience of education has been far from plain sailing. She was severely bullied at primary school and in the early years of secondary school, suffering from anxiety and panic attacks as a result. Home schooling was the answer, despite her fear that she wouldn’t be able to gain recognised qualifications if she wasn’t at school. Her concern was misplaced: all her GCSE-level and A level qualifications except maths (for which she had a face-to-face tutor) have been gained through distance learning, studying at home at her own pace. Her younger sister, a keen photographer, is home-educated too and plans to do a degree or an apprenticeship in photography.

Kathryn knows exactly why distance learning suited her so well: ‘Tutors tend to be less invasive than teachers and that’s one of the things I struggled with at school. I tried to go to a college of further education to do my A levels in 2013 but by then I was used to the freedom that studying at home offers. College just wasn’t right for me.’ What’s more, the experience of motivating yourself, organising your studies and writing essays unsupervised is ideal preparation for university.

NEC attracted Kathryn initially because of the wide choice of courses on offer and because the courses are set out in a style she was familiar with. She began studying with NEC in 2014, signing up for A levels in government and politics and religious studies. As soon as she got started, she found the course notes and exam tips outstanding. She was also impressed by the fact that each course made full use of the textbooks she had bought - an important consideration as textbooks are not cheap.

She says: ‘NEC’s course notes are the best I have encountered. They’re so thorough and well-written that even complicated topics are easy to understand - and that includes the ontological argument in RE! And I’m particularly grateful for the tutors’ ability to mark seemingly endless past papers!’

Kathryn’s advice for young people and their parents thinking about home education: ‘Distance learning gives you more opportunities to express yourself than learning in a classroom and you have as much time as you want to read around a subject. If anyone tells you that you can’t study properly at home, don’t believe them. You can get good results and take exams in just the same way as you can at school.’

If you would like to discuss how NEC can help you, get in touch with our friendly Course Advice Team who will be happy to answer your questions. You can call our UK freephone number, 0800 389 2839, email us at, talk to us via Live Chat, or find out more through the information on our website.

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Monday, 26 September 2016

Festival of Learning: Highlighting the importance of lifelong learning

Ros Morpeth and James Smith at the 2016 Parliamentary reception for the Festival of Learning
Above: Ros Morpeth and James Smith at the 2016 
Parliamentary reception for the Festival of Learning

Recently a parliamentary reception marked the close of this years festival of learning. Educational experts, award winners and MP’s came together to celebrates the achievements of adult learners throughout the country.

The Festival of Learning (formerly Adult Learners Week) is a national celebration of lifelong learning organised by the Learning and Work Institute (formerly NIACE). Through the remarkable stories of how people have used their learning experiences to change their lives and the lives of those around them, the festival is essential in highlighting how lifelong learning can and does benefit society and the economy.

The festival brings together have a go events from across the country to promote the benefits of lifelong learning by giving people a chance to learn something new. It’s also an opportunity to shine a light on the stories of people, organisations and projects who have received awards at the various events held throughout the year.

Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Robert Halfron MP was at the event and described the festival as doing everything he believes in. ‘They (the learners) show us it is never too late to learn something new or develop our skill sets’ He said. ‘Education does not have to stop after school and it exists for anyone interested in taking it up. The Festival of Learning is testament to that fact-one I’m proud to get behind and support.’

NEC CEO Ros Morpeth was delighted to accept her invitation to attend the Parliamentary reception and had this to say about the event.

‘Being a second chance learner myself and working with thousands of learners each year who are trying to change their lives with NEC, I certainly know the value of lifelong learning and the positive economic and social impact is can have, not to mention

I believe in the importance of keeping pathways to learning open for people at any stage of life. The transformative effect it can have on people should be encouraged at any age or stage of life.

One Person who agrees that pathways to learning should be kept open is James Smith, 2016 winner of the Outstanding Individual Award. I spent time with James at the event and found him inspiring. He is an excellent example of a life transformed by learning.

James, or Jimmy, left school with no qualification and has was working as a market trader when he gave assistance at the scene of a serious medical emergency.

The incident made Jimmy re-evaluate and he realised that to work in the emergency services he would need to return to learning. He found the experience very different to his low expectations of what going back to learning would be like. ‘I was bowled over!’ He said ‘I found the tutors engaging and encouraging and developed an appreciation for Shakespeare. I’ve even enjoyed maths... a bit.’

Jimmy has since written and passed the written entry exams for a role of non-emergency patient transport driver at West Midlands Ambulance Service, made lifelong friends with his infectious enthusiasm and gone on to enrol on an access to science course at Halesowen College. He plans on starting a Paramedic Science degree next year.

Jimmy represents someone who has made a courageous decision to change career and found that he couldn't move forward or even get a foot in the door until he got those core GCSE English and Maths qualifications. A story we at NEC hear often.

One of the additional benefits of learning is improved self confidence and the positive impact on the family and wider community. Jimmy told me that prior to starting the course, he would break out in a sweat if he was asked to write anything so he was amazed at how much he enjoyed studying and how much it has improved his confidence. He said that his success so far was due motivation and discipline but it wasn't hard because he found that he enjoyed studying so much. Jimmy has now received a grade A for GCSE Maths and a grade A* for GCSE English, what an excellent achievement.

Jimmy is one of thousands of learners that make the choice to change their lives by learning. You can read about the other award winners from the events this year on the Festival of Learning website.’

If their stories inspire you to get back into learning, take a look at the range of courses offered by NEC, including those all important GCSE maths and English qualifications.

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Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Celebrating one of the best creative writers of our time: Roald Dahl

 Jan Baldwin
Photo credit: Jan Baldwin

Roald Dahl was a children’s author, poet, screenwriter and short story writer. He was famous for writing the popular children’s books; Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Twits and The BFG - to name just a few! He was also famous for his inspirational and humorous quotes which helped people lead their day to day lives.

Roald Dahl Day - what is it?
Roald Dahl Day takes place on 13th September to celebrate his birth and this year marks 100 years! You can join in the conversation on Twitter using #RoaldDahl100. We hope our blog inspires you to get involved and help celebrate Roald Dahl Day. If you have any Roald Dahl books you loved to read, please do share with us by email.

To celebrate Roald Dahl Day, NEC staff share their favourite books and quotes. Here’s what some of them said:

Kirsty: “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda were my favourite books to read and I loved the film adaptations too. They were really engaging, funny and emotional and the characters were portrayed well in the books and films. Matilda and Miss Honey were my favourite in the books and films. Matilda had great courage and strength dealing with her bullying parents but the fact that her determination to learn was incredibly eye opening. I also liked Miss Honey, she was caring and patient and went the extra mile to help Matilda learn.

"My favourite character from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would have to be Willy Wonka. His fantastic acting and inspirational quotes; “Time is a precious thing, never waste it!” “Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination” as well as his funny sense of humour made the book and film come to life.  Unfortunately, Gene Wilder, famous for playing Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, recently passed away.”

Joanne: “Two of my favourite Roald Dahl books are; Fantastic Mr Fox - I just remember loving this so much when I was a child and George’s Marvellous Medicine - I read it with my daughter who loved it. It's funny, wicked, but nice”.

Louise: "My favourite books are The Twits and The Witches. Here are some quotes taken from the books that I love:"

“Mr. Twit was a twit. He was born a twit. And, now at the age of sixty, he was a bigger twit than ever.”

“It doesn't matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you.”

Carly: “My favourite was always Matilda, I must have read it 20 times as a child! I felt like I could identify with her being a bit of a bookworm myself and to be honest, who wouldn't want a teacher like Miss Honey?! I remember the first time I read the words 'somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world' and just thinking 'wow'! The BFG was a firm favourite too.”

Helen: “My favourite Roald Dahl book is The Twits. I love how devilishly clever the Twits are when they play tricks on each other. To this day I always check for worms in my spaghetti!”

If you would like to be a creative writer like Roald Dahl and learn about the techniques professional writers use, then why not try out the creative writing courses that NEC offers.

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