It has been reported recently that schools are cutting staff numbers due to funding shortages:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-39565415 This means that students in some areas aren’t getting the education they deserve.
Some parents are now enrolling their kids on distance learning courses as an alternative to school, or as a way to ‘top up’ their education. UK Distance Learning & Publishing has a long and proud history of helping people get their GCSEs and A-Levels, and we are always happy when we can help people make the most of their talents. However, we are dismayed at the idea that we are now being used to support learners who really ought to have no need for us.
Our main student base is made up of people who have either left school, or can’t attend for some reason. This could be down to anxiety problems, disability, exclusion, or any number of things. What we never used to have were students who were in regular attendance at a state school. Students like these ought to have no need for an educational ‘top up’. Though we are more than happy to provide assistance to these students, it’s really worrying that so many feel they aren’t getting what they need from mainstream education.
What’s going wrong?
It’s tempting to say this problem is all about funding. And it is definitely a major part of it. School budgets are being cut in real terms pretty much across the board, and teaching salaries have not exactly skyrocketed in recent years. This makes it harder to attract the best candidates, or to retain the most promising young teachers.
However, there are additional factors at play which are making students look beyond their schools for extra support from distance learning providers. The main one is organisation. Or rather lack of it. You can be the best teacher in the world, but without clearly defined and well-understood structures around you, it can be easy to be overwhelmed by the job. This spills over into the student experience, and can leave them feeling confused and un-supported.
So what are the organisational issues in schools? Well, first off, there are so many different types of school now. We have private schools, free schools, LA schools, academy schools, grammar schools, technical school and more. And within those brackets we have faith schools, different academy chains with their own structures, different models of free school etc. For a teacher moving from one of these kinds of school to another can be very disorienting. And the same is true for the kids.
Secondly, we have the syllabus changes. Over the last couple of years there have been major changes to the ways that A-Levels and GCSEs are taught and examined. Michael Gove was the one who ushered in a lot of these changes, including changing A-Levels from modular exams to linear exams, and GCSE grading from letters to numbers. Some of these changes make sense, but others seem arbitrary, almost as though they have been made just for the sake of it, as a way to look busy and sell the idea of ‘reforming’ schools.
How does distance learning help kids to cope?
Although our distance learning tutors are busy people, they generally have a less hectic day-to-day life than the average teacher. They don’t have to be constantly engaging in work-place politics, disciplining students, supervising lunch breaks etc. This means that they have more time to focus on the actual subjects they’re teaching, and on the administrative changes that are taking place within the exam system. Students find that having this extra person to turn to, for help and advice about their course gives them a sense of calm and order that is sometimes lacking in their school.