I am writing this while the College is currently on our first half-term break. This is probably the most important half-term in the annual calendar as it provides a point to take stock of everything that has happened so far since the year commenced in September. Each year there is a 42-day period where changes to programmes and institutions can take place without anything ‘counting’, either financially or statistically. We put a lot of effort into making sure that our students have made the right choice of subject, of level and most importantly of institution. Every year a few of our students leave us in this first 42-day period, choosing to transfer to a different college or training provider and some move to an apprenticeship or to a job. On the other hand, we have a few new students join us late, having moved from elsewhere, where they weren’t suited to the course or the environment. This typically balances itself out, although I am very pleased to see that far fewer students chose to leave us this year than has been typical in the past.
It is always good to see our new students starting to really find their feet. The expectation that College will be a bit like School has by now gone and with increased confidence, so the level of interaction increases – they become far more vocal and willing to speak with their fellow students and staff as collaborators in learning. The restart after this first half term really is the end of the ‘honeymoon period’; this is where the real challenge and hard work begins. The notion of an academic ‘year’ is hard to picture. This one has barely started and in a little over 6 months we will be firmly in assessment and evaluation, especially when the course is just a single ‘year’ in duration.
In many ways though, the annual academic year cycle of learning ends for the ‘school leaver’. Those moving into employment or an apprenticeship no longer have the extended ‘school holidays’, with both the job and the training continuing through what had previously been seen as ‘holiday time’. Those who for a variety of reasons, have not yet engaged with a college, a training provider or an employer should not think that they have ‘missed the boat’. Gone are the days when enrolment happened only in September. There are many opportunities still open to you. At BLC alone, we have over 50 apprenticeship vacancies, backed by real jobs. There are still traineeships or shorter programmes open for enrolment, both now and in January, that will provide you with opportunities to re-engage with learning.
Whatever you choose to do, whether you are a school leaver or an adult, you should never accept that you stop learning when you leave school. The essence of further education is the support of lifelong-learning and BLC will always have options that can help you to progress your knowledge and skills.