Friday, November 17, 2006

Re-post: College Open Evening - Jan 05

From Thursday 27th January, 2005

Ali and I went to the local college open evening last night. We didn't know what to expect, but I really just wanted him to get a feel for the place, work out where it is, etc. We were actually wanting info about a specific course on programming, but past experience of dealing with colleges made me not too hopeful of this.

Predictably, the place was packed. They'd thrown open the whole building and organised the access routes, signposting etc. well, but we found ourselves being repeatedly sent to the wrong department and the wrong people. At one point they were talking about allocating us with an Education Social Worker, when they heard he's home educated! Eaugh! We backpedalled very quickly from that particular person, with a view to doing a runner.

However, we eventually found the Flexible Learning Department (sounds promising, huh?) that evidently houses all the computing courses, but the queue to enquire about part time courses was very long and not moving. There were only 2 staff-members at the other end of it and no-one was in any hurry. Ali said he wouldn't mind finding out about full-time courses and so, there being no queue at that desk, we went over and sat down. The conversation went like this:

Man: Hi. How can I help you?
Ali: I'm home-educated and I want to do an advanced computer course.
Man: You have to do the basic course first.
Ali: I don't need the basic course. I've spent all day every day for the past 3 years on my computer. I'm ready for the advanced course.
Man: You need to do the basic course first.
Me: Can we at least make an appointment to talk to the tutor, so that Ali can tell him what he's done?
Man: No, he needs to do the basic course first. We don't take anyone on the advanced course until they've done the basic course first.
Ali: OK. How long is the basic course?
Man: One year, full time, and you need 4 GCSEs to get onto it.
Ali: I'm home-educated. I'm not doing GCSEs.
Man: You'll have to pass four GCSEs at grade C or above if you want to get onto the basic computer course.
Ali: What subjects?
Man: Any subjects.
Ali: But I only want to do computing, and I'm not doing GCSEs.
Man: The basic course entry requirements are 4 GCSEs. If you haven't got them, you can't do the course. Sorry, but that's all I can tell you.
Me: [Smiling through gritted teeth] OK, let's go and enquire about part-time courses shall we, Ali? [To man:]Thanks for being so helpful.

I looked into his eyes. Nothing. He was a zombie: spiritually dead.

We decided the queue for part-time course enquiries was too long and heard some other staff saying the two people at the other end of it were new and knew nothing useful about the courses anyway, so we came away with the prospectus and the name of the tutor who teachers the advanced courses. I'll phone and try to get us an appointment to see him, in the hope that he's human, not zombie.

*Nov 2006 Update on this: Ali exchanged some emails with course tutors from various educational establishments in the months following the open evening but failed to find one he wanted to learn from. He continued developing his coding skills and knowledge in a self-directed way and this was unofficially 'assessed' in September 2005 by someone who works in the same field. It was good for both Ali and I to hear that Ali's work actually was on a par with other new developments and would probably, in the assessor's opinion, be commercially viable should Ali ever choose to market himself.

posted by Gill at 2:47 PM 4 comments


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