Blackford Centre for Gardening
Our mission is to transform people's lives through distance learning, and to give our students a new and enriching career.
We accept that we have a responsibility to act in an ethical way, and this document tries to document our position. It's a work in progress, not a definitive statement.
I welcome any comments you might have, particularly if we fail to meet any of the standards we set out below. Click here to get in touch.
We believe that our courses provide a social good: they give people the opportunity to gain new skills, get a qualification, get a better job, or become self-employed. Our learners can thereby change the course of their life.
Where we offer business courses we only teach those that offer the student a realistic chance of earning a living. And for that reason we won't offer subjects that are either unethical or unproven..
We aim to continually improve the quality of our course materials. The online edition of each course allows us to add interactive media such as flash cards, as well as audio or video content, which enrich the student's learning experience.
The service we provide
Course quality: We aim to make our courses accessible, stimulating and interactive. We aim to stay abreast of changes and developments in each profession or industry, for the benefit of our students.
We will only use active practitioners as tutors, since their experience gives the learner a richer experience.
We're aware that texts can soon look out of date if not regularly updated, and we seek to prevent that happening through constant amendment.
Response times: We aim to give learners access to our online portal within minutes, to despatch printed materials within two working days, and to reply to enquiries within one working day. We expect our tutors to return assignments within seven working days.
Mentoring: To help our students succeed, we provide a free 90-day mentoring service for our professional and advanced courses.
Refunds: Recognising that our courses don't meet everyone's needs, we provide an unconditional 60 day money-back guarantee, which doesn't start until the student has received their course materials.
For our business courses, we will also refund the fee if, 90 days after completing the course, the student has not earned at least the cost of the course. In such circumstances, we will ask for evidence that the student has done some marketing.
Accreditation: We are accredited by independent awarding organisations, including ABC Awards, Aim Awards and ATHE; and we will abide by their decisions.
Assignments: Our assignments generally comprise short essays and case studies. We don't rely assignments that require only one-word answers which could be marked by non-expert administrative staff, since this makes for a dull and insufficiently enriching course. Where we offer a low-priced introductory course we make use of multiple choice computer-based assessments.
We aim to provide fair wages and good working conditions for all who work for the organisation. We are an accredited Living Wage employer, one of the first 1,000 organisations to achieve this.
We also aim to further the development of our people through training.
Contracted work: We aim to have fair dealings with our business partners. We make use of outside contractors to provide us with IT services, design and written material. We use contractors all over the world, including the UK, USA, India and the Ukraine.
Where we source expertise from outside the West, we aim to use independent firms with whom we can work on a regular basis, and where the revenue flows straight to the contractor. We believe that this form of contracting is non-exploitative and provides good revenue to the contractor.
We will aim to describe our courses and the ensuing work opportunities with enthusiasm but not exaggeration.
We seek a relationship with with the local community. This can entail giving work experience to students, or providing time or money for local charities or community organisations. For example we sponsor the Frome Fridge as well as a local author's fair.
We pay all taxes willingly, believing tax to be an essential part of the social contract. We do not participate in tax avoidance or evasion.
Our environmental impacts
Major impacts: Our main impact is the paper we use, especially our paper-based course materials and the packaging materials used by us and our suppliers. In addition we use energy in our offices and cars, and in the distribution impacts caused by our delivery company.
Raw materials: Our office paper is made from recycled post-consumer waste paper. Our course pages also come from recycled post-consumer waste paper. Our packaging tape is paper based, not plastic.
Recycling: We aim to recycle as much paper used in the office as possible. We use a weekly kerbside recycling service provided by the local council.
Reducing our impacts: All our courses have an online edition. These reduce the amount of paper used, and allows learners to send their assignments through the internet.
We have created and fund three charities, both of which use our expertise in distance education and self-employment. They are:
Tamyaz.com, a charity that helps people in Palestine earn a living through online freelancing, and ultimately to create their own online business.
The Escape Route, a charity that provides ready-made businesses for UK ex-prisoners. Employers are reluctant to hire ex prisoners; and lack of employment is one of the main factors in recidivism. Self employment therefore reduces the barriers to work.
Wikko is a not-for-profit organisation that records corporate bad behaviour in Wikipedia. Typically this relates to tax evasion, mistreatment of employees, environmental damage, and harmful products or services.
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