So with this, the third instalment of my RHS 3 travails, we’re now up to April of this year. Two of the three exams I need are tucked away, with good results – especially given the circumstances. The last exam is in July, a few months away and I have a sizeable chunk of the notes for the last module already prepared.

Downhill all the way I thought.

I should have known better, because, of course, downhill has two meanings. Instead of thinking only in terms of myself, I should also have considered the rest of the class who had 20 months attendance at college and mostly a single pass, often a motley one at that, out of the three they needed. Unsurprisingly a right royal shitstorm broke out, with people complaining like mad. The college fought a rearguard action ringing round everyone to placate them.

As a direct consequence the last term was changed so that it was not spent solely on Module A, but Module I and Module A.

Module I was the one that we had planned to do all along, but that college had changed for the ill-fated Module D, without any consultation whatsoever.

Being the only person that had objected to this at the time, it was a bit of an eyebrow raiser. Perhaps we shouldn’t have done Module D after all. At the risk of sounding smug this was one of those “I hate to say I told you so, but…” moments.

To my mind an apology was called for, for wasting everyone’s time, but then that would have been an admission of culpability, and would probably have opened the door to claims for a refund.

Not withstanding that fact that most of the class had struggled to pass a single exam, the idea was that people could take two exams in July and so complete the course. This was many things and optimistic was one of them.

Another interesting development was that college offered to foot the fifty quid cost of the extra exam.

At this point I was really starting to feel miffed. Not only was I deprived of the £50 “failure bonus”, but for me this meant that the classes would be split between an exam I was doing and one I was not., i.e. half of them will be irrelevant.

I understood this, but effectively I was being punished for being successful and for the college’s failings. I know the picture is more complicated than that and mine is a selfish perspective, but I feel I’ve earned the right to voice it.

Not knowing whether the class will be on the module I need, or not, became tedious and a waste of my time. Bored with this ‘RHS roulette’, and after a lesson featuring a rather poor gallop through the history of gardens in Britain, there seemed little point in attending classes anymore.

The college’s course salvage attempt is not enough for others and several of the class bailed out.

My own non-attendance was taken that I’d withdrawn from the course and the college wrote to ask why. I replied that I hadn’t and resisted the urge to have a go at them. I was just fed up with the whole sorry mess.

I did attend the last few classes, but they were a pretty much a waste of time.

The tutor Chrissie does know her stuff but too many times was clearly going through the motions. By the last lesson, I just wanted to be anywhere else, but was resigned to wasting two hours, given that it would soon all be over. So I was more amused than miffed, that the tutor noticeably upped her game for the first hour because an assessor was sitting in. Lots of questions were asked of the class, lots of encouragement given, lots of referrals to things we’d skated over as if they’d been studied in-depth. When our guest left we went back to normal mediocrity. I’ll leave moaning about college with one last example, which comes from this last hour.

We’d been spending the time going through a Module A past paper. There was not an air of confidence amongst the students for any of the questions, but then one came up about Gley soils, Podsols and the like. “Never heard of them” said one of the class. “No idea” said another. The rest looked blank. The tutor also seemed rather perplexed. I know what they were, not only because they were an important part of the syllabus, but also because I’d looked at the past papers and they cropped up in exam questions quite a lot.

It was embarrassing for all concerned, but I actually found it quite funny as well. Fortunately one of the class, Miranda, was an ex-geography teacher and she gave us a brief, concise and informed summary of each soil type, plus their fauna and flora.

It summed up two years – forget that you have paid good money to be taught – you will have to do it yourself by any means you can find. 

I practically bounced out of that class, so glad that it was the last one – two years of grind are over, I just needed to pass the last exam.