Oct 252020
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

If you managed to keep up with shifting Covid-19 government advice, changing statistics and the evolving list of related health complications, congratulations.

If you have mastered the Rule of Six, know when you are or aren’t in a relationship, have figured out when you’re free to break the rules ‘in a specific and limited way’, and when it is or is not acceptable to drive to Barnard Castle, perhaps you can explain to the rest of us why pubs and restaurants are risky, but schools are safe.

Advice on children and Covid-19 is as changeable as everything else to do with this disease, and yet teachers, staff, parents and students are being reassured by some school heads that ‘school is perfectly safe’.

How safe is ‘perfectly safe’?

A teacher’s perspective: An arse covering exercise.

“Risk assessments have been talked about more than anything else in every school, folk that are employed to do them have seen their workload go through the roof recently because they’re needed as an arse-covering exercise.

Teachers will get Covid and die; their family members will too, children will spread it to vulnerable people they’ll die too.

“The risk assessment will be used to justify that ‘we all knew what we were signing up to’ and that’s true to a point. It’s all about getting people back to work and getting taxes and money coming back into the system. Safety is secondary to that.”

The Safety Expert: Not enough detail.

We invited an expert to look for risk assessments, and we sent a representative sampling from the short (1 to 3 page) document to the massive document (over 30 pages). We looked at scores of risk assessments – some schools happily publish them; others feel they should not be shared – which rather defeats their purpose.

Our expert wrote:

“ In preparing risk assessments not enough detail is put into them and people tend to just put in an overview and think it’s sufficient when dealing with a highly contagious virus. 

“What needs to happen is every small detail needs to be looked at, the slight act like passing a pen to each other can prove fatal down the line, therefore this highlights the actual need to be doubly vigilant in the preparation of a risk assessment” 

Risk assessment should identify every task involved in an enterprise (such as a school day) from students lending each other pens to touching surfaces to grouping together. 

A valid risk assessment identifies every activity’s possible risk and then determines how likely or unlikely the risks can be (from catching or transmitting Covid-19, being mildly ill with it – or worse). 

A robust risk assessment then determines how likely or unlikely the risks are before corrective measures are made, so it can prescribe the corrective measures to lower the risk. 

Aberdeen’s Oldmachar Academy has a 31-page risk assessment document based on government templates seen elsewhere; it mingles Covid-19 and non-Covid issues (lift maintenance for instance).

Staff are mentioned 137 times; the word pupil appears 47 times. It is cumbersome, and the actual risk matrix says nothing concrete about the risks of Covid-19 – illness, death, transmission, long Covid etc.

Three Aberdeen City schools have had Covid-19 cases.

It is not easy to use and is not geared for all the people who are meant to be covered by it. As adults we find it cumbersome; if we were pupils, we’d find it less than user friendly.

It scores diseases as medium risk; though permanent health problems and death are present when Covid-19 is present.

Despite the time-sensitive, urgent nature of our request for risk assessments, Aberdeen City Council suggested we do a Freedom of Information request rather than have its media department send all or at least some of it for us to review.

The city should have had all the assessments in and professionally reviewed before schools opened. As it happened, the city’s risk assessments were still not finalised in the last few days before its schools opened.

Three Aberdeen City schools have had Covid-19 cases.

How it handles these in the media follows a pattern seen elsewhere: dissuade the public from thinking there could have been school transmission; claim their risk assessment is robust; patronise parents by saying ‘we understand your fears’.

Here is what Bridge of Don Academy told the press:

“Mrs McWilliam said: “I would want to reassure parents and carers that there is no evidence of transmission of Covid-19 at Bridge of Don Academy and that the school has very good control measures in place.

“The strength of the control measures has enabled Public Health to advise that the school remain open to the vast majority of young people.

“I realise that this is unsettling news and want to reassure you that decisions have been made following a robust risk assessment process with public health.””

We have requested this ‘robust risk assessment’ but do not have it yet. How is it determined ‘there is no evidence of transmission?’

Teachers are not all keen on going to school; as we saw, our teacher states they believe teachers will die.

Covid-19 facts that dropped out of the curriculum.

Few if any risk assessments we saw which were prepared prior to school openings acknowledged the existence of long Covid (the lingering fatigue and other symptoms that can last weeks or months). Perhaps this is a very rare occurrence; some say it is.

Is it worth taking the risk though, or risking long-term or permanent heart, lung nervous system damage, and inflammatory syndromes striking young Covid-19 victims such as Kawasaki disease.

Some head teachers still seem happy to insist their schools are safe, to insist it is fine for children to mingle unmasked in groups which can range from a dozen to one hundred pupils, and that ‘safety is our main concern’.

Talking to parents, it is this insistence that all is well and there is no risk that causes their worry: how can a school be a sanctuary from a disease that is spreading elsewhere in a community?

In order to get children through the doors, parents are being threatened with fines, threatened with social worker visits, threatened with police visits, ridiculed (‘you are the only parent who has any worries’), threatened they are harming their child (children must socialise and must learn at the government prescribed rate). But possibly worst of all, they are being greatly misled.

Failing marks for factual information.

One sentence found in a few school bulletins up and down the country concerns symptoms; here is one variant (from South Grove Primary School):

“This means that if your child has a cold, they should still come to school just like they would have last year. If your child has symptoms that point to a cold, they can still come to school. These could be a blocked or runny nose, sneezing and/or itchy eyes.”

The problem is experts, including the CDC, advise the following concerning flu and Covid-19 symptoms:

“Both COVID-19 and flu can have varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe symptoms. Common symptoms that COVID-19 and flu share include:
“Fever or feeling feverish/chills
“Cough
“Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
“Fatigue (tiredness)
“Sore throat
“Runny or stuffy nose
“Muscle pain or body aches
“Headache
“Some people may have vomiting and diarrhoea, though this is more common in children than adults” 
– https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/flu-vs-covid19.htm

If the schools are handing out advice contrary to world experts, it hardly inspires confidence.

Unsurprisingly, some teachers and parents fear retaliation if they talk to reporters on the subject. Many tell us they ‘are not allowed’ to tell others if their school has had a positive Covid-19 case. This stifling of expression would have been contrary to European Human Rights law – but that seems like something we don’t need to worry about any longer.

One school wrote to parents, advising their child might have been exposed to an infected peer to self-isolate for 14 days:

“We must prioritise the health and safety of our students first and foremost.”

It begs the question: if they were prioritising health and safety, wouldn’t they allow students to study at home and take lessons remotely?

The government maintains its recalcitrant stance against this sane, risk-mitigating measure.

With a vaccine in the pipeline with several pharmaceutical companies, would it be that bad to save lives and educate at home for a number of months?

Yes, children need to play, socialise, learn and be around others: but if junior falls behind a few months but is free of long-term health issues, surely that is worth it.

BRTUS

Parents’ advocates Boycott a Return to Unsafe Schools (BRTUS) keeps a map of school Covid-19 occurrences, and its Facebook page is filled with discussion.

A BRTUS spokesperson said:

“Boycott Return To Unsafe Schools is campaigning for a Sensible, Safe and Sustainable return to schools, which should take consideration of local infection rates and include properly resourced blended or distance learning where appropriate.

“BRTUS understands the pressures teachers are under, and BRTUS is concerned for the welfare of all who are in the school environment – students, teachers and staff.

“Our map of Covid-19 cases within schools demonstrates that a return to full classes in the most densely populated classrooms in Europe is unsustainable and threatens the safety of society as a whole.

“In addition to sending newspaper reports to add to our map, parents have forwarded us communications they have received from their school, confirming cases which have not always reached the media. Some parents state they have been pressured not to discuss the case outside of their school community, and express concern that we will ensure anonymity. “

This is just one example of unacceptable treatment being endured by parents; the blanket policy of compulsory attendance fines – irrespective of local infection rate or the health risk factors of family members – is entirely inappropriate in the context of a pandemic.

“This policy has a detrimental impact on the mental health of family members including children, and alongside lack of funding prevents schools from providing appropriate support for home learning in order to protect children’s academic progress.

“With cases rising once again the Government must now formulate a properly funded plan for education which will minimize the opportunity for schools to be vectors of transmission, protect children’s educational outcomes and ensure the safety of families who are at increased risk from Covid-19.”

Parents said:

Parent A:

“The headteacher hates any disruption to their usual [routine] and any complaints tend to be quashed pretty quickly.  Their risk assessment was poor to say the least, as most points there were useless or still to be done.

“Even though the school is in the area with most cases in our town, they supposedly remain Covid free. It just simply doesn’t make sense. Rumours started amongst students that a teacher got it and when enquiring about that, I was told that the school doesn’t comment on rumours.

“Regardless of the fact that my own child had direct contact with this teacher, they refused to confirm if he is waiting for results or already has a positive result. 

“Our local newspaper has published that the council confirmed that “a number of schools have had positive tests”, yet only one school has been named. I do believe my children’s school has been affected by now.”

Parent B:

“If my child gets sick who is to blame? Me? The school or the government?”

Parent C:

“We’ve even been threatened with police!”

Parent D:

“We don’t want to deregister but we’ve been told we’ll be fined.”

Parent E:

“My head teacher says I am the only parent who has worries”

Parent F:

“The school says it will send social workers because I don’t want my child in school.”

Other parents talk about an absence of social distancing and masks at drop off and pick up times; parents with conditions such as asthma do not feel they are being taken into account, some find out their head teacher have called their child’s physician to discuss the parent’s reticence to send their child to school.

One thing bothering teachers, staff and parents is how widely varying policy and procedures vary from one school to the next. Some schools are having giant bubbles of the entire year; some have small bubbles of different classes within a year.

Some have taken the concept of ventilation to extremes insisting windows must be left open all the time (one parent told of a puddle forming in the back of a classroom when it rains) but will not let children wear coats to keep warm (cue potential respiratory illnesses) – and a school in Aberdeenshire has classrooms where windows cannot be opened.

Children in one school will eat at their desks; others will eat outside in all weather – standing up.

There is nothing logical, scientific or even consistent going on in the country’s schools when it comes to the pandemic. Maybe students will not die – but we believe the risk to teachers, staff and parents has not been addressed sufficiently.

If you think we are being overly dramatic or fearmongering by bringing up the risk of death, don’t blame us, here’s a quote from Matt Hancock:

“Don’t kill your gran.”

Hancock was referring to young people not keeping social distance: what exactly does he think happens in a school setting?

Image by Steve Riot from Pixabay

Aug 082020
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

Aberdeen City Council yesterday admitted that it has not finalised revising risk assessments for next week’s school openings and have refused to release the assessments to Aberdeen Voice.
Students are due to return to school despite a new lockdown in Aberdeen City Centre in response to the recent Covid-19 outbreak.

The City told Aberdeen Voice the school risk assessments were being revised.

With days to go before schools open, Aberdeen Voice asked for sight of the assessments; a city council spokesperson said:

“These are internal documents which we would not routinely share with the media. You can of course submit an FOI request.”

Aberdeen Voice replied it had never received a freedom of information request response from the city in less than 25 days – clearly too late for concerned parents

The City pointed Aberdeen Voice to its website when we first asked about safety for students, teachers and everyone connected to schools. The website lacks any specific provision details – but does say that distance learning has virtually been ruled out:  and parents must send children to school.

Additionally, on the Aberdeen City Council website, it says that risk assessments have been done. 

However earlier today ACC told Aberdeen Voice: 

“These will be discussed and agreed with all staff at the beginning of next week and before children return.  This is in keeping with the best practice advised in the national guidance. The risk assessments are informing the information that is being shared with families.” 

How the city can claim the assessments are done when they are now being redone, and claim ‘the information that is being shared with families’ but will not release the assessments to the general public is unclear.

The TUC is one of many organisations to publish its Covid-19 risk assessment; its website reads:

“UK law says every employer with more than five staff must produce a risk assessment. And new government guidance for the return to work after the coronavirus pandemic says that these risk assessments should be published on employers’ own websites.”

One school proud of its risk assessment that has published it to its website is Blackheath; it can be seen here: 

Parents and teachers throughout the UK are concerned at safety and according to The Scotsman only 1 in 5 teachers are confident about returning to the classroom.

The myth that children are ‘nearly immune’ to Covid-19 has been dispelled; they are not only efficient carriers who can transmit the virus to others, but when infected themselves, they may be prone to syndromes including multisystem inflammatory syndrome and Kawasaki syndrome.

Aberdeen Voice also awaits comment from Aberdeenshire council and Unison.  We are happy to continue receiving information and questions from parents, teachers and health professionals who alerted us to the situation.

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Oct 062017
 

With thanks to Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

From channelling their inner squirrels to playing detective on the trail of secretive beasties, children from Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire required colourful imaginations as they took up the challenge to go ‘green’ at Castle Fraser.
The National Trust for Scotland property hosted a series of workshops for over 300 primary school youngsters as part of its annual environmental education event.

The historic castle near Inverurie has been hosting the Going Green initiative in partnership with Total E&P UK for the past eight years. The programme for this year’s event was one of the most diverse to date.

Castle Fraser property manager Paula Swan said:

“The workshops were designed to stimulate the imagination of children, helping them learn about important environmental issues in a fun and creative way.

“The workshops support the Curriculum for Excellence but show that learning about these topics – and promoting environmental responsibility both now and in the future – don’t have to take place in the classroom.

“Over the years that we have been hosting this event we have welcomed hundreds of school children through our doors. Who knows, Going Green may have even inspired some of our future conservationists, biologists and environmental experts.

“We are pleased that we once again hosted Going Green with the support of Total, continuing the very strong and successful partnership which sees us working together to raise environmental awareness at an early age.

“Total has been extremely dedicated to working with Castle Fraser and because of the company’s commitment to the project, thousands of primary school pupils have been able to learn about the importance of the natural world around them.”

Sandra McLennan, corporate social responsibility leader at Total E&P UK, added:

“TEPUK is thrilled to support the NTS in our combined effort to promote the benefits of outdoor learning in the beautiful setting of Castle Fraser. We are especially pleased that the NTS was able to extend Going Green from two days to three to capture the imagination of more children this year.” 

The great outdoors was the classroom for the school pupils, with activities including:

  • Buzzing with the Bees – a chance for children to learn more about the important role that bees play in the eco-system with the Kemnay Beekeepers who have hives at the castle.
  • Minibeast Masterclass – a hunt for minibeasts during which the pupils will discover what all the different beasties eat at Castle Fraser…including other species.
  • Hidden Wildlife – playing detective and finding out what animals get up to at night by looking for tracks and signs.
  • Making Music – a workshop that will hit the right note with youngsters as it allows them to make instruments out of recyclable goods before learning how to play them.
  • Secret Life of Squirrels – pupils learn if they have what it takes to make a good squirrel in an interactive workshop in which they will make their own dreys, hide and store cones, and gather their own food.
  • Can You Survive? – Mar Lodge Estate Rangers give tips on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, and give pointers on making dens and surviving in the wild.  

There were also workshops to show how to make dens and survive in the wild, and where pupils could learn how to plant flowers and vegetables, and then nurture them.

Castle Fraser – the ancestral home of the Fraser family – is a baronial castle dating back to the 15th century.

As well as its extensive grounds which include the secret woodland garden, walled garden and estate trails, there are many highlights inside the property, such as the Great Hall, an extensive library and a room packed full of 18th century embroideries.

The National Trust for Scotland is the charity that celebrates and protects Scotland’s heritage. It relies on the support of its members and donors to carry out its important work of caring for the natural and built heritage of Scotland for everyone to enjoy.

You can join the National Trust for Scotland for as little as £7.50 per month for a family. To become a member, visit http://www.nts.org.uk/Join/Benefits/.

You can make a difference and help protect everything in our care. Donate online at https://www.nts.org.uk/Donations/

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Sep 022017
 

With thanks to Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

Go4Set allows school pupils opportunities to meet with industry leaders and gain insight into the careers which studying science, engineering, technology and maths may lead to.

A scheme which encourages young people in Aberdeen to get involved with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) has received a welcome donation from Aberdeen Charitable Foundation.

The global financial firm has previously sponsored the Engineering Development Trust’s Go4Set programme in London and
Edinburgh, and has now set its sights on aiding students in the north east of Scotland.

Throughout the 10-week Go4Set scheme, 12 to 14-year-old pupils from secondary schools across Aberdeen will get the opportunity to work with industry mentors on environmentally-themed STEM projects.

By working with industry leaders, they will be able to gain an insight into industries that they may work in themselves one day, seeing theoretical knowledge they have gained in the classroom put to real-world uses.

Helen Anderson, director of the Education Development Trust, says:

“Go4Set allows school pupils an unrivalled opportunity to meet with industry leaders and gain a greater insight into the career paths which studying science, engineering, technology and maths may take them on. The students who participate are all volunteers, meaning they are passionate about the subjects and eager to learn more. Aberdeen Charitable Foundation’s generous £1,194 donation will help us to continue to run Go4Set for pupils in and around Aberdeen, inspiring future STEM pioneers.”

Research has shown that by exposing younger pupils to STEM-related employers and allowing them an insight into the world in which they could find themselves in the future, more students choose to continue studying STEM courses at Higher and Advanced Higher level, and onwards to university.

Claire Drummond, head of charitable giving for Aberdeen Charitable Foundation, says,

“The Engineering Development Trust’s Go4Set programme is incredibly popular with pupils and employers across the country, allowing them to interact with each other to jointly discover the future of STEM subjects. STEM is integral to the work we do, so we are thrilled to be able to support a scheme which encourages young people to pursue these topics.”

For more information on the Engineering Development Trust and Go4SET, visit www.etrust.org.uk

For more information about the Charitable Foundation, visit http://aboutus.aberdeen-asset.com/en/aboutus/responsible-business/aberdeen-charitable

Aug 252017
 

With thanks to Donna Ross, Senior Account Manager, Frasermedia Ltd.

An Aberdeen barber is taking the industry by storm after being selected as the only nominee to represent the North-east at a prestigious hair and beauty awards ceremony.
Marc Cran, a barber at Huntsman, was the only finalist from the North-east to be shortlisted in the category for barbers with under one year’s experience at this year’s Scottish Hair & Beauty Awards (SHABA).

He will go head-to-head against fiveother barbers from across Scotland at the awards ceremony, which takes place on Sunday, 10 September at the Marriott Hotel in Glasgow.

The 27-year-old made the move into barbering after being made redundant from two oil and gas companies within the space of six months.

Last year, he completed a specialist six-month course at the Scottish Barbering School before securing a stylist position at Huntsman in April 2017.

Marc said:

“It has been a very busy for year for me, as I have been determined to pick up all the necessary skills needed to progress within the barbering industry. Since starting at Huntsman, I have gained a vast amount of experience and have developed my own unique style, all thanks to the guidance I have received from my colleagues.

“This time last year, I could never have imagined that I would be where I am today. To be the only barber from the North-east in my award category is completely surreal and I am honoured that my work has been recognised. Winning an industry award would help me to place Aberdeen on the map for quality barbers, as a lot of the focus seems to be on the central belt at the moment.” 

Kyle Ross, managing director of Huntsman, said:

“For Marc to be shortlisted for this award is a testament to all of the hard work that he has shown over the last few months. He never fails to impress me with his talents, whilst his creative flair and eye for detail has helped him to build up a large client base. He is the perfect fit for Huntsman and has done the team proud.”

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Aug 252017
 

With thanks to Jessica Murphy, PR and Marketing Manager at Think PR.

Ross Jolly, Richard Tinto, Duncan Skinner, Kenneth Salmon (top), Barry Mole (bottom), Stacy Edghill, Rob Cowman, Heather Sharkey, Keith Murphy, Steve White, Rod Hutchison.

Members of the Aberdeen Young Professionals network are being urged to take advantage of this year’s mentor scheme. In what remains a difficult economic climate in the city, Aberdeen Young Professionals (AYP), a networking group for workers in and around the city, launched this invaluable resource last year, and have grown the number of mentors for this year’s intake based on the 2016-17 success.

The organisation, which is now in its ninth year, is urging its members to get in touch and benefit from being partnered with one of the established mentors, each of whom bring a different skill set to the scheme.

Mentoring is open to individuals of all ages and backgrounds looking for career advice and direction.

Potential mentees include those looking at a career change after redundancy, individuals aiming to progress to the next level, or people who want to develop a specific skill set.

Ross Jolly, founder of AYP, said:

“AYP had a fantastic response to the mentor scheme last year and we are pleased to be building on that success. We have a great group of highly respected mentors on board, who are all looking forward to helping our mentees progress their careers.

“This is an opportunity for anyone who needs some guidance, advice and support from people who have the experience and expertise to help.”

Catriona Stevenson (pictured below) recently joined the organisation seeking a friendly and listening ear, along with support and guidance as she faced a crossroads in her career.

Originally a banker for 15 years, she took voluntary redundancy in 2013, just as she became a mother for the second time. A year later and keen to return to work, Catriona realised she still wanted to utilise her banking skills, but didn’t want to return to the world of finance.

A PA job with Thor Holt Ltd followed, which eventually led to a business development role.

Catriona said:

“Fast-forward three years and with the oil and gas downturn still in full stride, I have moved into a business development and marketing role with RCP Ltd.

“Whilst I am comfortable building relationships and getting out there to meet new people, the oil and gas industry can be a real minefield and despite a great network both face to face and within LinkedIn, I felt I needed some support from those on the inside.

“Sometimes we just need someone to listen and offer a bit of advice, and that’s where I was at when I applied to the AYP mentoring scheme in May of this year.”

Paired with mentor Kenneth Salmon, business development director for Merseyflex, Catriona is looking forward to what the partnership could bring.

Kenneth said:

“I was delighted to be paired up with Catriona and look forward to using my experience to help her in whatever way I can. I am sure we will learn a lot from each-other as we go through the mentor process.

“I would advise any professionals who are looking for some guidance, particularly in the current challenging climate, to find out more about AYP and the benefits it provides.”

New mentors taking part in AYP this year include: Duncan Skinner, Barry Mole, Kenneth Salmon, Colette Backwell, Leigh Stott, Dave Grant, Stacy Edghill, Richard Tinto, Keith Murphy and AYP Founder Ross Jolly.

At its regular events, which consist of discussion series, networking opportunities and social meet-ups, AYP provides an opportunity for members to network with like-minded individuals and make new contacts in a relaxed environment. The group currently has more than 6,000 members.

Details for joining the network can be found at http://www.aypgroup.co.uk/

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Aug 252017
 

With thanks to Yvette Rayner, PR Account Manager, Frasermedia Ltd.

Aberdeen’s performance swimming team is celebrating after an impressive end of season medal haul, leading to 14 swimmers being called onto national squads.
The University of Aberdeen Performance Swimming (UOAPS), led by Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth Games coach Patrick Miley, is a partnership between Aberdeen Sports Village, Aberdeen City Council, Scottish Swimming and the University of Aberdeen and seven of the city’s swimming clubs.

The ambitious programme, which was established to build on the city’s previous success with David Carry, Robbie Renwick and Hannah Miley, has seen early results, with swimmers bringing home an unprecedented collection of 12 medals at this year’s British Summer Championships.

In previous years, only a few swimmers from Aberdeen have qualified to be invited to the important end of season event, which invites swimmers ranked in the top 24 in their event. However, in July, 30 athletes from UOAPS headed to Sheffield.  The successful squad included swimmers as young as 13, with an impressive podium display of three golds, three silvers, and six bronze medals.

Rosie Morgan, 14, of Aberdeen won her first gold medal at the UK-wide competition, while fellow Aberdonian, Gaia Alcaras, 15, took home one gold, one silver and one bronze medal. 

As a result of this season’s success, 14 swimmers from Aberdeen have been invited to join the Scottish national squads, which will result in additional training and support for the potential champions.

Joining the 2017/18 Scottish national squad, which was announced this week, will be UOAPS swimmers Orla Adams, Fraser Agnew, Gaia Alcaras, Andrew Arthur, Thomas Beeley, Caroline McIntosh, Hannah Miley, Rosie Morgan, Connor Morrison, Yasmin Perry, Rebecca Reid, Anya Slessor, Jessica Thomson and Cameron Travis.

Mr Miley said:

“After just a few months, we have seen a tremendous change in the swimmers, resulting in much deserved medal wins. Taking 30 swimmers along to the championships for the first time made a real difference, as we had a fantastic team spirit, which really adds to the confidence of each individual performer.

“The swimmers have been training really hard, and everyone could feel the confidence growing with each new Aberdeen medal in Sheffield. We have been working on detailed training programmes, with every swimmer dedicating themselves to improving their performance. We have focused on a culture of success, and it was wonderful to see the results of our hard work on the podium at one of the most important meets in the country.”

Duncan Sinclair, CEO for ASV, said:

“The UOAPS programme has high ambitions, and it is working. Aberdeen was very well represented in Sheffield, and the outstanding medal haul is something to be proud of. Having a group of people dedicated to developing the very best athletes is a real benefit to the city and we hope to see this success continue into the next season.

“The aim of UOAPS is to produce the best, and with 14 young people representing Aberdeen in the Scottish national squads, and look forward to competing at Commonwealth and Olympic level, the programme is more than meeting its objectives.”

Councillor Jenny Laing, leader of Aberdeen City Council, said:

“Aberdeen City Council has made a significant investment in high performance swimming to help ensure that elite talent stays and is nurtured within the city. It is hugely encouraging to see that investment paying off at such an early stage with the team’s successful performance at the British Summer Championships. I am sure that this is just the beginning  of what we and our partners hope will be an amazing success story in establishing Aberdeen as a major centre for elite swimming.”

University of Aberdeen Principal, Professor Sir Ian Diamond, said:

“The team’s performance at the British Summer Championships demonstrates the level of talent we are developing here in Aberdeen as part of this ambitious programme.

“Their impressive medal tally is not only a testament to the swimmers themselves, but to the dedicated coaching staff headed by Patrick Miley.  On this form I expect the team to enjoy continued success, and I wish them all the best for the season ahead.”

Medal winners:

Gaia Alcaras, 15, gold, women’s open 400m IM; silver, women’s open 200m IM; bronze, women’s open 100m butterfly
Orla Adams, 22, bronze, women’s open 400m IM; bronze, women’s open 200m breaststroke
Kirsty Simpson, 21, silver, women’s open 100m backstroke
Thomas Beeley, 18, gold, men’s open 200m butterfly; bronze, men’s open 100m butterfly
Yasmin Perry, 16, bronze, women’s open 50m butterfly (16 yrs)
Connor Morrison, 20, silver, men’s MC 100m breaststroke
Aberdeen Performance A team, bronze, women’s 17 years/over 4 x 200m free team
Rosie Morgan, 14, gold, women’s open 100m free

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Aug 202017
 

With thanks to Donna Ross, Senior Account Manager, Frasermedia Ltd.

Thursday, April 4th 2014, Banff, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Motive Offshore, Image Library and stock photography, for website and PR
(Photo Ross Johnston/Newsline Scotland)

With signs that the oil and gas market starting to recover, it is more important than ever for companies to ensure skilled staff are in place to plug the looming skills shortage.
For leading offshore services firm Motive Offshore, which is headquartered in Boyndie near Banff, training the future talent of tomorrow is extremely important and the company has continued to employ a high number of apprentices over the years.

Providing a first-class service means that Motive is extremely passionate about developing its team to ensure that its clients always receive a high level of work allowing them to meet their business objectives.  

The firm, which has a skilled workforce of 60 members of staff across its marine equipment manufacture and rental and fabrication divisions, has continued to roll out its apprenticeship scheme to new members of staff.

Motive Offshore directors, James Gregg, and Dave Acton, both started their careers as apprentices and have played an instrumental role in continuing to develop strong links with North East Scotland College, ITCA, Skills Development Scotland and local secondary schools.

Today, the firm employs two apprentice fabricators; two craft apprentices; an apprentice fitter and an apprentice machinist.

The latest intake follow in the footsteps of four previous apprentices who all gained full time employment with Motive on completion of their apprenticeships, as hydraulic technician, fabricator, machinist and fitter.

Apprentices at Motive aren’t purely workshop based, assistant accountant Lauren Stronach also completed an apprenticeship at the firm and plans are now in place to add a finance apprentice to the team.

Currently Motive is also advertising for four new craft apprentices and intends to fill these positions by the end of summer.

James Gregg, said:

“At Motive we recognise the importance of investing in continuous learning and development for all ages. We see our apprentice programme as a vital link in the succession planning process and an important step in building a stronger business.

“Apprenticeships are a valuable asset to a company and the training that apprentices at Motive receive gives them first hand, on the job experience.

“As the oil and gas industry starts to pick up again, companies need to become proactive in providing job opportunities. Not only will this improve employability in an incredibly difficult market, it will also benefit the business and ultimately the economy of the North-east.”

Aug 112017
 

With thanks to Gemma Setter, PR Account Executive, Frasermedia.

ITCA Training provides training for young employees in various sectors including welding, fabrication, mechanical engineering, business administration and logistics.

An Aberdeen-based apprenticeship training company is seeking applications from the engineers of tomorrow for its specially tailored course.
In recognition of the looming skills shortage due to an aging workforce, ITCA Training, which is based at the Kirkhill Industrial Estate in Dyce, created the Skills for Engineers course (S4E) to provide in-depth training for learners aged 16-18 who have left full-time education.

ITCA deliver a mixture of practical workshop based training with classroom based studies over the 16-week course, which is funded through the Skills Development Scotland (SDS) employability fund.

The course offers in-depth training in a wide range of disciplines including general workshop skills, health and safety awareness, hand fitting, service engineering, assembly skills and welding. 

Following 12-weeks at ITCA, learners then complete a four week work placement to build on their skills in a working environment. 

June Jones, managing director of ITCA, said:

“It is important that businesses address the issue of a potential skills gap, before it becomes a serious problem for the North-east in the future. In the current market, it is more important than ever before to have relevant experience and an industry standard qualification when applying for a job.

“The aim of S4E is to give learners the training and workplace experience required to get a foothold in the engineering industry, build their confidence and raise their understanding of safety in the workplace.

“This type of hands-on experience instantly gives S4E participants an advantage over other jobseekers in an extremely competitive market. Since the establishment of the S4E course, we have seen a high number of learners gaining full-time employment at a number of different companies, not only in the oil and gas sector, which is extremely positive.”

To apply for the course or find out more information, please email info@itca-training.com or visit www.itca-training.com. Next intake will be before the end of August 2017.

ITCA Training, which is one of the largest engineering apprenticeship-training firms in Scotland, is situated at Howe Moss Drive in the Kirkhill Industrial Estate, Dyce. The base, which spans almost 22,000sq feet, includes offices, classrooms, a storage yard, and workshop space. The company has been in operation in the North-east since 1989, and provides training for young employees in various sectors including welding, fabrication, mechanical engineering, business administration and logistics.

To find out more about ITCA visit www.itca-training.com.

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Jul 142017
 

European beaver (Castor fiber) swimming at dawn, Knapdale Forest, Argyll, Scotland.

With thanks to Chris Aldridge.

A family of beavers found living on a river in the Beauly area in the Scottish Highlands are to be trapped and put into captivity following a decision by Scottish Government Ministers.
Trees for Life, the charity which discovered the group, says the family should either stay where they are or be relocated locally.

Film from camera traps set by the conservation experts from the charity in mid-June clearly show the presence of a mother and at least two young kits swimming and playing with their mum.

Trees for Life shared news of the discovery with Scottish Natural Heritage and made a case to Scottish Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham that the family be allowed to stay.

Alan McDonnell, Conservation Projects Manager at Trees for Life said:

“It is disappointing that government is already starting the process of trapping this family without considering other options. Whilst we understand that the Minister wants to address the concerns of landowners in Tayside, the situation here is very different and we think it is possible to consult and negotiate with landowners in the immediate vicinity of the family and upstream to find an alternative outcome for the animals.”

Beavers have sparked controversy and concern from landowners in parts of Tayside where there is intensive arable farming. In contrast, much of the land neighbouring the newly confirmed beaver home in the Highlands is used for livestock farming.

Alan McDonnell said:

“We think these beavers have been active at this site for at least five years without any local concerns being raised. Which just goes to show that in the right location, beavers and other land use interests can co-exist successfully.”

Richard Hartland, local resident added:

“Many people in the local community have no idea the beavers are there and they’re having very little impact on their surroundings. Why can’t they be left alone?”

Shortly after finding the family, Trees for Life wrote to the Scottish Environment Minister to ask that they be left where they are, or failing that, moved upstream into Glen Affric, above the Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin hydro dam on the basis that they would have minimal impact on land use.

(Beaver photo image. Copyright – Peter Cairns, SCOTLAND: The Big Picture.)

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