Good News Stories
- Meeting of Education and Children's Services Committee, Thursday, 24th March, 2016 2.00 pm (Item 1.)
The Convener and Vice Convener advised the Committee as to a number of good news stories as follows –
- Middleton Park School
Middleton Park School had received an unprecedented excellent in 11 out of 12 quality indicators, which determined the success in meeting the Curriculum for Excellence. The school had been hailed as one of the best in the country after its pioneering Head Teacher, Jenny Watson, transformed its curriculum for the modern age. Outdoor learning, multi-media courses and film-making were all part of the curriculum for youngsters at Middleton Park School.
The Head Teacher had been praised for her forward-thinking approach to education and for putting technology and creativity at the heart of the school's vision for learning. Innovative initiatives such as 'Live Learning' saw pupils create feature films and animations using the latest digital technology. One feature in particular – Macbeth in Mandarin - was shared with their partner school in China last week.
The report released was a testament to the leadership and vision of Jenny Watson and also showed that not only were pupils striving academically – but confirmed how well-adjusted, confident and happy the children were. The emotional well-being of pupils in schools was as important as their academic achievements – and this glowing report reflected that. The education of young people remained a top priority and the Council was committed to delivering and replicating the outstanding work being done at Middleton Park School across the city.
- Hazlehead Academy
Hazlehead Academy was the first secondary school in the city to have been awarded Cycle Friendly Secondary School status. The Cycle Friendly School Award rewarded secondary schools, teachers and volunteers who were committed to increasing cycling to, from and around schools.
By enabling young people to cycle to school in a safe manner with proper equipment this encouraged them to be active and aware of their own health and fitness. Cycling was a fantastic mode of transport which also helped to reduce traffic congestion on the roads and decreased the carbon emissions count.
To achieve the award, schools had to show commitment to cycling by providing facilities such as bicycle parking, changing facilities and Bikeability Scotland cycle training. Hazlehead Academy implemented measures such as creating a school travel plan, including creating safe routes to school from each of the Academy's four feeder primary schools. In addition, S3 pupils had taken part in the Go Mountain Bike programme, with the help of Adventure Aberdeen, while safe cycle parking was put in place, including a special cycle rack commemorating the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
- Greenbrae School Extension
On 19 February 2015 myself, the Vice convener and the Convener of Finance Policy and Resources, along with local Councillors, attended the turf cutting for the £5 million pound extension at Greenbrae School, Bridge of Don. The extended school would provide 330 more places for primary pupils as well as offering an additional 80 nursery places.
The ground floor of the extension would include classrooms, a games hall, a medical room and dining facilities. A library and new toilets for both pupils and staff would also be created. The first floor would also consist of classrooms, an outdoor classroom as well as another medical room.
- Stoneywood School
Following public consultations, a detailed planning application had been officially submitted to the Council for the £13 million Stoneywood School. Designed by architectural firm Scott Brownrigg, the new facility would be constructed on the grounds of the former Bankhead Academy.
- Riverbank School – a UNICEF Right’s Respecting School
Riverbank School had its second Level 2 RRSA reaccreditation assessment last week. Level 2 of the Rights Respecting Schools Award was the highest level a school could achieve. A school that achieved Level 2 had fully embedded the principles of the Convention into its ethos and curriculum. Schools had also to be able to show how they would maintain these rights-based values and principles.
To achieve accreditation, the school self-evaluated progress and when they believed they had met the four RRSA standards and criteria at Level 2, an external assessment took place. The Unicef UK representative would then write a report. At Level 2, a committee of experts (including Head Teachers and Unicef UK staff) decided whether to grant a Level 2 Award.
It was a very positive assessment, and the assessment team were recommending that the award was given. If approved by the Assessment Standards Committee at Unicef. Riverbank would be the only school in Scotland, and indeed the UK to be awarded Level 2 three times. Congratulations to Riverbank School on this achievement.
- Children’s Services
A new £3million overhaul of social work services, which would cut down on red tape and allow staff to spend more time with families, was launched on Monday 29 February.
Aberdeen City Council was the first local authority in Scotland to fully implement the Reclaiming Social Work model, which was aimed at reducing the number of children in care and delivering more positive outcomes for children and families across the city.
The service, which had about 440 staff and 1,880 clients, had required a significant restructure, moving from a traditional team system with individual social workers, managed by a team manager to small units with a small number of staff working with a number of children and families. The adoption of the small unit meant that there were no families dependent on the service provided by just one practitioner.
There was a huge desire within the service to improve on what was already there and since we put our city’s children and young people high on our list of priorities, we were more than willing to invest the money to make this work here in Aberdeen.
Council staff had undergone additional training as part of the ongoing transformation of the service, with further sessions planned this year. In addition, staff engagement was a huge big part of the process and started right at the beginning. Officers ensured that communication was at the top or their agenda with regular staff events and briefings.
A reorganisation of this scale could be a risk, as staff continued to run a statutory social work service, whilst implementing a whole new structure. Ensuring no children and families suffered disruption or risk had been crucial, but what had shone threw was the commitment, agility and sheer professionalism of staff. It was anticipated that the new system could increase the amount of time spent by social workers directly with families and children by two or three times.
Aberdeen City health and social care workers, had been highly commended in a national awards scheme for their prompt evacuation of almost 100 care home residents during January's floods. The Aberdeen City Council team involved in the evacuations from the Grandholm, Persley and Woodside care homes won the accolade in the Scottish Association of Social Workers national awards. The team was competing in the 'Best Example of Collaborative Working in an Integrated Setting' category and received the commendation at a gala dinner in Edinburgh in March 2016.
City health and social care staff were called into action on 7 January 2016 in the wake of warnings from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) that a flood surge was heading down the River Don towards Aberdeen following a week's record-breaking rainfall. Council officials quickly realised that the three care homes were in the path of the surge and at severe risk of inundation and power cuts and of being cut off by the rising water.
The pre-prepared emergency plan swung into action. An emergency was declared as soon as the level of risk became evident – and the huge task of evacuating scores of care home residents then began as darkness gathered and road conditions worsened in the driving rain.
The care homes had only limited numbers of staff with which to manage the situation and so the City Council deployed all available social work staff and care managers to help co-ordinate the evacuations. Flooded roads forced some staff to abandon their cars and walk to the sites to give assistance.
The social work and community health teams worked in close collaboration with SEPA, the emergency services from Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue, and staff from Bon Accord Care to co-ordinate their emergency response, which involved some 85 older residents in the three homes. Transport was mustered to help with the evacuations, including taxis and minibuses. The massive exercise involved moving not just the care home residents but also in many cases their specialised beds, hoists and other personalised equipment.
All available bed spaces in care homes across the city were used to re-house most of the residents for the night. But that left 21 people still to be evacuated, who were accommodated in a mothballed hospital ward which was rapidly re-opened and comfortably fitted out.
The effort lasted from early evening into the small hours of the following morning – and was later described by the Scottish Government as "unprecedented" in Scotland in its scale and efficiency.
The floods receded after stopping just short of the three properties, and the entire evacuation was then put into reverse through the following day to ensure all the residents were transported back to the familiar surroundings of their own homes. Simultaneously, the same group of managers also began co-ordinating further potential evacuations from communities in the west of the city, included vulnerable people in their own homes, following warnings that the River Dee could burst its banks.
This was a hugely complicated exercise, undertaken at very short notice and in extremely difficult conditions. Despite the complexity of the task, no older people were injured or adversely affected. The whole city should be proud of what our staff achieved. They showed great bravery, sensitivity and dedication to duty. They were a credit to Aberdeen and to their profession.
- Team Zariba to Team GB
A local Ice Skating Team was set to represent their country at a prestigious competition in Hungary. Team Zariba of Aberdeen Synchronised Ice Skating Club, had been called up to represent Great Britain at the World Synchronised Skating Championships in Budapest, 6 – 9 April 2016.
This came after a highly successful season for the squad, who were based at the Linx Ice Arena, as they clinched the Scottish, Welsh and British Championships. Governing body, NISA (National Ice Skating Association) unanimously agreed that the Aberdeen team should represent Great Britain at the competition which would host some of the world’s best Synchronised Skating Teams.
Planning was well underway for the team as they prepared for the big competition and continued their search for sponsorship. The standard of the upcoming competition meant weeks of intense preparation and practice for Zariba and Sport Aberdeen were quick to offer their congratulations and assistance by arranging more time on the ice for the club.
It was refreshing to hear of a team who were so focused and committed to their sport that they had managed to shine not only in national competitions but also across the UK and now on a global scale. All involved were not only fantastic ambassadors for their country but also for Sport Aberdeen and Aberdeen City. Good luck to Team Zariba as they go forward in the competition.
Tens of thousands turned out to see world-class art installations illuminate Aberdeen in February 2016. The city centre became a playground full of swirling lights, playful art, ghostly illuminations and magical exhibitions of digital innovation.
SPECTRA – Aberdeen's Festival of Lights – attracted just over 35,000 people, a dramatic rise on the previous year when visitor numbers reached 10,000. Friends and families braved sleet and snow over that weekend to experience stunning visuals and play with the more creative digital pieces.
The festival had grown significantly in size and stature since its inception in 2014 and this year, the festival moved from just one site to four key locations around the city centre. Visitors followed a trail to view installations at Marischal College, Union Terrace Gardens, Seventeen on Belmont Street and St Nicholas Kirkyard – taking in much of Aberdeen's historic architecture.
Many of the 20 original works were created by artists who had displayed in Scotland for the first time in celebration of the 2016 Scottish Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.
This year, SPECTRA proved to be a cutting-edge festival which had linked culture, science and history together. Both interactive and inspiring, the festival had led the way in showcasing the best of what Aberdeen had to offer as a cultural destination. SPECTRA certainly created a real buzz in the city, with those who attended having nothing but praise for the event.
Thereafter, Councillor Hutchison advised that Colin Lemmon, Northfield Academy’s Youth Work Development officer, had won a 2016 National Youth Worker of the Year Award for “Supporting the Curriculum for Excellence and Attainment” at the annual Youth Link Scotland Awards Ceremony, held at the Crown Plaza in Glasgow.