FERA-funded short courses, January - March 2011

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DanBee 

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As part of the FERA Healthy Bees Project, a number of short courses have been written and are being delivered by holders of the National Diploma in Beekeeping. These are aimed at those who are teaching or mentoring other beekeepers. Each course aims to improve specific practical skills that can then be disseminated to others.

The courses are being held in a number of regional centres - Devon, Kent, and Cheshire - to make them accessible. The cost is heavily subsidised by FERA but there is a contribution of £45 required for each student attending. The BBKA & WBKA are encouraging local Associations to meet this cost as this training will directly benefit their members in the long term.

This information is being circulated through the usual routes, but as you'll see some of the courses start in early January and newsletter publication dates, snail mail, etc. might be too late for the early ones.

Five courses have been developed so far, with more to be available after March. The five courses are:
  • Microscopy
  • Nutrition & Pollen
  • Adult Bee Diseases
  • Teaching Beekeepers
  • Successful wintering
All have been written by seasoned and experienced beekeepers who are experts in their subject matter, and will be delivered by them across the country.

Full course details, application form and contact details can be downloaded here.
 

wojciech 

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Access to courses

As part of the FERA Healthy Bees Project, a number of short courses have been written and are being delivered by holders of the National Diploma in Beekeeping. These are aimed at those who are teaching or mentoring other beekeepers. Each course aims to improve specific practical skills that can then be disseminated to others.

The courses are being held in a number of regional centres - Devon, Kent, and Cheshire - to make them accessible. The cost is heavily subsidised by FERA but there is a contribution of £45 required for each student attending. The BBKA & WBKA are encouraging local Associations to meet this cost as this training will directly benefit their members in the long term.

This information is being circulated through the usual routes, but as you'll see some of the courses start in early January and newsletter publication dates, snail mail, etc. might be too late for the early ones.

Five courses have been developed so far, with more to be available after March. The five courses are:
  • Microscopy
  • Nutrition & Pollen
  • Adult Bee Diseases
  • Teaching Beekeepers
  • Successful wintering
All have been written by seasoned and experienced beekeepers who are experts in their subject matter, and will be delivered by them across the country.

Full course details, application form and contact details can be downloaded here.

I made repeated contact by email and phone to the co-ordinator of this programme of training, being told that the course that I was interested in was originally postponed and that I would be advised when it was re-instituted. I was even offered a place on another course a considerable distance from my home which I accepted but confirmation failed to arrive. Eventually, when I spoke with his wife shortly after a previous conversation when I was promised contact when the course was re-instituted I learnt that the course had just taken place. I sent an email expressing my disappoimtment which again did not merit the courtesy of an acknowledgement let alone any attempt at redress.

I feel that this programme has been organised totally incompetently at best.
 

DanBee 

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Wojciech - sorry to hear of your experience. The student feedback forms did rank the pre-course admin as 'average', so clearly some improvement was needed. One particular bottleneck was the need to meet Fera's requirement that attendees should be willing and able to teach the subject matter locally after attending the courses, which when combined with the huge popularity resulted in a lot of additional contact and admin overhead.

The courses will be advertised shortly to restart in the autumn, and an online booking system and a more comprehensive student application form will be put in place to ease the admin side.

In the broader picture, 147 students from England and Wales attended courses on 14 dates between January and March at 4 regional centres. The general feedback was overwhelmingly positive, particularly for standard of teaching, content, relevance, and value for money.
 

wojciech 

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Dan,

Thank you for your courteous and considered reply.

I think that you noticed that I'm rather cross about my experience. I did make clear to your father that as secretary of the Training and Education Committee of Lincs BKA I am involved in promoting beekeeper education - an initiative which has resulted in an increase in Beginners courses from 1 to 7. I wanted to do the intensive Teaching course as I will be leading some courses in future. If he felt that I was not a priority for a place he should have stated this rather than keeping me waiting to hear when the course was to be re-instated.

When I last spoke with your father, he mentioned that it was disappointing that applicants from all over the country were placed at the courses held at Wragby for lack of local applicants, even while he was offering me a place at Tarvin, a distance of over 200 miles (which was not confirmed by him). In fact, in discussing the programme with colleagues on my committee, I was told of several people who applied for the local courses and were offered places at the other end of the country.

In summary, I think that the programme should be announced well in advance, perhaps more places should be provided and an effort should be made to place people at courses local to where they live.
 

Adam 

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Wojciech,

As I understood it, due to difficulties with the late funding, and the involvement of the BBKA (as NDB didn't exist as a legal entity) all the funding, authorisations came through extremely last minute, and in fact the NDB are to be congratulated on managing anything within the timescales given essentially their hands were tied behind their back and blindfolded by the bureaucracy.

I realise it sounds like you couldn't have been more pro-active, and obviously missed out on this occasion but from what I understood, behind the scenes was a tremendous amount of hard work, and hopefully you'll get to attend when the courses are re-run.

Have you considered requesting they repeat a course for your local club - I thought I'd heard a club in Northern England somewhere asking to have Graham Royles course repeated for their own members.

Adam
 

DanBee 

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Adam - You are correct regarding lead times etc.; what was achieved in a short space of time was remarkable. Thanks for your comments.

Wojciech - the only course advertised or run at Wragby to my knowledge was one on Adult Bee Diseases; Teaching Beekeepers was never offered there, but did run at three other locations, including Tarvin (Cheshire) as you say. I do not know why you were not selected, nor am I able to investigate - that is for you to resolve directly with the course organiser if it is still a source of frustration.

The response to the courses adverts was underwhelming, to say the least, from some areas of the country. The short timescales meant that advertising had to be performed with the cooperation of BKA's, cascading to their members, since publishing lead times prevented advertisements in the printed journals and major newsletters. In some areas/counties this worked well, however I do know of some areas that literally sat on the adverts for a month for reasons that were never fully explained, despite being made aware of the 6 week lead time between the adverts being issued and the first courses running.

I shall be posting the autumn course adverts on here as soon as the details are circulated. As Adam has mentioned, where there is appetite courses can be delivered. Wragby is a good teaching venue and Th**nes are very hospitable, but it needs to be supported by demand from local candidates. Please consider applying for the teaching course when it is re-advertised and do what you can to encourage further demand locally.
 

psafloyd 

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The response to the courses adverts was underwhelming, to say the least, from some areas of the country. The short timescales meant that advertising had to be performed with the cooperation of BKA's, cascading to their members, since publishing lead times prevented advertisements in the printed journals and major newsletters. In some areas/counties this worked well, however I do know of some areas that literally sat on the adverts for a month for reasons that were never fully explained, despite being made aware of the 6 week lead time between the adverts being issued and the first courses running.
You can hardly blame the BKAs, who in many cases of short lead times would communicate this via their newsletters (monthly, usually, I'd have thought)' or at a meeting (again monthly).

Six weeks is not a sufficient lead time for a nationwide training programme. It was organiised with insufficient time to meet the deadlines of the major journals, and so, to subsequently blame BKAs is indicative of pi** poor administration of the first water.

I only hope whoever was organising this learns from their mistakes and prevents this being repeated in the future.
 

wojciech 

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Hmmm, Adams and Dans explanations of the difficulties in responding to funding available at short notice was very reminiscent of similar situations that I encountered during 30 plus years in Local Government so I have some sympathy with them. Remind me - why did I go for early retirement ?

I just hope that the opportunity of being able to plan ahead this year will mean that a repetition of the programme can be delivered smoothly.

At the risk of getting bogged down in detail Dan, perhaps you might like to check the timetable of courses, including 15-16/1 at Wragby as in the attached document :
 

DanBee 

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You can hardly blame the BKAs, who in many cases of short lead times would communicate this via their newsletters (monthly, usually, I'd have thought)' or at a meeting (again monthly).

Six weeks is not a sufficient lead time for a nationwide training programme. It was organiised with insufficient time to meet the deadlines of the major journals, and so, to subsequently blame BKAs is indicative of pi** poor administration of the first water.

I only hope whoever was organising this learns from their mistakes and prevents this being repeated in the future.
Entirely unfair criticism. The funding was signed off at the end of November; 5 separate courses had been written from scratch and almost 150 students had been trained on 14 course dates across the UK by the end of March. I'd like to see you achieve that before criticising what others have done!

The fact that county BKA's sat on the advert for a month is pertinent. Why were they so reticent about publicising something that could only benefit their members? When I realised what had happened, I simply looked up their branch secretaries on their websites and emailed them directly, asking them to cascade to their members. The flurry of applications from those areas confirmed that the subsequent cascade worked.
 
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DanBee 

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Hmmm, Adams and Dans explanations of the difficulties in responding to funding available at short notice was very reminiscent of similar situations that I encountered during 30 plus years in Local Government so I have some sympathy with them.
Thank you.

At the risk of getting bogged down in detail Dan, perhaps you might like to check the timetable of courses, including 15-16/1 at Wragby as in the attached document :
The 15/16 Jan Wragby Teaching course never happened, due to poor uptake.
 
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psafloyd 

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Entirely unfair criticism. The funding was signed off at the end of November; 5 separate courses had been written from scratch and almost 150 students had been trained on 14 course dates across the UK by the end of March. I'd like to see you achieve that before criticising what others have done!

The fact that BKA's sat on the advert for a month is pertinent. Why were they so reticent about publicising something that could only benefit their members?
Wind your neck in, DanBee. I am not criticising the work done, but your own complaint. My point is that you cannot blame the BKAs for what is poor planning.

If the funding was signed off, there was almost two months to ensure any notifications were in for the first newletters of the year, certainly for the main journals. Apparently, this was not achieved, for whatever reason. Ideally, notification would have been out before Christmas, so that those interested might plan to attend. There is no need for anything more than an indicative course at this time, and can be fleshed out in time.

How do you know the BKAs sat on it for a month? Are you aware of all their lead-times? it is easy to blame others for one's failings, and I am not even sure these are yours, but you have already said it was a great success, so why the bleating?

If I were involved in that, I would try and find out if there was any blockage from the BKAs and see how that might be prevented in the future. After all, BKAs are run by well meaning individuals who don't do it for a living nor are they skilled in disseminating information.

By the way, that kind of thing is my job and I certainly wouldn't have left the publicity for my event up to a handful of groups that focus on many different issues rather than the primary organs of information.
 

DanBee 

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psafloyd - not bleating, explaining. I think it only fair to answer the complaints because there were problems with admin, however you'll note I've only expanded on the reasons and context in response to further questions.

I know the information was sat on because I was puzzled that some 'obvious candidates' hadn't applied. I phoned them, only to find out that they had heard nothing.

You need to wind your own neck in - from the tone of your contribution it seems you've dropped in merely to criticise from the comfort of your armchair. Sometimes, just like our bees, we have to make the best out of an imperfect situation :)

As I said earlier, the feedback from those who attended was overwhelmingly positive, and the courses will be repeated later in the year with more advance notice and better administration. I'd be interesting in your feedback on the courses themselves if you attend.
 

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You're rather defensive about this, DanBee, but I haven't criticised the courses, but the obvious deficiencies in administration that meant you had insuffuicient time to publicise your courses.

Even if we accept the BKAs did inded 'sit' on your information, there may be good reason. They are there to protect the interests of their members, not to operate as a conduit for you, so perhaps they discussed it at committee.

Yes, I am doing this from the comfort of my armchiar, but as said, I am not criticising, but defending a group that cannot defend itself as it is not represented here, except loosely by some local BKA members being present who are also committee members. I am not one, by the way.

It should be remembered that local BKAs are administered on a part time (and, admittedly, often a half-arsed) fashion, but that aside, your lead-times were inadequate as who would easily be able to commit to a weekend event such s this, so soon after Christmas, particularly if travel was required?

So well done for being a success, but stop blaming others for any failings they are not responsible for.
 

oliver90owner 

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Is this the one who spouted loudly on the 'imported bees' thread?

If so, I am not sure how he is no longer on my ignore list.

I remembered posting this on that thread and it seems it might be appropriate here, too.

You are obviously missing the thrust of the posting, OR are trying to deflect serious comment. I can see you would like the topic moved far away.

Seems to be a fairly consistant line from this poster.

Now back to return him to my ignore list.
 

DanBee 

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RAB - thanks for your constructive comments; I admire the way you deal with differing opinions to your own.

psafloyd - I think you've got the wrong end of the stick. Do you think that I have been advertising these courses as a commercial activity, operated to make a profit? They are run by the National Diploma in Beekeeping Board, which is run by beekeepers as a not-for profit educational organisation. The course costs were deliberately pitched to cover only delivery costs, as I'm sure you'd see if you compared the costs with two days of work-related training from a commercial organisation.

Whilst you are quick to brand as incompetent persons and processes that you are not familiar with, you are quick to defend the BKA's who represent their members' interests. The NDB board is just such an organisation, comprising volunteers who are trying to improve the standard of beekeeping through training others. They are those same people who are active within their local BKA's, not some strange 'other' breed of beekeepers.

Yes, I have already acknowledged that there were problems with the admin process. Wojciech has highlighted this and I have sympathy for his frustration. I had also noted that the admin and advertising would be different for the next iteration. That was all covered before you waded in with your verdict, which I did not find constructive. True, a commercial organisation would have pitched the advertising very differently, with greater lead-times, but also with a significant advertising budget to be recouped through increased costs to students. Sometimes the situation is not perfect; the alternative to working against short lead times would have been to postpone to the autumn. With financial years and budgets being what they are, the Fera funding would not have been held over and the nearly 150 students who did attend would have been denied that.

Could I suggest you book yourself onto one of these course when next they are running and add your feedback here after you have experienced what is being delivered?
 
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psafloyd 

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RAB - thanks for your constructive comments; I admire the way you deal with differing opinions to your own.

psafloyd - I think you've got the wrong end of the stick. Do you think that I have been advertising these courses as a commercial activity, operated to make a profit? They are run by the National Diploma in Beekeeping Board, which is run by beekeepers as a not-for profit educational organisation. The course costs were deliberately pitched to cover only delivery costs, as I'm sure you'd see if you compared the costs with two days of work-related training from a commercial organisation.

Whilst you are quick to brand as incompetent persons and processes that you are not familiar with, you are quick to defend the BKA's who represent their members' interests. The NDB board is just such an organisation, comprising volunteers who are trying to improve the standard of beekeeping through training others. They are those same people who are active within their local BKA's, not some strange 'other' breed of beekeepers.

Yes, I have already acknowledged that there were problems with the admin process. Wojciech has highlighted this and I have sympathy for his frustration. I had also noted that the admin and advertising would be different for the next iteration. That was all covered before you waded in with your verdict, which I did not find constructive. True, a commercial organisation would have pitched the advertising very differently, with greater lead-times, but also with a significant advertising budget to be recouped through increased costs to students. Sometimes the situation is not perfect; the alternative to working against short lead times would have been to postpone to the autumn. With financial years and budgets being what they are, the Fera funding would not have been held over and the nearly 150 students who did attend would have been denied that.

Could I suggest you book yourself onto one of these course when next they are running and add your feedback here after you have experienced what is being delivered?
DanBee,

I did not believe you were running these courses commercially, but that you were somehow involved in the planning, hence your defensiveness.

I understand the problem about funding, but my point remains that if the lead-time is compressed due to the funding being unavailable, that is not the fault of anyone but the administrators.

Later.
 

Adam 

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I understand the problem about funding, but my point remains that if the lead-time is compressed due to the funding being unavailable, that is not the fault of anyone but the administrators.

Later.
And the funding came from? DEFRA, and as someone already pointed out, local government is renouned for it's dynamic and pro-active decision making, giving plenty of notice and wouldn't ever require everything to be completed by the end of the finanical year end would they? <cough>

Local clubs do regularly circulate relevent information by email. Waiting for a month for it to hit a newsletter was always going to cause a problem. Most clubs have an "emergency email list", which covers at least a fair percentage of the club. I enacted ours for some hives in an out-apiary that were reported to being damaged by a woodpecker, reported to the club by a dog walker. The email went out and the beekeeper made it the same day with protective netting. I know plenty of clubs that can get such an email out short-notice, even if it went to a club education officer, or the chairman, they probably could have rung some interested people.

Adam
 

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In defence of Local Government / NDB ?



I referrred to my experience of local government because since the Thatcher years central government has, while cutting funding to local government, made small grants for specific purposes that in many cases ran counter to the normal practices of councils. For example they gave money with the requirement that it should be passed an to voluntary groups to provide services for which they had no expertise. Often such grants were sprung onto county councils halfway through the financial year, say October, with the proviso that the money should be spent by the end of the financial year ie April, which resulted in a mad rush to start a service as required. This was not entirely due to local government processes but rather a difficult interface with central government.

I was sympathetic to Adams' and Dans' explanations for the late announcement of the courses held from Jan to March because I imagine that the funding came from FERA at short notice to a voluntary organisation that was not geared to providing them because this is typical of how funding from central govt ministries comes. Not conducive to a good and efficient service but maybe it hits somebody's target somewhere.

In our destrict we had 12 days notice of the first course. Notice was sent out by the district sec on 3/1, the same day that it was sent out by the county sec. The original message was sent out by Bill Cadmore, our regional BBKA training advisor on 23/12 so it is understandable that the county sec did'nt act on it until the New Year. It is not clear when Bill Cadmore had received his information and why it was only sent at Christmas time.
 

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