There were many reasons why judges were blown away by the school’s paired reading scheme, but Jackie Killeen, director of the Big Lottery Fund in Scotland summed it up. “The concept of young people helping one another was fantastic. It was carried by young people in a way others weren’t.”
The award was carried off by two young people from the school, 17-year-olds Gillian Adam and Muhid Shahid. They are among senior pupils involved in managing Castlehead’s scheme which brings older learners together with S1 and S2 pupils for voluntary lunchtime reading clubs which have a membership of more than 150.
Other secondaries are looking at replicating the ground-breaking initiative. Having the scheme run by pupils rather than staff has made reading cool and club membership prestigious.
“Some new pupils can hardly read when they arrive, but don’t have the confidence to tell you their name,” Ms Adam explains. “Their confidence grows and some of their reading ages have gone up by two to three years. I didn’t know it was so unusual -- it’s great to win.”
The paired reading scheme was just one of many great examples of partnership and innovation to be rewarded at the Herald Society Awards 2011, presented in alliance with the Big Lottery Fund.
The Education Initiative of the Year Award, sponsored by Thinktastic, was won by an unusual scheme from Aberdeen City Council’s Countryside Ranger Service, which enabled prisoners from HMP Craiginches to gain John Muir Awards for environmental skills, with a view to rehabilitation and eventual employment. Judges said it was a “superb” example of practical prevention work.
The Health Provider of the Year trophy was won by the Scottish Premier League Trust with a weight loss programme which came backed by impressive statistics. Using football to reach men who might not otherwise consider weight loss, the Football Fans in Training programme saw 412 men lose a total of 2.3 tonnes (averaging 5.5 kg each) while the men lost a total of 2400cm from their waists.
The Environmental Initiative of the Year, sponsored by GHA, went to the Upkeep Furniture Initiative, part of Shettleston Housing Association, which supports people in the local community to rescue furniture and materials from landfill, providing cheap goods, training and work experience, while remaining self-sufficient financially.
The award for the Older People’s Project of the Year, sponsored by Improvement Service, attracted a very strong field of entries and many of those shortlisted had a convincing claim. However Mamie Donald, the septuagenarian driving force behind Third Age Computer Fun, was awarded the prize. Ms Donald, of Edinburgh, launched a computer games club for the over-50s, smartly realising that they might want to play online games such as Farmville too, as a way to gain computing confidence for other uses such as communication, shopping for services and hobbies such as photography. “I love the idea of octogenarians playing Grand Theft Auto,” commented one judge.
Winning is becoming a habit for Glasgow Disability Alliance, who took our Equalities Award last year, and defended it against all comers this year. While rival entries were strong, judges admired GDA’s commitment to putting people with disabilities at the forefront of their Drivers for Change campaign to promote independent living and opportunities. “The sheer numbers are impressive, the sheer amount of what they are trying to do,” judges concluded.
Also lobbying are the National Autistic Society Scotland, whose We Exist strategy resulted in the Scottish Parliament considering the passage of an Autism (Scotland) Bill. While the legislation was not ultimately passed, the Scottish Government accepted the need for an autism strategy and backed it with a pledge of £10 million for autism support. It also won them Campaign of the Year.
Another particularly impressive category was the Partnership Award, with entries demonstrating great results from team-ups between housing associations and police, councils and voluntary organisations and even a Gourock company which worked with shea butter producers in Ghana.
It was Grampian Police who edged it, for their Youth Justice Development Programme, which made a real impact through early intervention in the lives of young offenders, bringing in partners from the voluntary sector, local authority, police, courts and the NHS to produce efficiency savings while also delivering significantly better results for young people and the local community.
The Community Project of the Year, sponsored by EVH, was deservedly won by Kirkcudbright Pool, built and run by people from the town. A small staff team is supplemented by volunteers while renewable energies are also helping to ensure the pool is eco-friendly.
Sandy Gemmell, community payback supervisor at North Lanarkshire Council is one of 17 workers with similar duties, but the former regimental warrant officer in the Royal Signals was nominated by colleagues for going above and beyond the call of duty. Judges agreed and awarded him the title of Herald Society Public Service Worker of the Year for his work with former offenders.
The Outstanding Public Service Team Award, sponsored by Unison Scotland, was a vote of confidence in the rebuilt Children’s Services Team at Aberdeen City Council. The council’s team had been previously criticised as “weak” by inspectors who warned that children were being left in risky situations by a dysfunctional service. A two-year reorganisation has turned the department around, with fewer children being taken into residential care and a clean bill of health earlier this year by social work and social care inspectors.
The Big Lottery Fund Scotland also sponsors the Unsung Hero of the Year Award, and in a fitting climax to our awards ceremony it was awarded jointly for the first time ever. Judges were unable to decide between the merits of Gillian Armstrong of the Healthy Valleys project which works in rural South Lanarkshire, and Andy Forrester of Glasgow’s Playbusters. Mrs Armstrong lost her husband last year, which makes her achievement even more impressive, but judges felt that even were it not for her personal loss, her incredible commitment to volunteering to support vulnerable pregnant women to improve their health would have made her a worthy winner. Meanwhile Mr Forrester’s remarkable contribution of 1400 hours of volunteer help in the East End Community project, while in his 70s, was an outstanding example of why older people should never be assumed to be a burden on society.