Warm tributes to a true stalwart of Aberdeen education

We all I am sure have memories of particular teachers who have touched our lives and made a lasting impact.

In the case of Charlie Crow, that positive influence spanned generations.

The news of Charlie’s passing last week was met with great sadness throughout the city – but with wonderful warmth from those who remember not only an excellent teacher but a fantastic role model.

Charlie was honoured in 2017 by Aberdeen City Council for 50 years service to education in the city  and only retired this year from supply teaching. In that notable career he was a popular teacher at Powis Academy and, for 30 years, Harlaw Academy.

The wave of tributes were front page news last week and have poured in from all over the city and across the world.

David Innes, Head Teacher at Harlaw Academy, knew Charlie well and I know he and his staff have been deeply affected by the loss – but uplifted by the lovely memories that have been shared.

David passed on the following note, which paints a picture of the response:

On hearing the news the school posted a tweet saying “All at Harlaw Academy wish to express our deepest condolences to his family.  It will be a devastating loss, Charlie was a genuine and selfless character who enriched the lives of thousands of people in our community”.

Within minutes someone came back to say “He taught my dad at Powis, then my brother and myself at Harlaw.  His passion was unrivalled and his classes were entertaining and interesting”.  These sentiments will be echoed in many parts of Aberdeen by people who will have a real connection to Charlie. 

He had a genuine interest in people and a deep desire to help others.  Pupils and parents knew they could go to him, be listened to and get support.  He was held in very high regard both as a subject teacher and as a guidance teacher. 

He ran discos both in the school and for good causes in the local community and he got involved in other aspects of life beyond the classroom all to provide youngsters with enjoyment and opportunities they may not otherwise have had.

A colleague who worked with him said “Charlie always put people at the centre of what he did. Pupils knew he was doing things for them. He thrived in seeing the potential in young people and was excited about this future for them”.

He had an optimistic outlook on life and was optimistic for the people he worked with.  There will be many people who will feel they would not have got to where they are today had it not been for the confidence Charlie had shown in them and the support he was prepared to give to them.

We feel a very deep sense of loss but hope his family draw comfort from knowing the very real difference he made to so many people and the positive impact he has had in the community.

Those lovely words from David and those that have come from family, friends, former pupils and everyone who encountered Charlie go some way to expressing the legacy of a lifetime devoted to helping pupils fulfil their potential.

On behalf of Aberdeen City Council, my condolences go to Charlie’s family and to the many people who have been touched by the terribly sad news.

Aberdeen takes centre stage in awards season

You would be forgiven for thinking October is a quieter month with the school holidays bringing leave for many colleagues – but it has been one of the busiest periods I can remember when it comes to well-deserved recognition for staff and teams throughout the Council.

The most recent came at the weekend when Aberdeen was crowned best city in the RHS Britain in Bloom awards, having collected a Gold Medal and won the Growing Communities award for partnership work with schools and communities.

It’s fitting for Steven Shaw and his incredibly dedicated team, not to mention the volunteer groups they work so closely with all over Aberdeen to keep the city’s greenspaces and displays in pristine condition, that their efforts have once again been rewarded by judges. It’s a massive achievement for Aberdeen and one we can all take great pride in.

Karen Gellatly from Steven’s team was also a finalist in the horticulture apprentice of the year category at the APSE awards, which took place in Nottingham earlier in the month.

It was fantastic for Karen to reach the shortlist, with Aberdeen also represented by the facilities team in the Best Service Team in FM and Building Cleaning category. It’s the third consecutive year that Rose Turner and her team have been on the big stage, winning in 2016, and that’s a real feat given the number of organisations involved in the APSEs.

Closer to home, at Aberdeen’s Sports Awards there was more success to celebrate as the Food and Fun programme – providing free meals and activities for children in key areas during school holidays – was named Community Sports Project of the Year. Congratulations to the Council teams who have been driving this initiative and to the partners who have supported a great collaboration to make a real difference to the lives of young people.

The spotlight will continue to shine on the Council in November at the Tenant Participation Advisory Service awards, with Aberdeen shortlisted for three different awards: Tenant of the Year (Pearl Smart); Tenant Group of the Year (Powis Tenant and Resident Group); Best Practice in Reporting Performance Award.

There’s also the opportunity for a fourth award through our involvement in North East Tenants and Landlords Together, which is nominated in the Involving Customers in Services category. There has already been great recognition for the hard work being done by officers and tenants and this is another endorsement of the approach.

The annual Quality Improvement Awards also take place in November and we are finalists in two categories – Top Team and Excellence for QI in Early Years. Having been shortlisted last year, it’s another fantastic achievement for Sacha Will and the team.

Congratulations to all who have represented Aberdeen City Council so well and good luck to everyone involved in the forthcoming awards.

Building digital leadership throughout the Council

Following on from my recent post on the roll-out of Office 365, the latest step on the Council’s digital journey brought managers from across our functions together for a valuable event with a focus on digital leadership.

The session was designed to provide food for thought as we continue to build the Council of the future and complements work that’s being done by Chief Officers across every function and cluster to shine a light on opportunities to embrace the art of the possible.

My thanks go to the recently formed digital design team for their hard work and energy in hosting this event and others on the same theme in recent weeks.

With guests from the University of Aberdeen and input from other specialists from inside and outside the organisation, everything from Artificial Intelligence, big data and automation to smart technology that could help us tell when a particular street or stretch of pavement needs treated in winter weather was covered.

Digitalisation is already improving service for our customers and helping us to work more efficiently – but we’ve only just scratched the surface.

The roll-out of end to end online application forms, for example, is something we are able to get on and do now, but the really interesting and exciting applications of technology are several levels above that.

Most haven’t been invented yet. Some are incredibly complex. The best ideas are likely to be very simple.

If 20 years ago someone had said you would be able to carry your entire music collection around in your pocket or order supermarket shopping while sitting on a bus, you would have raised an eyebrow. Music streaming, online shopping and all the other advances smart technology has brought are just part of life now and we want to harness the local government equivalents of these complex but simple solutions to make life better for residents, businesses and staff.

All of us are on a very steep learning curve but I’ve been really encouraged by the positivity I’ve seen. The pace is already building and I’m keen to see that ramp up even further.

Our digital future will be shaped by the ideas and creativity of our workforce and the beauty is there are opportunities in every part of the business to contribute. If you haven’t been involved already, I’m sure you soon will be.

The taster session that took place for managers in recent weeks came with an ask that the knowledge and information that is building in the Council is shared, discussed and used as a catalyst for digital innovation.

Wherever you work and in whatever your role, give thought to how technology can make a difference to the customers you serve and to you and your colleagues as you go about your duties.