A postcard from Marischal College as holiday season looms

When the school bells sound tomorrow afternoon it will mark the end of not just the academic year but the start of a well-earned break for many colleagues from all across the Council as we enter holiday season.

It feels like a good time to say thank you to you all for your work over the course of another incredibly busy spell over spring and early summer.

I hope everyone who does have leave booked enjoys the time off and gets the opportunity to recharge the batteries. Of course, many will be working through the holidays and ensuring our services continue to run and those efforts are appreciated.

I’d like to make particular mention of all those involved in the Food and Fun initiative, both within our own teams and our partners Cfine, AFC Community Trust and Sport Aberdeen as well as volunteers from community groups. It is a real team effort.

The end of term is something so many of us look forward to, but for too many families it’s a time that creates added strain.

Food and Fun was introduced by the Council as a pilot to deliver free meals and activities to children in key areas of Aberdeen during school holiday periods and has been rolled out on a permanent basis. Over Christmas, as an extension of the project, special events were hosted for young people to enjoy the festivities – from ice skating and crafts to a disco and visit to Santa.

For everyone involved in Food and Fun there’s a busy period ahead, with a six-week summer holiday programme beginning on Monday. The main aim is to ensure children continue to be fed, recognising the importance of school meals during term time for a large number of families, and also to provide the opportunity to take part in physical activity in a nurturing environment.

The initiative has been recognised with awards – but the reward and motivation for the many people who have put their heart and soul into developing the programme is in the positive impact there is on children, families and communities.

When we talk about our purpose – about caring for our city and our people – I think Food and Fun is a shining example that we can all be incredibly proud of.

On the theme of the school holidays, for thousands of our young people the weeks ahead will also bring SQA results day. Once again, can I thank the teachers and school staff who guided pupils through the exams. Having served as a revision buddy for my son in the run-up to the exams, I know the hard work that has gone in on all sides and now the countdown to the big day is on.

There will be students who exceed their expectations and others who may not get the grades they hoped for – whatever the outcome, it’s reassuring to know that the same support that was so evident before the exams will be there from our school staff next month.

I had the pleasure of attending an awards ceremony at Orchard Brae School today with Steven Shaw and our Council Gardener Daniel Shand as various prizes were presented by our environmental team to recognise the contribution of pupils to a range of projects including Clean Up Aberdeen. It was a privilege to join pupils for the celebration. I am always bowled over by the warmth of the welcome at Orchard Brae and there were lots of proud pupils and staff as the achievements were recognised.

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As you may be aware, it has been a difficult week for the school following the publication of a report by Education Scotland which highlighted several areas for improvement. A robust action plan is in place to address those issues and it has been heartening to see the way in which the school community and staff have come together with a focus on realising the ambitions we all hold for the school and pupils.

The determination to improve and ensure the best possible outcomes for all of the children we serve must never change and that applies to every school, nursery and educational setting in the city. Working to make things better and taking pride in that progress is embedded in the guiding principles and that is happening every day.

The Council and our arms length organisations have had lots of positive recognition in recent weeks, with Sport Aberdeen named as the winner in the Enterprising Communities category at the Elevator Awards last week.

Sport Aberdeen’s commitment to inspiring positive change in the communities it serves was praised, along with the inclusive approach to changing lives through sport and physical activity.

As a Council that is an ethos we have embraced in a number of different ways, including through bringing the Tour Series cycling – and next the Tour of Britain – to the north-east. The Tour Series was named Best Public Sector event at the events industry’s E Awards last month, the second major accolade this year for the City Growth team’s work on the Tour Series. Congratulations to everyone involved.

The Great Aberdeen Run is another example of the scale of event that has been attracted to the city and the countdown is on to this year’s date. We have free places available for Council staff keen to take part in this year’s run, on August 25, and further details can be found here. Good luck to everyone who is in training – and if you haven’t already, there’s still time to sign-up.

Whether you intend to spend the summer putting in the miles in preparation for the run or putting your feet up for some rest and relaxation, best wishes to everyone for the holiday period.