Scottish pupils may not be expected to return to the classroom until 11th August, but somehow I managed to end up back at school this week.
The recently launched Scottish Racing Academy, working in association with Borders College and SRUC, is seeking to appoint an Instructor and Assessor for courses in Racehorse Care. And how better to test the skills and knowledge of applicants, than to ask them to deliver a Zoom-based training session to a group of guinea pig students. Having volunteered to be one of those students, I realise that I’d forgotten how pressurised the classroom can be.
The structure of the sessions enabled the interviewees to subvert the traditional interview process and fire questions at the supposed interviewers: “Please take a look at this photograph of a racehorse and name some of the items of tack that you can see it is wearing…” Not since taking my Pony Club D-test have I felt so much pressure and, on this occasion, there wasn’t even a small disc of orange felt to pin behind my Pony Club membership badge as a reward for giving a correct answer.
All of the candidates did their best to put the mock-students at ease, despite the daunting task that they themselves had undertaken – delivering a coherent and engaging presentation to a group of near-strangers, through a video conferencing platform, is not for the light-hearted. Nor is it a skill that we’d normally expect to have been acquired by those at the sharp end of our industry – the jockeys and stable staff who we might assume spend more time looking between the ears of a horse than the screen of a computer.
But that just goes to show how myopic we can be about the talent that exists within our industry. All of the candidates gave presentations which demonstrated a deep knowledge of their subject and oodles of enthusiasm, while most also showed IT expertise that would quickly put many desk-bunnies to shame. It has been an uplifting experience. The selection process has further stages to run, but if the Scottish Racing Academy can harness the passion and expertise which is evidently available, the future of horseracing is in good hands.
The Scottish Racing Academy, which has been supported by the Racing Foundation, aims to provide learner-based training for anyone who would like to acquire the relevant skills needed for employment within our industry, or for anyone working in the industry who wishes to increase their knowledge (there’s a virtual Open Day on 30th July – explore more at scottishracingacademy.co.uk). A new range of SQA qualifications have been developed for delivery through an online platform with practical delivery and assessment in racing yards. The academy’s association with Scottish schools, colleges and racing yards will ensure that northern racehorse trainers have access to the best trained staff.
While the next school term starts in August, the same phase of lockdown relaxation is also set to allow the return of limited crowds at sporting events. In the meantime, Ayr will race behind closed doors on Monday when they become the first Scottish track to stage a fixture since Kelso in mid-March. Our selection for the first race is Summa Peto.
Roll on the next term!