Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards 2015 – the winners revealed

Forget the Golden Globes, the Oscars and the National Television Awards… BAFTA? Scmafta! The only awards we’re interested in at Verner Wheelock are those concerned with the safety of the food we eat. So it is with great pride that we are able to reveal the winners of the very first Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards.

But first a little background…

The Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards were conceived early last year to coincide with our 25 year anniversary. Over the years we’ve had the privilege of working with hundreds of food and drink manufacturers, caterers and packaging companies of all sizes, as well as individuals. Most of our delegates have really embraced the culture of food safety in all its forms and have shown genuine interest and understanding. What’s more several students have gone on to achieve excellent examination results resulting in winning national awards – Verner Wheelock Delegates have won 5 RSPH Awards in the past 3 years.

How we selected the winners

Throughout the past twelve months our course tutors have been making a note of those students they felt were outstanding. This did not necessarily mean that they gained the highest examination results; other factors were also considered such as overcoming adversity, passion for the subject and a desire to interact with fellow delegates and get the most out of the training experience. A shortlist was drawn up after the final course had run in December and we then had the unenviable task of selecting the winners in each category.

There are five categories in the Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards: Auditing Student of the Year , HACCP Student of the Year, Food Safety Student of the Year, Individual Excellence Award and Company Excellence Award.

And the winners are…

Helen Keast


Auditing Student of the Year:

Helen Keast, Raw Materials Manager, Bakkavor Desserts

Emily Claydon


HACCP Student of the Year:

Emily Claydon, QA Graduate, Taylor’s of Harrogate


Joanna Core


Food Safety Student of the Year:

Joanna Core, QA Manager, New Ivory

Helen, Joanna and Emily were selected because each has demonstrated an exceptionally high level of competence and understanding during advanced level training in their respective subjects. The practical application of the skills they have obtained should have made a significant impact on the day-to-day operations of their companies. This aptitude in HACCP, Food Safety and Auditing Skills were reflected in their outstanding examination results. All received distinctions.

Individual Excellence Award:

William Ptolomey, Technical Manager, Sykes House Farm

The criteria for the Individual Excellence Award was as follows:

“The individual will have shown genuine enthusiasm and interest in the training provided. He/she may have overcome challenges to achieve their qualification and might not necessarily have attained the highest mark in the examination. However they will have an obvious passion for developing and maintaining a HACCP and food safety culture within their company and will have participated fully in the interactive elements of the training, sharing their knowledge and training with fellow delegates.”

Sykes House crop

The tutors agreed unanimously that William was the obvious choice for this Award. He has undertaken several training courses with Verner Wheelock, including Level 4 HACCP, which he found challenging but by putting the hard work in he achieved this advanced level qualification. What made him stand out is the fact that he always participates in course discussions, even if the conversation does not directly relate to his area of expertise. William is also keen to see training filtered down through his company. In the words of one tutor “A real joy to teach.”

Company Excellence Award:

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Symington’s Ltd

The recipient of the Company Excellence Award demonstrated a commitment to a culture of continuous improvement in food safety throughout their organisation. They have a structured approach to training to ensure that staff, from new starters to management, have an understanding of Food Safety, HACCP and Auditing Skills at an appropriate level to their role. Delegates from the company have undertaken a variety of different training with Verner Wheelock to enable them to undertake their jobs to the best of their ability, contribute to their company and progress their careers within the food industry.

Verner Wheelock MD, Alison Wheelock said,

“We chose Symington’s for the Award because the delegates get involved in the training and put in lots of effort. They genuinely want to learn and put their knowledge into practice in the workplace. Symington’s have a long history of training with Verner Wheelock and delegates have attended a variety of courses with us including HACCP, Food Safety and Auditing. As a result we understand their business requirements and we work very well together. The delegates’ hard work is reflected in their excellent examination results and national awards.”

Will you win a Verner Wheelock Excellence Award next year?

If you attend Verner Wheelock courses in 2016 you have every chance of being an award winner next year. Our tutors are already on the lookout for delegates showing real promise, so fingers crossed!

You can find details of all our current courses here.

Level 4 Food Safety Delegate Wins Award

Verner Wheelock has an exceptional track record in Level 4 Food Safety. In three out of the past four years, delegates we have trained have achieved the highest examination marks in the UK and received a coveted award from the RSPH.

In 2011, it was won by Wayne Bonadie, at the time with Dairycrest. In 2013 two delegates from Verner Wheelock were Level 4 Food Safety prizewinners – Peter Smith of QSDA and Lianne Davis of Symington’s. (Verner Wheelock delegate Helen Kearney of Nature’s Best also scooped the Level 4 HACCP award that year).

A double-whammy for Symington’s

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The award for 2014 went to Lianne’s colleague at Symington’s, Sarah Jolly-Hart, who is a Technical Manager at the company’s largest site in Leeds. She collected the award at the annual RSPH conference in October this year.

Sarah says of the training: “I was Quality Manager at a smaller Symington’s site and I’ve actually been promoted over the last two years to be a Technical Manager at the largest site within the company.  The most useful aspect of this qualification for me was the microbiology side. The training gave me a better understanding of microbiological requirements, which I’ve been able to integrate into my HACCP plan.

As a Technical Manager my main role is to provide safe food for the consumers and make sure we are compliant with all retailers Codes of Practice and also any food industry standards that we have to work to. This qualification has helped me in my career and in my workplace.”

Why take Level 4 Food Safety training?

Managers, like Sarah, have ultimate responsibility for ensuring that the food or drink leaving their premises is safe for consumption.  It is therefore important that they have a detailed understanding of the latest information relating to food safety theory and practice. As the most advanced qualification, Level 4 Food Safety is the ultimate training programme in this area.

Once you have completed it and passed the examination, you will have the appropriate knowledge and understanding of food safety to develop and implement food safety management systems within your organisation, including:

  • How to ensure compliance with relevant food safety legislation
  • The operational requirements needed to ensure food safety
  • How to establish food safety management procedures
  • The controls required for food safety
  • How to maintain food safety management procedures

There are six distinct sections, covering the causes and effects of food poisoning and food-borne illness; different types of hazards i.e. physical, chemical and microbiological contamination and cross contamination; methods of eliminating or mitigating food safety hazards; HACCP; current legislation and the application of the principles of food safety from a management perspective.

Become a qualified trainer yourself

As with all our other courses, we make the training sessions as relevant and interactive as possible. It is an intensive 5 day course, so to ensure delegates receive the best possible tuition, we use three different trainers, each with their own area of expertise.

What’s more, if you pass your Level 4 Food Safety examination and also take our Training the Trainer course (leading to the CIEH Level 3 Award in Training – Principles and Practice) you can become a qualified trainer in Food Safety.

Dates for 2016

If you’d like to improve your knowledge and further your career,  or perhaps like the idea of becoming a trainer yourself why not book on our Level 4 Food safety course. Just fill out the booking form on our website, or give Karen or Claire a call on 01756 700802.

Who knows? You might just win the RSPH Award for 2016!

Getting the most out of HACCP training

To keep ahead of the game, it’s always good to check out what’s happening in the trade press and keep up to date with the latest legislation. We also talk to our customers about what issues they are facing and how we can help them.

It’s all about ensuring that we’re providing the best training possible for our delegates. So in our opinion, here are a few pitfalls/pointers that can either improve or mar a customer’s experience of a training course.

Keep non-course specific information as brief as possible

Just to give an example, I attended a course recently (not food related) and the tutor spent 20 minutes telling us all where the safety exits and toilets were and the importance of filling in our answer sheets – something that could have been covered in less than five. The less time spent on this, the more time spent on learning….

Training session

Remember why people are attending the course

Several trainers can fall into the trap of giving too much background information. Yes, it might be interesting and, indeed, a little background information can be useful to set the scene, but don’t waste half of a one-day course going into the history of a subject.

When delegates go on a HACCP course they want to understand what a critical control point is, how to identify it, how to prevent contamination and how to develop their own HACCP plan. So for background for a HACCP course, the simple (and interesting) statement that ‘HACCP was developed for NASA’ should suffice. Then you can get down to the nitty gritty of what it actually is and how to apply it to your own production facility.

Give them examples – but make sure they’re relevant

A good trainer will do research on the company/companies where his delegates work. He’ll also have worked (as all our trainers have) within the food industry itself. This gives him first-hand experience of the challenges facing his trainees. It also means that when he’s providing examples he can ensure that they resonate with his audience. Plus it makes the information easier to understand and specific to the delegate’s own experience of work.

Another point to note is that in the UK we have our own legislation relating to food safety, so make sure that this is covered. Don’t (like one course we attended) give endless examples of what’s happening in the USA under the FSDA. You also need to make sure that any information relating to guidance or regulations is up-to-date.

Encourage questions and interaction

Giving people the chance to ask questions throughout the course and encouraging them to take part in group exercises will enable them to derive greater benefit from the course.  They’ll also swap ideas, advice and experiences with other delegates which they can take away to their own workplace.

Provide printed material

Every delegate on a Verner Wheelock course is provided with a course binder containing printouts of the PowerPoint presentation they are watching. This way they can jot notes alongside, rather than trying to copy down everything on the screen before it disappears.

Stick to the syllabus and give regular recaps

Delegates on Level 3 and 4 courses are required to take and pass an examination in order to receive their certificate. The trainer needs to ensure that she has covered all aspects of the syllabus in the allotted time and also given pointers on how to answer certain types of examination questions.  We’re proud to have an excellent pass rate in examinations. In fact last year our delegates collected 50% of the available RSPH Awards, meaning that they achieved the highest examination marks in the UK!

Get customer feedback

We always ask for feedback at the end of our courses. Not only do we like to be able to pass on positive comments to our trainers, we also want to find out if there is anything that can be improved. If there is a particular area that customers would like to provide more focus on this sometimes leads to the development of a specialist course – like our TACCP course for instance.

For information on all our current courses, please visit If you’re already a trainer and want a few tips on how to be more effective, why not consider our Trainer Skills Refresher course?

SMETA Foundation Workshop – 15th September, Peterborough


Why participate in a SMETA Foundation Workshop?

The purpose of this SMETA Foundation Workshop is to familiarise participants with the:

  • SMETA Best Practice Guidance
  • Measurement Criteria
  • Report and CAPR

and to inform participants on how the Sedex resources can support the SMETA audit.

It will not be teaching participants how to conduct a social audit and for this reason, participants must pre-qualify for the workshop with proof of some social auditing experience.

Course Summary
This 1-day interactive workshop is designed to give an understanding of SMETA audit methodology and will benefit those auditors who require refresher training or who are new to SMETA methodology including in-house auditors. It is also designed for staff working in Social Compliance, Ethical Trade or Technical roles who wish to improve their knowledge of SMETA methodology.

Entry Requirements
No formal entry requirements. However, the workshop is not intended to replace any formal training in social auditing skills and therefore candidates must pre-qualify for the workshop with proof of social auditing knowledge or awareness.

The specific objectives of the Foundation Workshop are:
• Develop a foundation knowledge of the materials and guidelines needed to conduct a SMETA audit.
• Increase awareness of the specific requirements of the SMETA audit methodology.
• Practice completing a SMETA audit report and CAPR.

Your course fee includes:
• Course Binder and Notes
• Lunch and Refreshments
• SEDEX Certificate of Attendance

Course Tutor
The course tutor is Wendy Ingrey, a practicing and experienced social auditor who is licensed by Sedex to deliver the SMETA Methodology Foundation Workshop.  Wendy is an independent auditor and is one of the team that carries out audits on behalf of Verner Wheelock.

COST: £475 + VAT
LOCATION: Peterborough, UK
NEXT COURSE DATE: Tues Sep 15 2015 – 9.15 am – 5.00 pm

Contact Graham or Carole on 01756 700802 or email for further details or to book.