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It’s probably the best-kept secret at Verner Wheelock – but only because she wanted it that way…. Whilst we were all feeling sorry for ourselves because we couldn’t go out for a drink or see our friends and family during lockdown, a much-loved member of our team had far more serious things to worry about. Sam Day, our Ethical Audit Co-ordinator had breast cancer.

The news came as a huge shock to everybody, including Sam herself. But in true Sam fashion, she just got on with it. She barely missed a day’s work, donning an assortment of headscarves as she began to lose her lovely glossy hair. We didn’t hear her complain, even though there were times when she was tired, in pain and dealing with the day-to-day of being a busy working mum to twins.

Sam’s next challenge

Sam has shown incredible strength and been an absolute trouper throughout. Now that she has completed her treatment, she is taking on another challenge – a gruelling 5-day trek along the Rob Roy Way in the Scottish Highlands for the charity CoppaFeel. CoppaFeel’s goal is to give everybody the best possible chance of surviving breast cancer by raising awareness and getting the message out there to check your breasts (or pecs if you’re male).

We would love it if you could help Sam to reach her fundraising target of £2,250 before the end of July. If you would like to donate, please visit Sam’s fundraising page https://coppafeel.enthuse.com/pf/sam-day-03f2c

Thank you so much! Sam’s story is below

Sam’s story – in her own words

Samantha Day

About me

I am a 37 year old northern lass and mum to 7 year-old twins. I would describe myself as a family girl who loves a boogie. My go-to drink would be a cup of Yorkshire Tea but I do love a glass of rose wine.    

In April of 2020, during the first lockdown, I found a lump under my right armpit whilst playing with the kids. It felt tight and once I noticed that, I felt around and felt the second lump at the top of my right breast.  I was 36 at the time and didn’t really think much of it, but knew it was best to get it checked. 

Because of Covid I had to make a telephone appointment with a GP. She was lovely and referred me straight away for a mammogram. The following week, I had an ultrasound and a mammogram which showed the lumps and a biopsy was taken from each one. I was told there was a possibility it could be cancer but I would have to wait until the results came back, so an appointment was made for the following week.

My diagnosis

The following Monday my mum came with me to my appointment where I was told I had stage 2, grade 3 triple negative breast cancer. This meant that the cancer had spread to a number of lymph nodes under my arm, but I would need a full CT Scan to make sure it hadn’t spread any further. Thankfully it hadn’t! The next week was a whirlwind of appointments to prepare me for treatment, including a CT Scan, X-ray, the fitting of a picc line and a number of blood tests – one to check if I had the BRCA gene (inherited) which came back negative. I was just unlucky.

Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is considered an aggressive type of cancer because it grows quickly. It’s more likely to have spread at the time it’s found and is more likely to come back after treatment than other types of breast cancer. If not caught early, the outlook is generally not as good as it is for other types of breast cancer.

Stage 2 TNBC –  Around 90 out of 100 women (around 90%) will survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

My treatment

My first chemo started the week after my diagnosis on the 5th May, 2.5 weeks since I found my lump. I was to have 6 sessions of chemotherapy which would be given through a picc line and I had to visit the hospital every week to get my picc line flushed and have bloods taken. The prospect of losing my hair was hard so I tried the cool cap which is a procedure which reduces blood flow to the scalp, which in turn reduced the amount of chemo from reaching that area. Unfortunately it didn’t work for me and I was losing a lot of hair daily, so in the end I asked my partner to shave it off. Losing my hair was probably the hardest part of it all.

Chemo finished on the 18th August and I was booked in to have my operation in September. As the chemotherapy had been effective and shrunk my cancer I was able to keep my boob and just have the remaining cancer and lymph nodes removed.

Radiotherapy started in November and I had to go to hospital every day (Mon-Fri) for 4 weeks but was finished in time for Christmas and the start of a new year!

My experience

Overall, I remained positive throughout my treatment. As we were all shielding due to Covid, I didn’t want my children to be affected by what I was going through. Yes, I had a couple of wobbles and didn’t feel 100% for a couple of days after chemo, but I continued to work and tried to carry on as normal. Losing my hair was tough and my daughter found it hard to see me without my hair. Thankfully, it started to grow back quickly and she was able to see the mummy she recognised again.

Having a great support network around me helped massively. My partner, my family, my work family and close friends were all amazing!

The challenge

Sam's CoppaFeel challenge

I wanted to do a challenge before the 1st anniversary of my final radiotherapy on 15th December 2020 – The day I rang the bell! So when my sister told me about CoppaFeel’s ‘Come Fly with Gi’ challenge, I thought why not?! I want a challenge that will push me and to prove to myself that I am over cancer and the treatment so I can put it behind me and move on both physically and mentally.

A group of us (80-100) will be trekking the Scottish highlands over 5 days and camping out at a base camp away from it all.

It will be tough and some days we will be walking up to 9 hours, others we will be hiking up a 1500m ascent.

The charity

CoppaFeel was founded in 2009 by Kristin Hallenga and her twin sister Maren after Kristin was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer at the age of 23! Secondary breast cancer is when the primary breast cancer has spread to other parts of your body which can be treated but can not be cured.  CoppaFeel’s goal is to give everybody the best possible chance of surviving breast cancer by raising awareness and getting the message out there to check your boobs with step by step guidance on how to check, what to look out for and also with monthly reminders to cop a feel!  

My plea

I didn’t check my boobs regularly and found the lump by total coincidence as it felt tight one day when I lifted my arm up high. I am so thankful I got it checked, as if I had left it much longer the outcome could have been much more different. I want to help raise awareness and money for a charity with such an important message! Cancer doesn’t discriminate and we are all vulnerable so let’s stop it early and help save lives!

If you can spare a couple of pounds to donate then that would be amazing!

We’re really pleased to announce another accolade to add to our collection of awards and accreditations. We have recently achieved Accredited Learning Provider status from the Learning & Performance Institute (LPI). The accreditation signifies that we are committed to continual performance improvement and offer our clients the highest levels of quality and service.

LPI Accredited Learning Provider

The LPI assessed us on 8 different aspects of our business: Sales and Marketing, Business Integrity, Client Value Proposition, Delivery Capability, Quality and Performance Management, Service Development Roadmap, People Development and Business Stability.

Verner Wheelock’s Managing Director, Alison Wheelock, said, “The LPI accreditation is great news, and it demonstrates the whole team’s dedication to providing the very best training and customer service to our clients. I think it helps that we also have an ISO 9001 certificated Quality Management System which monitors customer feedback and satisfaction.”

LPI Essential Online Delivery Skills

Five staff members, including Alison, have also completed and passed the LPI’s Essential Online Delivery Skills course. “As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic we have been delivering more and more courses remotely, so we wanted to ensure that the training remains as engaging as being in the classroom,” said Alison. “This course gave us some really good ideas for different ways of increasing online interactivity and keeping the training fresh. Our focus for this year is to ensure that our course materials are updated and optimised for remote delivery, and the LPI accreditation has given us a framework to work within.”

At Verner Wheelock we offer face-to-face, remote and in-house training at all levels in food safety, HACCP and auditing, together with specialist courses such as Managing Food Allergens, Legal Labelling and Ethical Trading Workshops. We are also welcoming back delegates to our Covid-19 safe training centre in Skipton, North Yorkshire.

For more information, please visit www.vwa.co.uk

Sedex Virtual Assessments (SVA)

Verner Wheelock Sedex Virtual Assessment SVA

We are very pleased to announce that Verner Wheelock has been approved to undertake Sedex Virtual Assessments (SVA).

To achieve this status we had to demonstrate that we had the appropriate competencies, technology and infrastructure to enable the virtual assessments to take place.

Just in case you are unfamiliar with SVAs, we’ve put together a set of questions and answers below. These should give you a better idea of how they work and when they can be used.

What is a Sedex Virtual Assessment (SVA)?

Put simply, a Sedex Virtual Assessment checks the performance of a site based on the SMETA methodology. Instead of an ethical auditor visiting the site in person, the assessment takes place via video conferencing. Documentation is sent through electronically for review.

Does an SVA replace a SMETA audit?

No. SVAs do not replace a full SMETA audit. If you have an SVA you may still be required to have a full audit at a later date. However, they are a useful interim assessment if you are due a full audit, but it cannot take place. Reasons for this could include lockdown due to a pandemic, or a remote site location. A virtual assessment can also be used for a follow-up audit in some circumstances.

How does an SVA differ from a normal SMETA audit?

Firstly, it is all conducted virtually over the internet. A week before the audit an online pre-assessment meeting will take place to test technology and provide an overview of the format of the assessment. Secondly the assessment needs to be carried out on an ‘announced’ basis so that we can ensure that all the relevant technologies are working on the day. We will require a full site map and much of the documentation to be sent to us prior to the assessment. There will also be the facility to upload supporting documents e.g. wages and working hours information, to a shared portal during the assessment.

Will you still be undertaking worker interviews?

Yes. As with a regular audit, worker interviews will form an essential element of the assessment. These must take place as group interviews via video conferencing, but if this is not possible, we will use direct worker engagement. As always, workers’ identities will remain confidential.  A suitable room and a freestanding laptop with a camera and microphone will need to be provided.

Can any site have an SVA?

The short answer is ‘no.’ First of all, your buyers have to agree to it. Any site wishing to undergo an SVA will then be subject to Site Suitability Checks. You need to ensure that you have suitable reliable technology in place. This means a good, stable Wi-Fi network with secondary back-up. You will also need a fully charged smartphone or tablet connected to a reliable mobile network. The smartphone or tablet must have a powerful camera (8 megapixels or higher) capable of recording detail as it will be used to ‘walk’ the assessor around the site. A site must commit to providing all requested documentation including a detailed site map.

The history of the site and any open non-conformances will also need to be taken into consideration. Companies who have a previous history of coaching employees, attempted bribery or lack of transparency in their operations will not be permitted an SVA.

How does it work?

The structure of an SVA is similar to an ethical audit and is based on the SMETA methodology. Once the request for an assessment has been made and your site has met the suitability criteria, the scope of the assessment is agreed. You will then be allocated an assessment date.

On the day there is an opening meeting with the auditor and the audit team/management, as normal, and then a virtual tour of the site is live streamed via smartphone or tablet. Just like on a regular ethical audit, the auditor will be asking questions throughout and will be requesting supporting documentation. This can be uploaded to a secure shared portal. Worker interviews will take place via video conferencing. Once all the interviews have taken place and the auditor has all the information they require, the closing meeting can take place. The auditor will then write the report and it will be uploaded to the Sedex platform.

For more information on Sedex Virtual Assessments or SMETA ethical audits, please contact Samantha Day on 01756 700802 or samantha.day@vwa.co.uk

five things about VWA in-house courses

If you have 5 or more staff to train, an in-house course can be the most cost-effective way to do it.

‘In-house’ means that only staff from your company will attend the training course. This is in contrast to our open courses where delegates from several different companies attend the same course.

We offer all our HACCP, Food Safety, Auditing and Specialist courses as in-house courses. As always, they are delivered by trainers with considerable experience of working within the food industry.

5 facts about our in-house courses

5 things about VWA in-house courses

Not used Zoom or Microsoft teams before?

Don’t worry, we will be happy to take you through how to connect and the different functions you can use before the course takes place. Just give us a call or drop us an email beforehand and we can set up a practice session.

Feedback from recent remote courses

We have had extremely positive feedback to our remote courses. Here are a few recent testimonials:

“This was the first training course I’ve completed using Zoom. It was better than I expected and almost as good as face to face training.”

“Excellent trainer, patient, knowledgeable and fun. Even via Zoom there was a great team vibe and connection to the trainer.”

“Very captivating and knowledgeable – didn’t lose focus whilst listening, even though the course was run virtually.”

“Once again an excellent service from the VWA team. The tutor did a great job delivering online. It is a new way of working for everyone but worked well. The course was well structured and tutor knowledge excellent.”

“Training, even during the difficult period of COVID restrictions and limitations was managed in the best possible way. Materials were pre-selected and delivered prior to Day 1 of the class.
The pack was nicely organised, segregated and was super easy to navigate during the sessions. Course had plenty of the group and individual exercises. Each workshop was refreshed following morning with the time to ask the questions. I would recommend the course to anyone that is looking for upskilling session as well as to experienced individuals.”

Find out more about in-house courses

To enquire about in-house courses, please call Claire Lennon on 01756 700802 or email claire.lennon@vwa.co.uk

Verner Wheelock in-house or open courses

In the good old days before Covid-19, we at Verner Wheelock offered just two types of course. ‘Open’ or ‘In-house.’

Open courses

Open courses are so-called because they are open to anyone. Delegates from several different companies all attend the same course. So, you might have a Technical Manager from one company on the same course as a Quality Manager from another. It’s a great opportunity to share experience and ideas and relate the course content to different processes at the same time as learning.

Verner Wheelock Training Room

Open course dates are scheduled for specific dates and appear on our Training Calendar and on the Verner Wheelock website. The fees are paid for each individual attending a course.

In-house courses

In-house courses are attended only by people from the same company and normally take place ‘in-house’ i.e. at the company’s own premises. They are most cost-effective if you have five or more staff to train. These are charged on a ‘per course’ basis and there are two pricing tiers: up to seven delegates; and up to fifteen delegates (or twelve if it’s an advanced level course.)

Unlike open courses, you choose the dates that are convenient for the training to take place, and we organise it all at your chosen venue.

Remote training

remote food industry training

With social distancing and travel restrictions due to Covid-19, we have adapted our offering so that courses can be delivered remotely via Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Delegates booked on to remote courses click on a link that is sent to them and they attend a live instructor-led training session with one of our trainers. They can join the training from wherever they happen to be – at work or at home – so long as they have a computer, laptop or tablet with internet connection and audio. 

All the content of a classroom-based course is included in a remote training course, to ensure the usual syllabus is covered

Dual delivery open courses

We are able to provide dual delivery of our open courses, so you can choose to attend either in person at our training centre, or remotely.

Due to social distancing restrictions, we can only accept up to six people at Skipton, so places are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. Please be assured that we have carried out a Covid-19 risk assessment and taken the necessary precautions to make your visit as safe as possible.

In-house courses can be delivered remotely too

When you book an in-house course with us, we will ask whether you want the training to take place on site, or remotely. If you opt for remote training, your staff do not need to be in the same room. If they are working from home, they can log in from there. Otherwise, if they are at work, they can log in from their desk or any other room.

Course materials

Everyone attending one of our courses will receive a course folder and handouts (plus a text book for Level 3 and Level 4 Food Safety courses) sent to their home or place of work.

Open courses – If you are attending an open course in Skipton these will be ready and waiting for you when you arrive. If you are attending an open course remotely, you will be sent the course materials via courier a few days before the course begins.

In-house courses – For face-to-face in-house courses, we will deliver all course materials to site. However, if the course is being delivered remotely, there is also the option to have the course materials delivered to home addresses. Our Training Support Team will organise this for you.


We can arrange for exams to be taken with remote invigilation to avoid unnecessary travel.

We hope that this article has helped to clarify the different training options. You can find more information about our open and in-house training on the main website.

The team look forward to seeing you on one of our HACCP, Food Safety, Auditing or Specialist courses very soon.

Verner Wheelock Excellence Award Winners

The Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards

We might have been in lockdown and in and out of tiers last year, but the pandemic didn’t prevent us from delivering their training courses to the food industry or providing ethical audit services. It certainly didn’t stop us from presenting our annual Excellence Awards last week.

The Verner Wheelock Excellence Awards were introduced in 2015 to coincide with our 25th anniversary and comprise six categories. These are: HACCP Student of the Year, Auditing Student of the Year, Food Safety Student of the Year, Individual Excellence, Company Excellence and Ethical Excellence.

And the winners are…

  • HACCP Student of the Year 2020
    Sarah Eames, Group Technical Manager at World Wise Foods
  • Food Safety Student of the Year 2020
    Michelle Teape, Technical Compliance Auditor at Müller Milk & Ingredients
  • Auditing Student of the Year 2020
    Sue Nock, Technical Systems Manager at Saputo Dairies UK
  • Individual Excellence
    Helen Harris, Training Co-ordinator at Pladis Global
  • Company Excellence
    Pilgrim’s UK
  • Ethical Excellence
    Berry Gardens

Normally, the Awards are presented in person at the recipients’ premises, but this year they took place virtually via a Zoom conference call.

“This year has certainly been different,” said MD, Alison Wheelock, “but we were determined to continue to provide our customers with the training and audits they need and to recognise outstanding delegates and customers through our Excellence Awards.”

Awards criteria

The HACCP, Auditing and Food Safety awards are given to delegates who have shown a genuine interest, understanding and flair for their subject. They have engaged and interacted well with the course trainer and other delegates and demonstrated excellent knowledge through impressive examination results.

VWA HACCP Award Winner

“Verner Wheelock and our trainer, Julie, did a fantastic job”

Sarah Eames, World Wise Foods

Sarah Eames, recipient of the HACCP award said, “It was a lovely surprise to hear that I’d won the HACCP student of the year award!  When we scheduled the training course last April, I wasn’t too sure how well it would work – we were all remote (including two of my team based in Bangkok!) and we had both level 3 HACCP and level 4 HACCP students in the same classes.  Verner Wheelock and our trainer Julie did a fantastic job of tailoring the course appropriately and we all thoroughly enjoyed having some time together as a team whilst completing some of our training needs.  Thank you!”

Sue Nock attended a Verner Wheelock FDQ Lead Auditor course last year. As part of the course, the delegates perform a mock audit of Verner Wheelock’s Quality Management System (QMS). The entire course and audit was delivered remotely and Sue’s natural auditing style really impressed the Verner Wheelock team. She said, “I was absolutely thrilled and surprised to be awarded Auditing Student of the year.  It was a privilege to be nominated and to be recognised for the hard work.  I found the delivery of the course to be inclusive, interesting and thoroughly enjoyable especially in the current climate.”

An exception to the rule

All previous Individual Excellence award winners have been course delegates. However, this year the decision was made to present the award to Helen Harris, Training Co-ordinator at Pladis UK’s Ashby de la Zouch site, who had been outstanding in her efficiency throughout the year.

Helen said, “I am truly honoured to have won this award. I have been in this role nearly four years and have been working with Verner Wheelock during that time. I have always found the Verner Wheelock team extremely professional, helpful, accommodating and a truly lovely, friendly bunch of people to work with.

I have to organise training for approximately 80 people from 11 different sites, so co-ordinating this many people can prove challenging, but between myself and the Verner Wheelock team we have always seemed to manage it.  2020 was obviously a different year for everyone and Verner Wheelock stepped up to the mark once again and helped me arrange remote training for team members that needed it.” 

Michelle Teape of Müller Milk & Ingredients was thrilled to receive her Food Safety Award.The skills I have are testament to the development I have received within Müller, and the encouragement I have received from colleagues on a daily basis,” she said. “I would like to especially thank the Müller Milk & Ingredients technical team for supporting my progression and the excellent training given by Verner Wheelock.”

Ethical Excellence

Andy York, Responsible Sourcing Manager of Pilgrim’s UK, the largest pig farming business in the UK, summed up the feelings of many on news of his Company Award, saying, “Thank you so much, it’s so nice to have some positive news for a change!” Pilgrim’s are an ethical auditing client of Verner Wheelock who are committed to ensuring that audits take place and the continuous improvement of environments and workplaces for their workers.

Lizzy Nuttall VWA Award Winner

“It’s lovely to receive news like this, in all this misery”

Lizzy Nuttall, Berry Gardens

Lizzy Nuttall of Berry Gardens, another of Verner Wheelock’s ethical audit customers, echoed his sentiments. “It’s lovely to receive news like this, in all this misery,” said Lizzy.

Berry Gardens, the UK’s leading berry and stone fruit production and marketing group, has won this year’s Ethical Excellence Award. Lizzy said, “This award demonstrates the work that has gone into improving our management and post audit follow up of ethical auditing internally. Also the work that our growers have put in to all aspects of worker welfare on their farms, as seen by the reduction in numbers of non-conformances raised in ethical audits in recent years. This can also be demonstrated by the positive feedback received from growers with regards to the way the whole process is managed.

We have worked with Verner Wheelock for a number of years and over that time, the relationship has improved greatly. They are our first point of contact for queries on matters relating to worker welfare. The team understands our business and the challenges presented by ethical auditing for our growers. They are willing to adapt and communicate fully with us when issues arise which may affect our ability to complete audits and also follow ups within the timescales we would like. The auditors that visit our farms are understanding of the issues our growers face, and this has been particularly evident in 2020 with the restrictions and concerns that our growers have had regarding on farm physical audits.

Verner Wheelock also have a good relationship with retailers which gives us confidence that issues we are facing are communicated to the right people, therefore aiding resolutions where they might be required.”

Staying strong in 2021

We are committed to providing high quality training and ethical audits for the food industry, even during Covid-19. Our courses are offered face-to-face (subject to social distancing requirements) and remotely and cover all levels of HACCP, Auditing and Food Safety as well as specialist courses such as Legal Labelling and Managing Food Allergens. Live SMETA audits are also going ahead wherever possible.

More information can be found at www.vwa.co.uk