A 6 Nations Blog 2022

It has been a while since the last blog, maybe nothing much has been worth scrummaging for between the posts. The winds of change are once again blowing across the arb pitch carrying substantial change to one of our qualifications. The final whistle has been blown on the Level 6 Certificate and Diploma in Arboriculture by the awarding body much to our dismay. The trainer was on the pitch to ABC Awards, now renamed Skills and Education Group (SEG) Awards, for a lengthy period however, the casualty was carried off with life changing injuries and will never play again.

In my opinion, a great penalty has been handed down by the awarding body to the profession of arboriculture by the withdrawal of the Level 6. The qualification in all its guises has been at the top of the game, man of the match and a winner for all the years that it has been available which is approximately sixty-two. To lose it, is a tragedy for the profession. I’d like to take this opportunity to sing the praises of all those that have been involved in its handling throughout those years; without them, I and many others may not have had the career that we have had. Applause required for all those that have contributed to making it a great qualification. The most recent format (Government introduced) of it has undoubtedly been a great test for candidates and centres alike – well done to all those candidates that have and will make it over the line.  

However, great news is that a debutant is going to be available although wearing slightly different colours. It can’t come on immediately as an approval process in order for it to play has to be sought. This process is underway in the back row, and we have got a real shove on to get across the approval game line ready for a September 2022 kick off. A huddle and a ruck have been had by the Tree Life experts and the content of the new programme and tactics for assessment drafted.

Tree Life will be celebrating 25 years of existence this year and the forwards of the company are proud to announce that we alone will be able to offer the new programme for Arboricultural Consultants and Tree Officers with a new title. The new programme will be at a Strategic level in Urban Tree Management. The referee and governing body will still be SEG Awards which provides governance and accreditation for the programme. Certificates will be awarded jointly between Tree Life and SEG Awards.

Ideas for the conversion to the new programme have been passed between us here at Tree Life with employability firmly in the front row to ensure every aspect of the new programme is applicable to employment as an Arboricultural Consultant or Tree Officer. The new programme is competency based which means not just gaining knowledge, but successful candidates will know how to use that knowledge and new skills in real work situations.

We are hopeful of an approval decision by the end of March at which time we will be able to provide details of the contents for you to maul over. The new programme required a new game plan, although the rules of play will be very similar to the current qualification. However, 8 units have become 4 components reflecting different playing areas of tree management. The new components will cover strategic management, advanced knowledge, diagnostic work and research, focusing on today’s needs of a professional arboriculturist having to manage tree stock in an increasingly sustainable way for the future.

For those candidates already engaged on the Level 6 with us, don’t despair you are not on the side-lines or being given a red card, SEG Awards have assured us that you have until July 2025 to complete before full time is up. Beyond that date there will be no over-time, no more shirt to pull on, no grounds on which to work and no game.

The Tree Life coaching staff and support staff will continue to provide excellent service from the training ground and changing room for all that we offer old and new.

Tree Life staff are very happy to try to answer any questions you might have regarding the changes so that any confusion can be kicked in to touch promptly.

That’s it – the whistle has blown on full time.

Dave Dowson

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Pruning with Le Sueur in 1949

Time of Pruning by A. D. C. Le Sueur 1949

“The usual period for pruning is carried out between the months of October and March when the circulation of sap is at a minimum or has ceased altogether. But with most trees pruning can be carried out safely at all times of the year except, perhaps, from April to June in the case of young trees and others in which excessive ‘bleeding’ takes place. As regards the danger to the tree this appears to be somewhat overrated. Beech wounds on trees of about 30 years in age, cut in May have bled for days without ill effect and, in fact, the wounds healed* faster than others made in winter.

Summer pruning seems to check the new growth to some extent, when dealing with street and other trees requiring frequent pruning. This is perhaps and advantage. The presence of leaves however, is apt to make the operation rather more difficult. Winter pruning, preferably on mild days, is quite sound practice, although it is realised nowadays that as healing* takes place more quickly during the growing season, pruning during the period April to September has certain advantages.”

Today, healing as a term has been replaced by occlusion of a wound.

The real advantage of summer pruning is that tree defences are active and the spores of fungal pathogens less abundant than in Autumn or winter

David Dowson

Pruning a fruit tree with pruning shears

Image: Pruning a fruit tree, via Adobe Stock.

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Le Sueur on Old Trees

A.D.C. Le Sueur, a former Superintendent of Burnham Beeches, revised his first edition of The Care and Repair of Ornamental Trees in 1949, which included a chapter on the preservation of very old trees. The following are some of the conclusions that he came to 71 years ago.

“In old trees as time goes-by they gradually die down-wards towards the trunk.

A low-crowned short tree will last longer than a tall one.

Extensive prunings must be done very cautiously, as old trees do not shoot in the same way as younger ones.

Extensive excavation to clear rotten wood from a trunk cavity is not recommend in all cases.

Using shelter/wind breaks is very important in protecting old trees from wind damage.

Where damage is expected it can be prevented by bracing.

The practice of draining hollows by boring a hole through the trunk to act as a permanent escape pipe is, for very obvious reasons, not recommended.

The removal of large branches from old trees should be done with the greatest caution.

The fertilizing of very old trees should be avoided as far as possible or done with the greatest of caution. Artificials with heavy nitrogen should never be used.”

Of course, the other side of the recommendations that also appear in the chapter advocate the use of the following:

“Water must not be allowed to lodge anywhere in the tree, a free run off must be made even if it means cutting away healthy wood.

Plastic bitumen can be used as a coating, cement used to fill a cavity, holes can be blocked by wedging creosoted timber in them and filling with cement, branches with a hollow cavity can be dealt with by ramming a sack soaked in tar or creosote and wedging in position with creosoted wood.

Water cups found in beech must be drained off or emptied and filled up with a creosote wash and concrete.”

Together we mustn’t let these old observations by dedicated men go unheard or unseen. Le Sueur counted tree rings from wind-blown trees and found the age of Burnham Beeches to be little more than 350 years old which today makes them approximately 420 years old. Worth a visit to see them, I’d say!

David Dowson


1890s sepia image of Burnham Beeches

Image: 1890s view of Burnham Beeches, public domain, via http://www.flickr.com/photos/whatsthatpicture/2516948396

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Tree Roots and Oxygen

This is a small extract from a book written in 1934 entitled The Care and Repair of Ornamental Trees. The author A.D.C. Le Sueur was the Superintendent of Burnham Beeches, a member of H.M Forestry Commission’s Advisory Committee for S.E. England and a member of The Executive Committee of the Royal Forestry Society of England and Wales.

“The root system of a tree needs air just as much as the leaves. This fact is not generally well recognised. Tree roots consume oxygen and give off carbon dioxide, and if the air supply is checked, growth will be seriously affected. A supply of oxygen is also required by the micro-organisms which break down mineral and organic matter to a condition in which they can be used by the root system.

Interference with air supply can take place in various ways. The piling of soil over roots is a common cause of death, especially if clay is used. Apart from the supply of oxygen a lack of free air circulation results in accumulation of carbon dioxide given off by the roots, and if this is heavily concentrated the roots may die. Displacement of air with water, faulty soil texture and the blanketing action of well-trodden soil over a root system can have the same affect.

Faulty soil conditions are responsible for ill health in trees to a far greater extent then is disease. No amount of repair pruning, fertilization can restore a tree to health if the conditions under which it grows are not as they should be. A knowledge of the way in which a tree grows is of the greatest importance to arboriculturists.”

Given that 86 years has passed, what has arboriculture done with that knowledge that would make the author proud of us? Can we, or should we, being doing better having had the knowledge all this time?

David Dowson

Tree roots in a sunny forest

Image: Tree roots in a sunny forest, via Adobe Stock.


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Dave on Cricket and the ATP

The Level 6 Certificate and Diploma may have been bowled out by the awarding body team SEG Awards. I rather feel a googly has been bowled to arboriculture and the bails have come off. Despite my best efforts to claim a no-ball, following a review the out decision stands. However, another team is coming into bat called the Accredited Training Programme (ATP).  This means that the industry is not stumped for providing competency-based training at a strategic level equivalent to the regulated Level 6. SEG Awards are still the awarding body in conjunction with the managing and coaching team of Tree Life. Tree Life will still be audited by external umpires appointed by SEG Awards as the governing body and rule maker.

The contents of the new programme have been written within the complicated rules of the game. Policies and procedures of Tree Life have been covered and examined to ensure play can start on time in September 2022, having gained a not out verdict, are therefore approved for use and Tree Life continues to be an approved Training Provider.

The programme will field four components and play is set to run for two years across traditional academic years making it a winter and summer series. Unfortunately, the weather in the seasons can’t always be guaranteed but the game may continue under cover as appropriate. Sometimes it may require a day night match to complete.

The players professional body (Arboricultural Association) will recognise the ATP as fulfilling the eligibility criteria for application to Professional Membership of the Association. This is fantastic news and real grounds for pitching the programme to potential new batters who require training at a high level. The scoreboard will show the name of the programme as the Accredited Training Programme in Urban Tree Management.

Entry requirements for an innings will ideally require a batter to have a scored a minimum boundary Level 4 diploma and have experience in a tree officer role or consultant fielding position. However, the coaching team would be pleased to have a session in the nets to discuss any aspect related to entry requirements and your personal experiences in arboriculture.

The assessment process leads to the building of a portfolio of evidence presented by a batter. Unlike the real game, if wickets fall, a batter cannot be out as they can come to the crease multiple times with each assignment until it’s all over.

The delivery of the programme will be online driven supported by assignment sheets, live sessions, videos, individual tutorials and written and verbal feedback provided by the coaching team.

 The programme four components are:

1.       Strategic Urban Tree Management

2.       Advanced Urban Tree Management

3.       Diagnostic Processes in Urban Tree Management

4.       Research in Urban Tree Management

The new content is largely based on the old Level 6 content however, the opportunity has been taken to catch up with up-to-date information and to remove any silly points to form the new content. The content is very focused on the employability of those undertaking the programme. Options have been removed to the pavilion for the time being.

The run up to starting play is now on – howzat?

For all enquiries, please contact Tree Life at admin@treelifeac.co.uk or phone 0116 260 6939.

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A 6 Nations Blog

G’day. It has been a while since the last blog, maybe nothing much has been worth scrummaging for between the posts. The winds of change are once again blowing across the pitch making small but important changes in direction. The Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF) will end for the ABC Awards arboricultural qualifications this season in September 2017 and the new Regulated Qualification Framework will kick off for arboriculture. The lines of the qualifications will remain largely unchanged, students are hardly likely to notice any change in colours. Jeremy Benson Executive Director for Vocational Qualifications states “We don’t claim it will transform the qualifications landscape, but we do hope it will help people to understand qualifications a little better and to use them more confidently”. The transition to a new RFQ game will be smooth with the learning outcomes having undergone a minor review of tactics to bring them up to date following their original inception in 2011.

Tree Life will be celebrating 20 years of existence this year, the forwards of the company confirm continued provision of level 6 for September 2017. The back line is shoving hard to maintain provision and go beyond the game line with level 6 with maybe adding to our team sheet. Levels 4 and 2 remain on offer for a few more championships yet. I’m not sure how Tree Life should celebrate 20 years of training; we have some good ideas although a Tough Mudder has been counted as definitely offside! All of us at Tree Life shall need to get into a huddle for a team talk on moves and pass a few ideas around between us.

What about something new and this is not a ruck! – an ecology course aimed at arboriculturists, this has been suggested by a couple of our current students however, I need to know what the needs are. We have a specialist Ecology consultancy/training practice lined up for this so it isn’t one of our team of arboriculturists or back room staff delivering it. Anything from what is ecology, bats, mammals, newts, birds, biology, identification, ecological survey basics, habitat surveys – phase 1 and 2, ecological site assessment, role of ecologists and invasive species identification and threats. So maul this over and see if anything interests you or if you have any other off the feet suggestions. Requests via email please if this is something that would interest you, the cost would be somewhere around our usual one day course ticket price at the turnstile.

I am very pleased that the AA has an agreement with the ISA and that we shall see some benefits of an association with a very large internationally based arboricultural group. I was involved with the ISA certified arborist qualification for quite a while a few years ago and always felt that this qualification had much to offer the UK arborist. As a training provider we have coached some candidates over the years to prepare for the multi-choice test and have done so recently in the absence of a UK/I chapter. Using our coaching experience we are assisting the AA to develop a more formal approach to this. The fact that it is a multi-choice test lends itself educationally to the very practical side of tree surgery work and allows individuals to attain the equivalent of a level 2 (my opinion) qualification (RQF). More news of the developments no doubt will emerge later in the year once the players have returned to their own teams.

Tree Life will be at the AA Arb show as usual at the end of season date of 12-13th May, hopefully Spring will have more than sprung! Our theme for this year will be pollarding. A very mis-understood term in our experience. Pollarding in Ancient Rome was mentioned by Sextus Propertius, a poet, during the 1st Century BC. It has been common in Europe since medieval times and is practised today in urban areas worldwide, primarily to maintain trees at a predetermined height.

“Poll” was originally a name for the top of the head, and “to poll” was a verb meaning “to crop the hair”. This use was extended to similar treatment of the branches of trees and the horns of animals. A pollard simply meant someone or something that had been polled. Later, the noun pollard came to be used as a verb: “pollarding”. Pollarding has now largely replaced polling as the verb in the forestry sense. Traditionally, trees were pollarded for one of two reasons: for fodder to feed livestock, or for wood. To be ‘polled’ at rugby these days earns a red card! It’s not rugby as some might say with an Australian accent.

Tree Life receives many questions relating to awards, certificates and diplomas awarded by ABC Awards in line with Government requirements. Perhaps we could have a bit of overtime here and kick the confusion into touch. The Government of the time required all vocational qualifications under the QCF to be developed in sizes hence award, certificate and diploma with an idea that a student progressed from one size to another. But also that each was a qualification in its own right. The team developing the arb qualifications for ABC Awards followed that principle. However, arboriculture at that time had very good qualifications namely the

Royal Forestry Society (RFS) certificate in Arboriculture at level 2;

Arboricultural Association (AA) Technicians Certificate in Arboriculture at level 3; and the

Royal Forestry Society Diploma in Arboriculture at level 6

all operated by ABC Awards.

At present the QCF certificate at level 2 is the direct replacement for RFS certificate, the QCF Diploma at level 4 is the direct replacement for the AA Technicians Certificate at level 4 and the QCF Diploma at level 6 is the direct replacement for the RFS Diploma.

Tree Life AC Ltd chooses to offer the diploma at level 4 and 6 as a priority, a grand slam you might say, because they are the direct replacements for the older well recognised qualifications. To achieve a certificate can be a ‘fall-back position’ (not fullback) should students not achieve a diploma for one reason or another. Other training providers may only offer Awards or Certificates as they see fit which is also appropriate. Tree Life would always advise students to make the ‘conversion’ to diploma as diplomas are the direct replacements for the old highly regarded arb qualifications at levels 4 and 6. ABC chose a replacement for the level 3 qualification with a level 4 one so that we had a logical flow of levels 2, 4 and 6.

That’s full time on this blog!

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Spell chequer take to!!!!!

Well, once again a few spellcheck anomalies have kept me amused over the past year or two, so I thought it was time for another instalment. It is the gift that keeps on giving, so unless everyone starts making a concerted effort to proof read their answers before submitting, I may well be back in a couple of years’ time.

I trust as always that those who recognise their own work will forgive me. Having found errors in my own feedback on occasions I am in no position to preach…..just engage in a bit of light-hearted, mutual mockery……..

Obviously trees interact with their surroundings in a number of ways, but I was blissfully unaware that there had ever been such a thing as an ‘exchange of grass’.

I appreciate that one should always keep calm in the face of adversity, but suggesting that ‘serenity’ is a way of dealing with fire is perhaps a little too laid back.

I know everyone involved needs to take a personal interest in a tree strategy before it can be put into practice, but the reference to the ‘implantation of the policy’ seemed to be taking things just a little too far.

Even regular tree inspections can never remove the possibility of what are still sometimes referred to as ‘Acts of God’, but I suppose employing a ‘parson’ to inspect trees would perhaps improve the chances of finding such a problem. I wonder if the gradual phasing out of divine responsibility is what someone was referring to when they wrote about ‘atheistic improvements.’

‘base and truck clad in ivy’ is either an interesting disguise or the guys have been parked a little too close to the tree for a very long tea break.

I’m aware that foliage from a number of trees has given us various lotions and potions over the years, but was a little surprised to hear that when pruning the correct amount of foliage needs to be left so the tree can ‘unction efficiently’.

Certain mammals are protected by law, and some of them are very closely related to trees in a particular area; I presume the disruption of ‘bat roots’ refers to them being forced to leave a place they have regarded as home for several generations.

Many would assert that plant health controls have perhaps not always been implemented as quickly as they could have been, but to suggest that a Phytosanitary Certificate is a ‘deceleration by the exporting country’ is perhaps a little unfair.

We are all guilty of endowing trees with human characteristics at times, and though we are all aware that trees can enhance our visual environment, the claim that trees too ‘will contemplate the landscape’ is perhaps just a little too far-fetched.

I think we all have to face the fact that tree roots can spread a very long way but ‘polar roots’ are something I had never considered. Maybe they are the ‘adventurous roots’ that are often referred to?

Expenditure is a subject that certain people can become almost obsessive about, and it can cause a great deal of worry. So it is useful to know that by spreading costs it is possible to ease that ‘fanatical burden’.

I know many arbs. have a very negative view of developers, and I’m sure developers sometimes view tree officers with very little positivity, but to suggest that ‘negations’ routinely take place between the two is a little on the pessimistic side.

The protection of trees on a construction site can often be a bit of a sticking point in discussions with developers, and I know there are various ways of dealing with potentially harmful substances, but I had never seen it suggested that ‘toxic run-off will be stickily forbidden’.

We’ve probably all spoken to trees for one reason or another on occasions, but be careful which words you use: ’vowels can damage trees’ apparently.

The mental effort and anguish associated with the completion of these qualifications should never be underestimated; I can only assume it is the precursor to ‘brow rot’.

I am aware that wood, both living and dead, contains energy both for itself and other organisms, although a lump of wood is going to take some chewing: is it possible that ‘Green oak mouth’ is a condition brought about by such endeavours?

Obviously temperature and rainfall are both closely linked to air currents, to the point where long spells of hot, dry weather can apparently lead to a ‘draught’.

For centuries now mankind has exploited the seasonal bounty provided by fruit trees, but I suspect nobody to date has realised the sustenance that is to be had from deep within an injured tree, which will apparently block its vessels with ‘raisins’.

The way branches are attached, and how their unions can possibly withstand all the various forces to which they are subjected has been a subject of much recent debate, and many are still trying to get to the bottom of a sticky subject, but I had never before heard it suggested that the branch ‘excretes more leverage at the point of connection’ .

I can understand the failure of a compression fork because of the two sides not being ‘fused’ together, but I think suggesting that the tree’s ‘not fussed’ is an unfair accusation of apathy on the tree’s part.

I recall last time I did this that it was worthwhile having someone on the team called Hector, when it came to claiming woodland grants: evidently it is also valuable to have someone in the lorry called Ray, particularly if you’ve just reversed into a rotten tree, since apparently ‘Rays resist decay from spreading around the truck.’

Talking of names, it would appear that one member of the gang could end up very clean, and possibly very happy (or very embarrassed), since apparently ‘Hans should be washed thoroughly before food and drink are consumed.’

I’ve never really thought about what the commonest name for arborists is, but in horticultural circles it would appear that ‘Pete is most often used by gardeners for potting plants’

Vehicles are expensive things to purchase and maintain, so you can understand the reluctance of arborists to use decay detection equipment that involves ‘drilling into the truck’.

I’m all for talking to trees, and it’s important to explain the whys and wherefores of tree work to customers, but I’m not sure who the recipient of ‘informative pruning’ is. I suppose it’s all part of keeping trees in good spirits; then at least ‘cheery trees’ will be happy about being pruned immediately after flowering.

I’m aware that trees can be used to liven up an otherwise drab landscape, and can even promote strong emotional and even physical reactions in people, but I had never heard trees described as ‘looking un-anaesthetic.

It is impossible to separate arboriculture from social history, and I suppose politics has to come into that as well. In many ways a stake and a newly planted tree do follow the mantra, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” but I’d never thought of using stakes to support trees as being the ‘communist system’

Next time you’re considering which trees to buy from a nursery keep an eye out for the ones with woodpeckers in: apparently the ones with a good ‘stem tapper’ are the best. I suppose a vast collection of branches to perch on and berries to eat could explain why ‘trees can provide a heaven for birds.’ Talking of birds, I can only assume that the way ‘a crow reduction alleviates biomechanical stress’ is by reducing the weight of large birds roosting, and building heavy nests.

A CCF managed woodland inevitably contains many varied aromas for visitors to experience, some more pleasant than others: I’m not sure I would enjoy encountering the ‘scents of permanence’.

We shouldn’t underestimate the thought that goes into repairing a damaged sewer: you can only install a pipe liner in a damaged underground service if your ‘brain is not deformed’.

Work sites can be messy places; fluids can be spilt; situations can become inflamed. I think I’ll leave you to come up with your own interpretation for ‘The designated feeling area must have an impermeable ground cover, and any spillage must be reported to the team leader’, who will hopefully have visited the local bakery earlier in the day to stock up on the necessary ‘buns to soak up any spillage of liquids’.

I know it’s reasonably coastal tolerant, and the timber is quite durable, and I suppose winter storms are something a coastline needs a bit of protection from, but I had never thought about using holly ‘at Christmas for reefs’

We all know that nothing lives forever, and people can be very fickle when it comes to deciding what they value,  but it does seem a little harsh to only consider ‘putting a momentary value on trees’.

Tree work over open water can be a tricky operation; hence the importance of considering appropriate measures to achieve ‘drown reduction’.

A recognised way of referring to the intensity of emotion that two people can feel for one another is by suggesting there is electricity between them. Mind you don’t get overwhelmed with emotion when carrying out tree work close to overhead services: you might come under the influence of the ‘Love conductors’.

Different people often have a different view on the precise requirements of a particular job; it would appear you can clarify the situation before putting the job out to tender by considering ‘perspective contractors’.

Obviously if you are going to do anything at all underhand to protect trees in the face of development, you need to make sure nobody knows. That must be why cranes on construction sites need to be ‘poisoned carefully to avoid conflict with RPA’s’.  It appears one way of reducing that conflict is to make them enter and leave the site in a single line: I presume that’s what ‘processionary measures’ are.

It obviously makes for a good design if everyone involved has an innate feel for which plants work well together, and has an intimate understanding of different trees and shrubs, but there is something slightly disturbing about ‘groping plants together ’.

When one is looking for a reliable supplier of hardy nursery stock, it’s important to find someone who is prepared to go out of their way to meet their customers’ needs. All the more encouraging then to discover they have a ‘compliant procedure’.

I presume the damage caused to trees near pubs is what was being referred to when someone suggested protection is needed from ‘lager mammals’.

It has to be said that weeds do seem to sneak up on you sometimes, and I suppose it would make sense to play them at their own game; in which case woodchip is the way to go, as it is very good at ‘surprising weeds’.

Speed of effect is always going to be a consideration when designing a planting scheme, and riverside schemes are no exception. The thing to do apparently is find some ‘fast rowing plants’ – oarchids maybe?

As arbs. we are frequently ready to jump to the defence of a tree accused of causing damage to a building, looking for any other possible reason we can find. It would be a bit of a gift if one discovered that over doorways and windows, the load was actually only being supported by ‘lentils’.

Finally I have found the path to salvation; apparently deep ploughing can lead to ‘a soul with a much improved structure’!

Many thanks to all the contributors,

Andy Summerley

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A Windy Blog 2016

Well the leaves have all blown away at this time in February apart from those stuck in neighbours’ gutters and of which they are still complaining about to their local authority tree officer.

The winds of change are always blowing or should be in business so that a business remains ahead of its game. Ofqual is hardly a business but they are in the business of education and made trade wind changes that affected vocational education big time a few years ago with the introduction of the Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF). This rather changed the face of the assessment processes moving from a summative process (testing at the end of a period of learning which is traditional and high risk for students) to a formative process (conducting assessments along the learning path and using the mechanisms to assist learning called assessment for learning (AFL)). The effects, like a whirlwind, took assessment essentially into the house of the training provider and away from external examiners.

Five years down the line a storm wind brewed and QCF has been washed down the drain along with the existing rules. A monsoon followed and Ofqual were flooded with complaints related to the inflexibility of the QCF system and its assessment processes. When the storm became a light wind a new frame work emerged (Oct 2015) called the Regulatory Qualification Framework – “a single, simple system for cataloguing all qualifications regulated by Ofqual.” (Ofqual 2016) Jeremy Benson Executive Director for Vocational Qualifications states “We don’t claim it will transform the qualifications landscape, but we do hope it will help people to understand qualifications a little better and to use them more confidently”.

Ofqual will not be replacing the QCF rules with another, different set of specific rules, because prescriptive design rules are not the best way of securing validity (a qualification doing what it says it will on the tin). Awarding organisations will still have to comply with Ofqual’s General Conditions of Recognition. Ofqual states “qualification regulation needs to be flexible enough to encompass qualifications across different sectors, at different levels and with different purposes. And it’s because of this that awarding organisations need to have the freedom to design the assessments that work best for their particular qualifications”. (Ofqual Blog Aug 2015)

In the cross winds that follow any new guidance ABC indicates that for their arboricultural qualifications this means very little change. However, I am hoping for no twisters but more flexibility in how the assessment procedures are conducted because, as most of you understand, the burden of portfolio production lands on the learner (we can call you students again under this new framework) and then the assessor has to mark it all. The current level 2, 4 and 6 ABC qualifications are due for a review in 2017 with introduction in September 2017. I don’t anticipate much turbulence but a zephyr (gentle) wind favourable to maintaining the quality of qualifications that we currently have.

When I have more news on the progress of the review with ABC I will make some breezy announcements through the appropriate channels. The change of framework DOES NOT affect current students or those starting qualifications prior to September 2017, current regulations and processes will be prevailing.

On another front Tree Life has faced a headwind and some uncertainty regarding for how long we will offer, particularly, the level 6 diploma qualification. Following a recent company AGM, I can confirm the current intentions with regards to the level 6. Tree Life will be offering the level 6 qualification for a minimum of the next two years with starts in 2016 and 2017. Beyond 2017 we offer no guarantee of being in a position to offer level 6. This is due to a time when Andy and I have retirement looming in our airstream. As a conscientious training provider all students starting with us have 4 years to complete which means that in 2021 we still could be marking assignments while having got bus passes in our pockets!

Tree Life has grown over the past 18 years and increased its team year upon year. That may happen on the back of a tailwind to retirement indicating that level 6 will continue to be offered by Tree Life even when sirocco (a warm wind from the desert) retirement warmth has blown through and the dust has settled. It is my intention that level 6 shall remain a premier qualification for arboricultural consultants, tree officers and contract managers and that it will be on offer from Tree Life AC Ltd for the foreseeable future. Only the winds of time can dictate how in the future that can be made possible – but it won’t be for the lack of trying!

Dave Dowson

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General release – Professional membership of the Institute of Chartered Foresters

Due to a review undertaken by the ICF recently the old and new diplomas at level 6 in arboriculture have been devalued in points required when applying for professional membership to the ICF. Concerns regarding this situation have been raised with the awarding body ABC Awards and the ICF. As a result DR Stuart Glen, membership manager, has asked that the following information be conveyed to recent holders of the diplomas.

 I will be recommending to the Professional & Educational Standards Committee (PESC) that any person in this position should be allowed to embark on our Professional Membership Entry so allowing them an opportunity to gain chartered status. This recommendation will be presented and discussed at the next meeting of PESC in September.

Any holders of the level 6 (NQF) professional diploma and the new (replacement) (QCF) diploma in arboriculture who wish to join the ICF as a professional member are invited to contact Dr Stuart Glen at ICF to discuss membership.

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‘Weather’ Professional

It has come to my attention that my profession isn’t as professional as I would like it to be, or it possibly thinks it is in some aspects of arboriculture. One of these aspects is nomenclature. This issue is no little ‘storm in a tea cup’, during the last few years I have been inundated, ‘flooded’ you could say with scientific (not Latin or botanical names these days) plant, fungi and insect names written incorrectly and spelt incorrectly in learner work and professional reports. Not only that, but common names written incorrectly too! Not only can’t learners get it right but a good number of consultants can’t get it right. So should my profession be getting it right or do we stick our heads in the clouds and say it doesn’t matter in, this, a different ‘age’ of language use (Vote below!). The thing is though, scientific names are never misleading. No matter where you are in the world every plant, for example, has only one correct name, (so long as its taxonomic treatment is not in dispute) one can always recognise it when it is written out. The current rules are followed throughout the world and I don’t think it is up to my/our profession to ignore that and allow protocol to slip down the drain.

How important is the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (Melbourne Code) adopted by the Eighteenth International Botanical Congress Melbourne, Australia, July 2011 and the separate International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants. Well, maybe Kew gardens may hold the key to this, they run a one week long course on Botanical Nomenclature led by their garden specialists. This in-depth course teaches the principles of plant nomenclature according to the International Code of Nomenclature (ICN) for algae, fungi and plants. So there you have its importance – hail Kew! There are rules to this code established many moons ago and I don’t see why they should not be adhered to by professionals working with ‘plants’. So don’t give this important matter the ‘cold’ shoulder.

In use the binomial naming system (scientific name), as the name implies, uses two words to name a particular species. (derived from Latin or Greek).

The first word we use to describe a plant is the generic name (genus). The generic name must be capitalized for example Quercus. The second word we use is the specific epithet (species). The specific epithet must be in lower case for example robur. Both words must be emphasized, italicised when typed or underlined if hand written. After that cultivar names are not latin and therefore are not italicised for example, Quercus robur ‘Fastigiata’. With varieties Pinus nigra var. nigra – var is not italicised as it is not latin. No winds of change here then.

Common names are written in lower case unless at the start of a sentence or the name reflects a place or a proper noun for example London plane, Norway maple, Scots pine and English oak. However, common names can be confusing; a plane tree in England can be known as an American sycamore in the USA. The name sycamore actually derives from the Greek language συκόμορος (sūkomoros) meaning fig-mulberry (Ficus sycomorus) this is also sometimes called the sycamore fig. As confusing as the jet stream positions!
Now the mist has lifted on this topic we are just as well to know of the origin of nomenclature. It is early 17th century: from French and from Latin nomenclatura, from nomen ‘name’ + clatura ‘calling, summoning’ (from calare ‘to call’). A Nomenclator in Rome was the title of a steward whose job it was to announce visitors. The current system of using Latin to name biological organisms was developed by Carl von Linne (1707-1778), more commonly known by his pen name Linnaeus, about 250 years ago. Simply a ‘system of naming’. Linnaeus was the son of a curate and grew up in Småland, a poor region in southern Sweden and the binomial system was his lasting achievement. Binomial names were used consistently in print by Linnaeus only after the publication of the Species Plantarum in 1753.

NB. Many of us, including me, would refer to the species name as the species. Technically this is incorrect, the species name, for example, robur is the specific epithet, and Quercus robur is the species. This explains why we refer all the time to species of trees as opposed to genera of trees – now the dark clouds roll away!

Just another thought on aspects that people routinely get wrong – the abbreviations. Sp. is the abbreviation when referring to a single tree of unknown species. Spp. is the plural version and Ssp. is the abbreviation for sub-species. None of which should be italicised.
Also, sometimes in more advanced botanical writings you might come across a letter, name or abbreviation after the binomial for a species. An example would be Allium cepa L. (Allium cepa L. is the common table onion.) What does the “L.” stand for? The “L.” stands for the authority, i.e., the individual credited with assigning the binomial to the species. In this case, “L.” stands for Linnaeus. Well, when you start pumping the available research it never rains but it pours in more technicalities for a ‘simple’ system of naming! Brings tears to your eyes it does! Onion, Ok you are still with it.

As you the learners have found out Andy and I get a bit frosty when it comes to having names written correctly. High pressure? quite rightly so, at level 6 in particular! If professionals can’t get it right, who can? We should all be on a crusade to improve our fellow professionals’ presentation of plant names. The reward is that elusive pot of gold, self-esteem and satisfaction and of being a professional and of doing an excellent job.
Don’t forget to add in those little indicators x and + signs in the right place that say so much in recognition of hybrids!

One final pointer – almost everyone routinely uses a first column heading on a survey or inspection form containing the word SPECIES – but if one then only uses common names and just writes oak or cherry – that ain’t a species – it’s a genus! How’s that for a whirlwind finish?

Dave Dowson

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