In this week’s edition of Farmers Weekly magazine (1 December), industry representatives have defended criticisms of the National Register of Sprayer Operators and the way it is run.
We put these concerns to NRoSO project officer, Camilla Buckley, and here’s what she had to say:
Q. The current requirements for points accumulation are unnecessary as many of the areas they cover are duplicated elsewhere e.g. farm assurance, ELS, environmental impact assessments, soil and manure plans, cross compliance, etc.
A. The rules of the Register and the CPD [Continuing Professional Development] points requirement for continued membership are driven by the NRoSO Advisory Board, made up of representatives from the industry and in response to the Voluntary Initiative.
The Board meets twice a year to review the weightings and specification for the register and the system is conscientiously administered according to their specification.
If there is a need for change then it can be done through the Advisory Board which next meets in February 2007.
Q. The points system is not well documented and if anyone attends a meeting or workshop and they are not immediately available – the whole catch up process is difficult.
A. The system is extremely well documented. There were some difficulties in the first year because of the lack of financial resources available from the industry to set up the scheme and the extremely rapid build up of the membership.
We have also had difficulties in recovering information from some training providers which in turn has led to gaps in the attendance recorded against individual members, but those issues are now resolved through constant follow up of every event.
An attendance register is supplied to all trainers at NRoSO-registered events and courses and it is the onus of the individual to make sure they fill out their NRoSO number and personal details on the form so that when it is returned to us we can allocate the points to each member’s statement.
Events submitted to the team for CPD pointing are registered on our website if requested by the training provider, in advance of the event taking place. Members can therefore see in advance, the programme of events and courses being run which are eligible for NRoSO CPD points.
When members join the scheme they receive a comprehensive membership pack which details how to gain their points and addresses ‘frequently asked questions’.
There is also a team of administrators on hand to answer member’s questions when required.
Q. The system is not farm embracing in terms of the decision takers and the acceptance of experience/ updates available from other sources. The concept is flawed at all levels and needs addressing.
A. It would have to be a very ingenious member to acquire the 30 CPD points required from a variety of disciples by cheating the system.
Yes there is a certain amount of trust and honesty required by the membership in recording CPD points but there is very little evidence of abuse.
At this year Cereals Event NRoSO staff recorded member’s attendance directly onto laptops and were able to verify membership face to face. The vast majority of the membership we deal with face to face, or on the telephone are extremely complementary about the quality and accuracy of the service.
Q. Most farms use an agronomist and in many cases have individual briefings at every visit. These are not recorded specifically and an annual form filling by the agronomist would be much more practicable than handling odd bits of paper.
A. This is not accurate. When a member joins they receive agronomist meeting sheets within their membership pack for them to use specifically when they meet with their agronomist.
These are standard meeting sheets which we require all members to use as ‘standardised’ evidence for agronomist meetings. We are not aware of and do not accept as evidence, ‘odd bits of paper’!
Members can claim for two meetings with their agronomist in each of their membership years, six meetings in total over the course of their membership term.
Q. More acceptance/ importance should be made of agronomists for updates and training because this is where most significant information comes from in a rapidly changing environment.
A. This is certainly acknowledged by us as administrators. When members are short of points in addition to going through their statement and suggesting recommendations we also advise them to consult their agronomist.
Q. A website that allows completion and cross referencing of points would be much easier than a paper trail.
A. The registering of CPD points is currently done through members and training providers or event organisers, sending in evidence to us.
With a membership of 23,000 members it works well for us to verify evidence as a team of administrators, this ensure accuracy and helps us to ensure all categories and requirements are met.
We do have a website which members can gain useful information from, with a recently added feature for members to gain up-to-date CPD statements sent to them. Members cannot record evidence on the webpage because the NRoSO staff would have no way of verifying its accuracy and there would then be the opportunity for fraud that you implied above.
Q. The fact we have to have sprayer checks is, in itself, an excellent training area for all concerned.
A. The NSTS Sprayer Test is part of the scheme; members can gain 3 CPD points for being in attendance when their sprayer is tested providing the attendance is verified by the test examiner.
Members can claim annually for having their sprayer tested, so can gain a maximum of 9 CPD points over the course of their membership three-year term.
The points allocated to the Sprayer Test has been increased from 2 to 3 CPD points recently as the Advisory Board has acknowledged the value of the test observation and interaction with the examiner in gaining knowledge of good sprayer maintenance.
Q. In many farming situations there are at least three people involved with the technical/ spraying process – the farmer or main decision taker, the spray operator and the agronomist – yet only the person officially registered can accumulate points.
A. It should be noted that agronomists are required to be part of the BASIS Register and the ‘decision maker’ can belong to either or both registers. Indeed if he/ she belongs to the BASIS Register they can have free membership of the NRoSO Register.
The ‘decision maker’ is usually critical in determining the quality and appropriateness of the spraying operation and we have recently introduced an additional POWER (Protection of the Water Environment and Recommendations) qualification delivered through BASIS, to provide recognition for this group.