Parents concerned about Vogrie Outdoor Early Learning Centre

Vogrie Outdoor Early Learning Centre

Letter to the Editor from parents of children at the Vogrie Outdoor Early Learning Centre

Dear Editor,

We would like to pass on our concerns to you, as a group of parents of children at Vogrie Outdoor Early Learning Centre (ELC). The nursery is a unique and high-quality Midlothian Council outdoor nursery for children aged 3-5 years old. We have been informed that the two teachers who established this world leading site, and manage and teach in the setting, have had their posts reviewed and both will be removed, to be replaced with a (cheaper) Senior Years Practitioner as part of the council’s cost cutting measures, and leaving no teaching staff in the setting.

There has been no consultation with parents, and to date, no official communication to parents from Midlothian Council. As a group of parents we are extremely concerned that this will result in the children who attend Vogrie really suffering. The other staff who work in the setting (Early Years practitioners and Learning Assistants) are excellent, but the fact that Vogrie is not attached to a school means that it doesn’t benefit from a (geographically and professionally) close relationship with teachers, and the Vogrie staff have made full use of the highly-trained teachers there to develop not only Vogrie’s curricular vision, but also the transition support they provide for their primary-aged leavers.

In the few years that it has been active, Vogrie ELC has been flying the flag for Outdoor Learning, including being visited virtually by educators from around the world (Virtual visit to Vogrie Outdoor ELC by educators from across the world | Midlothian Council). Outdoor ELC settings are uncommon despite the benefit of outdoor education and time in nature being clearly evidenced and reported upon, and we were initially delighted that Midlothian Council had embraced an approach to the Early Years curriculum that is so clearly aligned with national priorities. Given all the research and how well the teachers have done to establish this service during a pandemic which only further outlined the need and benefit for amazing outdoor experiences for our young people, we had hoped that an expansion of the service to serve more and older pupils would have been more beneficial than pure cost cutting.

The decision to cut teaching staff therefore seems counterproductive to be removing the very staff that have made Vogrie what it is, proposing it’s idea to the heads of the council, building it from nothing in an unused walled garden space, and supporting it to develop. We are deeply concerned about the effect that the removal of the manager and another valued member of teaching staff will have on the children at the nursery and staff morale.

As a group of parents we have contacted Midlothian Council Executive Director for Children and Young People, Fiona Robertson, and have not had our concerns acknowledged. Not only is this insensitive to the needs of the children attending the setting, and the current anxiety experienced by the proposed change by us as parents, it is unacceptable to not have been more included in this decision from the outset through proper consultation.

We would very much appreciate your support in this matter,

Best wishes,

Emma Martindale, Lauren and Liam McMillan, Chloe and Erik Ravaglia, Sarah and John MacIssac, Kaley Northcott and Dave Law, Zsuzsa and Laszlo Remai, Freyja and Ross Howie, Jordann and Abbygail Wells, Sophie and Alistair Coats.

Emmerdale actor writes letter to the editor about stroke


Letter to editor from Emmerdale’s Mark Charnock

Dear Editor

I was honoured and humbled to be given the opportunity to work on Marlon’s stroke journey. It was a complete eye opener into the world of a stroke survivor and I will always be in debt to the Stroke Association and the two amazing stroke survivors who helped show what having a stroke is really like for the 10,000 people who have a stroke every year in Scotland.

There’s 128,000 stroke survivors in Scotland, and it is still the leading cause of adult disability. Many people don’t realise that the vast majority of strokes – around 80-90% in fact – are preventable.  Stroke is still chronically misunderstood by the public and underfunded in terms of research, which is incredible when you consider those stats.

That’s why I’m asking everyone to get involved in this year’s, Great North Run for the Stroke Association.

This famous event takes place on Sunday 10 September and although the general ballot is closed, the Stroke Association still has charity places available!

Stroke strikes every five minutes in the UK and it changes lives in an instant. However, with our support, the Stroke Association can help more stroke survivors and their families rebuild their lives after stroke.

For more information and to apply for your place, visit

Thank you,

Mark Charnock

Why the American XL Bully should NOT be the next banned breed


Blossom, an American XL Bully, trained by Midlothian Dog Trainer Nick McMechan.

This View has been written by Midlothian Dog Trainer Nick McMechan.

In 1991, Section One of the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) banned the owning, sale, breeding, giving away and abandonment of four Dog Breeds in the UK – the Pit Bull, Japanese Toso, Dogo Argentino and Filo Brasilerio.

I’m Anti-BSL, I’m against this Breed Specific Legislation. It just doesn’t work and it doesn’t take much research to find that the DDA, now over 30 years old, has had no effect whatsoever, apart from the needless culling of a number of Dogs, just because they looked like a Pit Bull.

It’s been well documented in the media that the Act was a knee jerk reaction at the time to the rising number of serious and fatal dog attacks. At the time, the Pit Bull was the centre of it all. Now, it’s the American XL Bully. Indeed in the last week there have been a number of media reports about the attack on a 3 year old boy and in the last couple of years, the sadly fatal incident of 17 month old Bella-Rae Birch who was killed by an American XL Bully brought to the home only a week before.

So, why am I saying the Breed should NOT be banned?

First of all, let’s look at what this Breed is. The American XL Bully was bred from the Pit Bull, American Bulldog, English Bulldog and Olde English Bulldog to create a Breed with a much lower work and prey drive than the Pit Bull. The intention was to create a powerful, muscular breed that’s suitable for the family home.

What’s going wrong?

There are four reasons in my opinion

1. Wrong Socialisation. I could easily write an entire book on this subject, never mind an article. Let’s get it down to great socialisation means happy ignorance of other dogs. (more on this in another article)

2. Wrong Breeding. It would be easy to buy an American XL Bully for £2k and sell a litter for over £10k. There’s huge profits to be made and this is absolutely the wrong reason for breeding. A good breeder will care for the breeding lines (temperament and health above all else) and will care for the homes the Dogs go to. When you buy a Pup from a good breeder you should feel like you were hauled through a tough interview

3. Wrong Training. And, possibly no training. Buying any Dog is a commitment that will last longer than a decade and employing a great trainer will give you a lifetime of pleasure with your Dog.

4. Wrong Home. Simply put this is a summary of all four of the above points. The Dog needs to be in a suitable environment where its needs can be fulfilled to help it live a long, happy and calm life.

When we look at the above reasons, all four of these going wrong in combination (or even some of them) can have a significant detrimental effect on the well-being of the Dog and we have seen recently in the media that the outcomes can be fatal. There have been 9 fatal attacks involving the breed in the last year alone. If these dogs had been well socialised, well bred, well trained and placed in good homes its extremely likely that all of these sad fatalities would never have happened

However, banning the breed won’t work. We have decades of data demonstrating BSL doesn’t work. And, if the breed is banned, what will be the next breed, and the next, and the next…then what?

So, what must be done?

This may be controversial but I’m all for Dog Licensing. I remember very well the excitement as a young Boy when my Mum and I went to the Post Office to purchase the License for our first ever Dog, Shelley. From memory, it cost 37.5p

Licensing, if applied well could control all the significant factors well. It could also fund additional Dog Wardens to control these factors. After all, what’s the point in having these laws if they can be simply be ignored – have you seen the amount of dog poo lying around?

The population of Midlothian is estimated at c100,000 and projected to continue to rise over the next decade. Dog Ownership in the UK is c30% and has risen significantly in recent years. So, there’s likely more than 30,000 Dogs in Midlothian. And, only one Dog Warden. This fact astonishes me. Licensing could pay for more Dog Wardens. Along with great Dog Licensing Laws and processes we could see a dramatic improvement in the welfare of Dogs and prevent these terribly sad fatalities ever happening.

Finally, Blossom. Blossom was an American XL Bully I helped train. Blossom was an absolutely wonderful Pup who trained extremely well and a Dog I’m proud to have trained. So well, she is one of the best Dogs I’ve trained with. She’s a testament to a Dog who was socialised well, trained well, bred well and ended up in a great, loving home.

Please, don’t ban Blossom.


Nick specialises in Loose Leash Walking and Reactivity as well as everything you would expect from a great Dog Trainer. You can find out more here: