Thursday, 15 December 2016

HRS training courses - some basic facts

In a recent thread on UK Hoverflies, an observer made a comment that strongly suggested that the HRS was in the pockets of the Wildlife Trusts.

I would like to make clear a few basic facts about the courses that we run:

1. Courses are run on a non-profit basis. We charge the costs of: fuel, accommodation, basic subsistence and any other charges we incur (e.g. Dartford crossing). We also make a charge for course materials - to cover re-printing costs. We do not charge for mileage, but in the course of any year I would expect to cover between 2,000 and 5,000 miles in support of such courses . That means that over five years I provide a set of tyres free of charge to training events - at about £250 for  a set of boots.

2.  If we did not have Wildlife Trusts and Local Records Centres to act as local organisers, these courses would not happen. Courses are open to all, not just to WLT members, so anybody who participates is getting a subsidy from those who support the Trusts. The WLT are an essential part of the network that provides training to field naturalists. If they were not there, we would NOT be running courses.

3. We do not charge directly to the course organisers. I cover all of the costs. An invoice is then sent from Dipterists Forum and monies are paid to the Forum. I subsequently invoice the Forum with receipts for all costs incurred. Consequently, at all times there is a strict audit trail of the costs incurred. I must stress that we make absolutely NO income from these courses. Thus, I pay out anything up to £400 in advance and am subsequently reimbursed. I wonder how many people would be prepared to pay costs up front in this manner!

4. I subsidise the courses by covering the costs of collecting material for the courses - in any one year I prepare somewhere around 250 specimens for use by students. I have also provided all of the store boxes (10) and provide the storage for the material - that is two metres of shelf space. Stuart provides accommodation for the 13 microscopes - about a cubic metre of storage.

5. A typical two day weekend course involves me leaving Stamford at 13.30  on the Friday and collecting Stuart and the relevant equipment from Peterborough before travelling on to our venue. We rarely get back to Peterborough much before 8.00 on Sunday, and often later still. I then have a further 30 minutes drive to Stamford. In total, I reckon we provide between 50 and 60 hours of our time for each course, to which we should add pre-course preparation, which is sometimes considerable.

6. We have travelled to very diverse locations - from Lerwick in the Shetlands and Kirkwall in the Orkneys, to Bangor, Gateshead, Glasgow, Exeter, Studland, Norwich and various other locations in SE England. Overall, I wonder how many people would be willing to donate anything up to 8 weekends a year running such courses?

7. Over the years, we have donated earnings from more commercial courses (e.g. FSc) to Dipterists Forum - we make nothing from them. Often, we don't charge at all, and simply take the view that without such venues it would not be possible to provide training to those who want it. We have also donated all proceeds from the Hoverfly WILDGuide to Diptersists Forum. This income has been used to subsidise a variety of people to attend training courses.

So, I must protest that anybody that thinks that we are profiteering from an association with the Wildlife Trusts is grossly mis-representing the true situation.

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