Hero to (S)hero

This year, we are adding to our series of blog posts to mark ’16 Days of Action’ – an international call of action to prevent and end gender-based violence.

Gender equality is seen as a key aspect related to gender-based violence. Today, Kay Coyle reflects on the importance of having empowering female role models in children’s cartoons, and asks us all to consider the influence of the media – particularly on girls.

Kay is a former Ayrshire College student and is now studying Social Sciences at Glasgow Caledonian University.

You can contact our Student Services teams or organisations like Women’s Aid or Fearless if you or someone you know requires support.

Picture the scene: you’re a kid, it’s the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, and it’s the weekend. You know what that means? It’s time for Saturday morning cartoons! I don’t know about you, but when I was young, our cartoons were the best. We had He-Man; Thundercats; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Mighty Max; and so on and so forth.  But wait – no. The boys had those shows – I had My Little Pony and Care Bears.


Now, while I may not have complained about that at the time (I have the cringeworthy old photos to prove it too), looking back, I always remember being fascinated with the “boys shows”. This misconception that men like shows about fighting and monsters while girls only like pink and fluffy shows about talking horses and teddy bears is such an outdated stereotype, but you know what? This is changing. And I love it!

I find myself fascinated with today’s kid shows: this generation are so lucky. They are able to grow up watching fantastic shows such as Adventure Time, where the female characters are well developed, with strong personalities, strengths, weaknesses and most importantly – they are relatable. They’re not fragile, they are strong. They are not damsels in distress!

Recently, Netflix has launched a reboot of the classic ‘80s cartoon series, She-Ra: Princess of Power. At first, I was sceptical.

When I think of She-Ra, I instantly think of an ill-proportioned woman in a skimpy outfit that was purely a marketing ploy to sell more toys, and to give the men some eye-candy. Laura Mulvey referred to this as the male gaze.

The male gaze “projects its fantasy onto the female figure” by focusing attention on parts of the body that are usually sexualised, such as the breasts and legs, the female in question is in essence, presented as purely a sexual object for the male viewer.


The She-Ra from the 1980s is a prime example of this; with long, flowing, blonde hair, an exaggerated cinched waist, and a miniskirt smaller than the width of a tea towel, She-Ra was the male fantasy for the average male teenager during the ‘80s and early ‘90s.

The co-creator of the original She-Ra points out that he was aware of the issue in regards to the representation of female characters in animation: “male characters tend to be idealized in form and proportion; but female characters tend to be objectified”.

But now, I am genuinely impressed. This generation, yet again, are being given a positive, female superhero who isn’t just eye-candy. She has personality. Morals. She has an outfit she isn’t falling out of. However, while this is encouraging, we still have a long way to go before a female character can be presented in animation without been portrayed as an unrealistic pin-up, or as having a strong character development without there being any backlash. There has been a backlash to this reboot from males; comments frustrated at the character’s new look as she’s been “beaten with the ugly stick” are particularly poignant for after all, who cares what your personality is – it’s what’s on the outside that counts, right?

Wrong! Slowly, but surely, more and more animated female characters are given the development that they deserve; they are now much more than the eye-candy, or the damsel who constantly needs saving or the classic ‘pretty and catty’ trope. So, parents – I encourage you – if you have a young daughter, take interest in the cartoons they watch. You never know, you may be pleasantly surprised at the role models that are being made available now!


Gender equality is a key topic taught within our Social Science programme.  If you are interested in finding out more about Social Sciences click here.

Becoming a VQ Assessor: The ten things you need to know about this job

1. What kind of people typically apply for a job like this?

To be an assessor you need to have experience in the health and /or social care sector. This role is about assessing competence so you need to be competent in your field. People are attracted to the job of a VQ Assessor from a wide variety of backgrounds including nurses, social care practitioners, residential child care practitioners and registered managers of care provisions.

2. Do they need to be a VQ assessor already?

Ideally an assessor award is preferable, but if you don’t have an assessor qualification already, don’t let this put your off from applying. We will help you work towards you assessor award as part of your professional development.

3. What’s the most important thing you’re looking for in an ideal candidate?

To be our ideal candidate you’ll need extensive care experience and assessing experience. You should also be flexible, patient and good working and communicating with people of all ages.

4. What qualifications are needed for this job?

To be able to assess SVQ units you need to have a “registerable” qualification with the Scottish Social Services Council. You do not need to be registered or register with them. If you are unsure if your qualification meets this need you can visit www.sssc.uk.com . Some practice qualifications are accepted if they satisfy the following: A qualification meeting the registration requirements of the General Teaching Council (Scotland), Nursing and Midwifery Council or the General Medical Council. You must have a qualification at the level of HNC or above to be considered for the post.

5. What does a VQ assessor do?

In this job you will be working with students facilitating them to gather evidence to prove they are competent in their job. This includes visiting them in their workplace or placement, and observing them working with service users / clients. You will start by planning with the student what type of evidence is required, and discussing how the student will gather the evidence. It is then the student’s responsibility to match the evidence to the unit specification.  You then “mark” the work, give feedback, and update the assessment plan with all discussions. For this particular role, the majority of the students are studying HNC Social Services and can use their course work to evidence their competence. For each SVQ qualification there is a “National Occupational Standard” that the student or candidates are assessed against.

6. What’s the most rewarding part of the job?

Seeing students grow in confidence and be effective in the workplace. Knowing you are still “making a difference” to people who use the service, by ensuring the staff you have been involved with, are safe and knowledgeable.

7. What’s the most challenging part of the job?

Keeping all the students working steadily, and producing evidence regularly to achieve their units is the main challenge. Also having students who disengage with the process, or who do not have the required knowledge and skills to achieve, requires patience. Students can be overwhelmed with the amount of work required, so you need to be able to motivate them and have a flexible approach.. You need to know your stuff and be able to assert yourself!

8. What does a typical week look like?

Is there such a thing? As an assessor you will be in control of your own diary as you’ll need to make appointments that suit the placement, the student, the working hours and the service users. There is some classroom time allocated for students to work on their VQ units, and you will be in the class to assist with VQ assessment, or uploading evidence onto the electronic portfolio. (There will be a lecturer in the class too). Most weeks you’ll have a mix of assessing submitted evidence, meetings with students, other assessors, your line manager, curriculum manager, and arranging and undertaking observations of students’ practice. Some students will use their workplace to gather the evidence required. You’ll need to be flexible because some students study their HNC in an evening class, and some students are working night shifts or evening shifts.

9. What’s the main reason people have been unsuccessful in their application for this post?

A lot of people apply for these posts who do not have the experience required – for example they may have an HNC but have never worked in a health or social care setting. It’s essential to have work experience in this sector.

10. Any final words of encouragement?

The main things you need are the qualifications and the required experience. It is open to everyone who meets this criteria. Disabilities are not a barrier if reasonable adjustments can be made. You do need to be able to get to placements all over Ayrshire, so a car driver is preferable as not all placements are on a bus route.

Gillian Cameron is the Assessor Team leader and she has a disability and says, “ I am not fit enough to be a nurse now, but I can still help people by making sure the students who come through the college are skilled and knowledgeable, and uphold the codes of practice, standards, and legislation that is part and parcel of working in any field of health & social care.”

If you would like to have an informal chat about this vacancy, please call Gillian 0300 303 0303


Good luck!


16 Days of Action

This year, we are adding to our series of blog posts to mark ’16 Days of Action’ – an international call of action to prevent and end gender-based violence.

You can contact our Student Services teams or organisations like Women’s Aid or Fearless if you or someone you know requires support.

Today, Sarah Shennan, NHS Ayrshire and Arran Health Improvement Practitioner, shares her thoughts on the importance of raising awareness about gender-based violence.

Sarah is a former Ayrshire College student achieving an HND in Coaching and Developing Sport. Sarah is part of the South Ayrshire Multi-agency Partnership to tackle violence against women and children. She has been instrumental in organising an upcoming dog walk on Saturday 8 December at Rozelle Park, Ayr, as part of 16 days activities in Ayrshire.


I left college with the full intention of continuing my studies at university to become a PE teacher. It was a lifelong dream – I always wanted to have a purposeful and meaningful job.

Looking back I always felt included and part of a team when studying at Ayrshire College, even though studying the subject of sport is often thought of as being male-dominated.

All of the students were given many great opportunities, and staff advocated to give female students the same level of support and commitment as male students. This saw us attend various championship events such as the Scottish Championships to compete in volleyball, and the British Championships to play football.

I never fulfilled that lifelong dream of becoming a PE teacher but I’m not sad about that.  My path took me down a different road, and although I often wonder how I might have been as a teacher, I believe the route I have taken is just as meaningful and purposeful.


Within my current role as a Health Improvement Practitioner, I provide health improvement expertise and advice to colleagues, partners and communities to promote good health and reduce health inequalities. I thoroughly enjoy my job as no two days are the same and I get to be involved in many great pieces of work across various topics. I am fully committed to influencing change and challenging misconceptions to promote better health of our population.

I am particularly passionate about raising awareness on gender-based violence (GBV).  

GBV is complex with many underpinning issues.

Locally across Ayrshire and Arran, the three individual Violence Against Women Partnerships come together and organise various activities for 16 days of action to improve knowledge and raise awareness on Gender Based Violence. This year, some of those activities are:

  • An Evening with Jasvinder Sanghera – Honour Based Violence conference – an event led by South Ayrshire Women’s Aid to raise awareness of forced marriage and other traditional harmful practices
  • Inside Outside – a multimedia exhibition hosted by East Ayrshire Women’s Aid exploring the issues faced by those who have exited the sex industry
  • Reclaim the Night – an event led by North Ayrshire Violence Against Women Partnership to unite people and raise awareness of domestic abuse

All of these are extremely important. I am particularly looking forward to the dog walk event. The dog walk aims to raise awareness of domestic abuse and promote the Dogs Trust Freedom Project. Families affected by domestic abuse can be reluctant to leave their home following abuse as it is not always possible to take the family dog.


For those who know me, will know that I adore dogs and have my very own (most of the time) faithful companion Millie. She is the centre of my world. I am therefore a keen supporter in raising awareness of such projects.

It is the duty of us all; we all have a responsibility to be role models and promote the message that gender based violence is not normal and is never okay.  We have to stand together, break the silence and lift the shame.  I hope you can join us at the dog walk and show your support.

The dog walk will take place at Rozelle Park, Ayr, on Saturday 8th December from 11am to 1pm, and is FREE and open to all.  If you would like any further information, you can contact Geraldine McGivern on Geraldine.McGivern@south-ayrshire.gov.uk or 01292 559 411.

Motoring ahead at Ayrshire College

We’re running an Introduction to Motor Vehicle course from January!

We’ve asked four of our August recruits on the IMI Level 1 Light Vehicle Maintenance and Repair course to help give us a jump-start on promoting this course.

We asked them to sum up what it’s like to come to here and study in the motor vehicle workshop, and what motivated them to do so.


So sit back and relax as Caitlin Frew, Darlene Mitchell, John Paul Smith and Mackenzie Greenan, take you on the journey from applying to studying at Ayrshire College.



I’ve always had a love of finding out how stuff works and being able to fix them if they’re broken.

Ever since I was little, I’ve been around motorbikes and I’ve always loved the idea of finding out how they work.

I wasn’t really that scared about coming into a male-dominated environment because I’ve always been friends with guys more than girls my entire life.

Obviously it was still a little daunting, because I was the only girl on the course – Darlene was on the waiting list to begin with. I thought maybe none of the guys would want to talk to me and would look at me thinking I was weaker. I actually got a job beforehand so I knew what it was like to work in a garage.

When I walked in to Ayrshire College, all the guys made me feel really welcome. I’d say to any girl who might want to do this but is worried, try it anyway because it will be one of the best experiences you could do. Everyone will talk to you, make you feel welcome, and help you out.

Also the greatest thing about being a girl in a STEM course is you do have people who naturally assume you’ll be weaker, and when you prove them wrong that’s the best feeling ever!

I’d love to work with motorbikes once I’m finished here, building them up and building up cars. My wildest dream is to have my own garage. I’d love to run my own business.



My Dad’s a mechanic so I grew up with motors in my life. I used to always help him when I was younger and developed an interest from there.

I love that we have an actual garage where we can get first-hand experience of the things we’re learning in the classroom – instead of learning it and having to try it at home without someone there to help you.

When I applied I found out that Ayrshire College always puts two girls into one class if they can, which did give me a little bit of comfort knowing someone else was going to be in the same position as me. We’re happy to play a part in breaking the stereotype.

But honestly, you don’t get treated as if you’re anyone different. So I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to come because of that.

I’m looking forward to doing the full three years here at the College. My ideal job would be to become a BMW specialist, but whether that happens or not is a different story.


John Paul

I was always interested in cars and motorbikes, and liked playing with engines when I was younger.

Growing up I had motorbikes, and I’ve had a few cars. I enjoy being around them and getting my hands dirty.

The facilities we have here are second to none. The equipment and tools are all brand new from when the campus opened [in October 2016]. The lecturers are great and everyone gets on really well.

I work part-time and a big part of that is working with motorbikes. I work for a charity organisation called Action for Children. We recently got £6,000 worth of funding to do our own enterprise – getting scrapped motorbikes, fixing them up and selling them on.



I’ve just always been interested in cars. I’ve been helping my brother out with his car and it sparked a real interest.

The best part of the course I’m on is being in the garage, because it’s just like being in the workplace. The facilities are first class, we’re pretty much in a real garage.

The hope for me at the end of my three years here is that I’ll be able to work in a garage.

Apply now for our January start Introduction to Motor Vehicle course.