|Committee asks for JCF to be suspended
The Committee of the Border Terrier Club has unanimously requested its Secretary, Kathy Wilkinson, to write a letter to the Kennel Club asking for the Judges' Competency Framework to be suspended and subjected to a survey of all clubs, judges and exhibitors.
The request is for the survey to obtain wide opinion on the present system for the development and approval of judges, and, if it turns out that the majority of clubs, exhibitors or judges do not want or need such dramatic changes as the KC JCF represents, then abandon it.
Here is the full content of that letter which was sent to Mrs Kathryn Symns, Canine Activities Executive at the KC, and copied to Jeff Horswell who chairs the KC Working Party set up to introduce the system.
'Dear Mrs Symns
'Judges Competency Framework - our concerns
'At a recent Border Terrier Club Committee meeting, a unanimous decision was reached to write an open letter to ask the Kennel Club to discontinue the introduction of this complicated and costly exercise and to revert to the status quo. As a club, as exhibitors and as judges, we were quite happy with the way things were already organised.
The Committee, while having some very experienced breeders, exhibitors and judges (including CC judges) also has, included in its number, people of varying ages and experience, who we feel reflect the general show-going population.
Some of our reasons for writing to you are as follows:
'A) EFFECT ON BREED CLUBS:
'1) We already run and pay for the type of seminars you will want in future but feel that the further work being asked of breed clubs is just too much and is a step too far. These new responsibilities are:
'2) Planning and organising and paying for mentors: as well as having these added responsibilities we are also concerned that Mentors need not be active judges, but can be leading breeders who do not judge, retired judges or even people who have not had the breed but have "recognised and current experience in the breed". In our opinion anyone who has not owned or judged the breed is unlikely to be qualified to act as any kind of mentor.
'3) Planning, organising and paying for observers, at various types of show. Mention was made that mostly breed people do not charge clubs for expenses, when asked occasionally, but if they are asked frequently, some might have to charge, given that some of them might be retired people who have limited resources.
'4) Added financial burdens because all breed clubs will be expected to offer supported entry classes to a minimum of two general open shows each year. Supported entry may include paying for the judge's expenses if any, rosettes, prize cards etc...and the observer's expenses.
'5) Added financial costs for payment for Mentors', Observers' and Assessors' expenses to come from profits arising from breed education seminars BUT at present, in order to provide a service to our stakeholders, we do not normally make much of a profit, and mostly just charge sufficient to cover expenses (some Border Terrier Clubs we know run their seminars at a loss as a service to the Breed and to exhibitors and judges). In future, we might have to increase the costs of these to make a profit to pay for mentors, observers and assessors expenses? We would not wish to do this, as we feel it will be counter-productive. We do not want to charge so much that prospective judges might not afford to pay to attend such educational events. In addition as we believe that many breed specialists will decide they do not want to go forward with this complicated and costly exercise, additional required profits to pay for all the expenses will be harder to generate.
'6) Finding observers at present we do organise A2 list assessors for our breed club open shows and evaluators for 1st time CC judges but this is often very difficult. More observers will be required in future and that will add to the difficulty of finding appropriate and qualified people to perform the task.
'7) Much of the above has to be done in conjunction with a Breed Education Co-ordinator (whoever may be daft enough or self-important enough to take on that role). We felt that most of the people who we would wish to ask to perform the task would probably be unwilling to do it and those who would want to push themselves forward for it might well be doing so in an attempt to influence judges of the future and progress their own or their friends' dogs in the show rings of the future.
'8) The practical implications of the time taken in the implementation of this system, not forgetting that all the people who serve on Committees are volunteers who give of their time and travel at their own expense and help to organise shows, seminars and the like already but who may well feel this is a request too far and decide to throw in the towel. This Framework appears to be very professional, strategic and corporate, but you appear to forget or ignore the fact that breed club committees are all volunteers running their clubs with limited resources.
'9) As the breed clubs have had no consultation on the new JCF PRIOR to announcement of all the detail (a day at KC HQ would have made sense!) we think it is important to feedback our very legitimate concerns. Although you are now seeking some review by a select few clubs (presumably chosen by you without consultation with ALL breed clubs, so we wonder how they were chosen and who selected them), we feel this should have been done BEFORE you decided on the detail, or even before you decided that the new Framework should go ahead at all.
Before you even started all this, you should have invited say 10 or 20 breed club secretaries (chosen at random from volunteers - AFTER you advertised for volunteer clubs to participate) to a "think tank", taken over a couple of days, laid out for them beforehand what you were intending, then had discussions with them at the KC as to what pitfalls the secretaries could see in a practical way, before just announcing the scheme. Was it perhaps that you were keen to impress other kennel clubs around the world, that you had to rush it in without consultation?
Who knows, you might have been advised of all our concerns BEFORE IMPLEMENTATION and decided not to go ahead with it.
Regarding your "pilot scheme" - we always thought that pilot studies were done beforehand rather than afterwards. That might be an old-fashioned view in your minds, but it is a practical and democratic one.
'10) A number of breed club secretaries are well used to tackling legislation and rules and try their best with everything the KC brings out to get on top of what is required as soon as possible. Even for them this new system is far too complicated, time consuming and costly and was not needed - things, certainly in our breed, were working very well the way they were.
'11) Where are the clubs' Officers and Committee supposed to find the time to undertake all the extra work? Perhaps you do not realise how busy secretaries already are? Our Secretary spends at least a few hours or more every day on Border Terrier Club business and there is always a long list of jobs not yet done. She just does not have the extra time to devote to this, unless she has no family life at all. Some secretaries also work in full time jobs - which ours did for a long time - and then come home from work, go straight to the home "office" and do Club work for hours. WHERE are all these people supposed to find the time to implement all this additional work?
'12) The KC has recognised in the past that some Clubs find it difficult to get people willing to serve on Committee or as Secretary. If they could not find people willing to serve before, how much more difficult will it be now? Most Secretaries are mere mortals and we as a Committee feel that a lot of them will throw in the towel, along with a number of decent breed specialist judges.
'B) EFFECT ON EXHIBITORS AND ENTRIES OVERALL:
1) Exhibitors generally prefer to show under breed specialists (with the occasional allrounder/non-breed specialist/multi breed judge). As this new scheme is more inclined to advance the prospects of the latter and increase the number of shows judged by them, we feel that this will lead to dissatisfaction with showing and reduction in entries, the very things we understand you are trying to avoid.
'2) We have, as a breed, noticed more allrounder judges allocated to our breed in the last couple of years at General Championship shows and indeed, some shows where they have employed them every year for many years. As one of the generally highest entries in the Terrier Group at other General Championship shows where breed specialists are judging, we feel that this works against what our exhibitors and members would wish to see. We have had comments that "I am not travelling hundreds of miles for an allrounder" and "I have missed many of my favourite shows this year as they are not judged by someone who knows the breed." and many other such comments. Ask the exhibitors what they want and you might reconsider this new Framework.
'C) EFFECT ON JUDGES:
'1) We worry that if the new Framework is implemented, we might lose some very good breed specialists, and lose out on bringing on new breed specialists, who may decide that it is too much and throw in the towel too (a lot of towel throwing might take place).
'2) Our judges have long been the envy of the world and rather than bring the world up to our standards, you seem to be demeaning the judges here and bringing in unnecessary new hoops for people to jump through when some of them were almost at the point of awarding CCs now.
'3) On that last point, we have some breed specialists who only had one or two items left on the A3 list criteria to achieve, after years of working towards them, for example one case where only 2 stewarding appointments remained for the person to fulfil ALL the current A3 list criteria (which includes 12 stewarding appointments), but because you are bringing this in, they stand little chance of now being considered for the A3 list and it is like a game of snakes and ladders for them - they were nearly there, heading for the top, when the (KC) snake knocked them back down to the bottom of the ladder again and they had to start again with all new features of mentors, assessors and observers. Some might just leave the dice as they lay and fold up the board. Good people may have lost out to the system.
'All the more galling as under the new system, people only have to steward 4 times (granted for full days, but our breed specialists have often undertaken full days at a busy breed club show, as our entries for our Open shows are around and sometimes well above 100 dogs with a lot of repeat entries, which challenge their control of the ring).
'4) You talk about the numbers required under the current criteria being just a "numbers exercise" and have also done away with the "adequate geographic spread".
'We consider both of these things very important, given that our Championship shows have high entries (apart from a few recent ones where allrounders were judging). Our judges need experience in terms of numbers judged, so that if they are presented with a championship show entry of say 100 or more, which is the norm (and some Gen Ch shows have been nearer 200 for breed specialists), that they have had experience of judging numerically high classes/shows and are not overawed by the experience. Adequate geographic spread is important so that judges have had sufficient experience of judging different types of dogs and not just the same dogs at different local shows.
'5) We also think the Framework will put a lot of new people off judging at all. In the past, we have had people who have said, when they are on a C List but not yet taken all the seminars and were being encouraged to take them so they could maybe progress to the B lists, that they just wanted us to take them off the lists instead, as they were not that keen on jumping through all the hoops. We think we will get more potential good judges saying they do not want to take it any further because the whole process is too complicated and too involved. We realise this will open it up for more allrounders, which to be frank looks like your main aim here! A lot of us prefer to show under someone who is perhaps a reluctant judge but who cares about the job they are being asked to do rather than those who pushed themselves forward to judge and regard the process as part of a 'career'. Now the new system takes it one step further and seems likely instead to reward those who push.
'D) EFFECT ON GENERAL CANINE SOCIETIES:
'1) We worry that the Framework will have an adverse effect on General Canine Society Open shows, who struggle as it is to find judges and ring stewards. This new JCF would reduce further the opportunities for people to gain hands on experience which in our view is such a vital training ground for judges before they progress to higher levels. This country is unique in having a reasonable open show scene but the KC seems intent on destroying such of it that currently exists.
'E) REPERCUSSIONS REGARDING JUDGES KNOWING THE IDENTITY OF MENTORS, OBSERVERS AND ASSESSORS:
'1) Under the current A2 assessment procedure, the identity of the assessor/s is unknown to the judge, so the assessor can make valid comments to the KC without fear or favour, or worrying that the next time they meet the judge it might be under acrimonious circumstances. The JCF allows the judge to know the identity of the person mentoring and observing them. There is then the possibility of two repercussions:
a) recriminations if the judge does not find the approval of the mentor and observer,
'b) the danger that some mentors and observers may err on the side of caution and give a pass mark for fear of such recriminations, thus reducing the procedures to a box ticking exercise.
'F) CUSTOMERS HAVE RIGHTS: CONSIDER ASKING US FIRST!
'1) Lastly, but quite important we feel - as well as exhibitors referred to in paragraph B above, we the Breed Clubs are also your CUSTOMERS - without your customers, you have no business and as you are now a Limited Company, will you please listen to your customers, go back to the beginning, SUSPEND THE INTRODUCTION OF THIS Judges Competency Framework and ASK us first what we want. Survey all clubs, judges and exhibitors to ask if we are, or are not, happy with the present systems and then if it turns out that the majority of clubs, exhibitors or judges do not want or need any changes of such magnitude forced upon them, then abandon the Judges Competency Framework!'