STUDENTS from Hermitage Academy have been presented with certificates, having completed Argyll and Bute's first Fire Reach Course.

The 10 third year students put on a display for family and friends before being awarded their certificates in recognition of their efforts.

The pupils who will also receive a Dynamic Youth Award for completing the course were Chris Clements, Warren Smith, Robert Caldwell, James Pettit, Kimberley Moore, Scott McGinlay, Lewis Smith, Sasha Young, Declan Deeney and Hayley Smart.

The pupils attended the fire station each day from December 4 to December 9, to learn about all aspects of the fire service and also receive information from Police Scotland.

Barrie McCutcheon, local authority liaison, got in touch with staff at the school to promote the course and organise the children attending.

He said: "I went along to the school to tell them about the benefits of the course. The school then select the children and we interview them to check their suitability.

"Due to new partnership working we now have the staff freed up to run the course and provide training to the young people in the community."

The purpose of the course is to provide training and development opportunities to young people in Scotland, principally through Fire Service related activities and to encourage the students to make the most of their mental and physical capabilities.

The course will also raise the young people’s awareness of the Fire Service and other linked agencies within their community. With displayed commitment, regular attendance and the completion of the programme, pupils will have enhanced their employment prospects.

Barrie has been pleased with the response not only from the school but the children over the course of the week.

He said: "The school have been first class, we hope that it is all successful and we can run more courses. The partnership working with the school has been fantastic, it's early on but the school are seeing the benefits, it's been great.

"Although all the children know each other they are all different and the start of the week was quiet because they are in an unusual environment but now they have become fully involved and completely come out of their shells."

Overseeing and supporting the children on the course all week was Karen Muir, a youth worker for Argyll and Bute. She had participated in the Fire Reach courses in Dumbarton and was glad to see the First Argyll and Bute one go so well.

She said: "On the Monday, none of the children spoke to each other but now there has been such a difference, they are more confident and have built friendships, they are a wee team.

"Iv'e done this course a few times and it really does make such a difference. I will go back into the school and check up on the children to see how the experience has benefitted them.

"They really are a great bunch of young people and we are all so proud."

Parents of one of the pupils, James Pettit have noticed such a change in him over the week.

Sandy and Pamela said: "Since he started this he has become a different child. He's so enthusiastic and he loved getting up and going, the change in him is night and day. All the children are great, they've done so well."

James loved every minute of being on the course and summed the experience up in three words, excellent, enjoyable and fantastic. He added: "The course has been great, I'd recommend it. I was nervous at the start of the week but they all made me feel welcome, now i feel right at home.

"My favourite part was going to Cowcaddens and travelling in the fire engine. I also like that we learned first aid. I feel good about being able to step in and help if someone needed it."

The proud parents and family watched on as the pupils demonstrated everything that they had learned and were praised by the firefighters who had overseen their training.

The crew at the fire station are hopeful that due to the success of this, the first fire reach course in Argyll and Bute, they will be able to run more in the future.