Outdoor and Adventurous Activities
‘I am happy to place on record that the government supports the role of adventure as part of active education, especially in helping young people to learn about assessing and managing risk, in offering them new and exciting challenges, and in helping them to gain skills in leadership and team working that will be of huge value in their progression to adulthood’.
Tony Blair, in support of the Campaign for Adventure, English Outdoor Council, in September 2001.
Outdoor and Adventurous Activities can make a significant contribution to the education of all children at any Key Stage. Outdoor and Adventurous Activities are one of the six activities that are a statutory part of the Physical Education curriculum. Schools can decide which four or five activity areas to cover in their Physical Education Programme. However, many schools include a residential stay in their school curriculum and this can include outdoor and adventurous activities.
Outdoor and Adventurous Activities can make a significant contribution to the development of cross-curricular skills through its use of problem solving methods and approaches. Of equal significance is the impact that Outdoor and Adventurous Activities can make on pupils’ personal and social education. Many of the activities encourage self-confidence and self-reliance as well as activities that require pupils to work as a team and value the contribution of others. To be successful in Outdoor and Adventurous Activities requires pupils to work co-operatively, communicate effectively, and review and reflect on their actions.
This section outlines the safety considerations that must be followed to ensure that Outdoor and Adventurous Activities are carried out safely in all Wigan schools, youth establishments and CYPS centrally organised activities. It has been extracted from the Code of Practice for Educational Trips and Visits to make the guidance more ‘user friendly’.
Some activities in this section are subject to the Adventure Activities Licensing Regulations. These Regulations place legal obligations on providers of activities falling within the scope of the regulations to be licensed by the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority. The regulations are aimed at anyone who provides, in return for payment, adventure activities to schools or the public for young people under 18.
It is essential that teachers, youth workers or other Council employees organising adventure activities understand the implications of the regulations, both to ensure compliance where necessary and to avoid inadvertently breaking the law.
Schools are exempt from the need to hold a licence providing they do not ‘sell’ places to other schools. However, now that there are legally stated expectations of qualifications, experience and other standards in relation to defined activities, these are likely to be applied by the courts, irrespective of whether the organisation was subject to, or exempted from licensing. Schools providing their own adventure activity programmes should refer to the appropriate Qualifications and Ratios for Adventurous Activities.
These Regulations were passed under the Activity Centres (Young Persons’ Safety) Act 1995 and introduce a licensing scheme for ‘adventure activity’ providers.
Under the 1995 Act a Licensing Authority was established. The present Regulations set out the legal framework within which the Licensing Authority must work. The Licensing Authority has to consider applications for licences from providers, carry out an inspection, and decide whether to grant a licence. Conditions may be attached, such as restrictions on activities and the duration of the licence, and there is also the power to revoke a licence. The governing legislation is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, as updated, and the emphasis is on the evaluation of the provider’s risk assessment and management when considering an application. Such aspects as instructor qualifications and experience, supervision ratios for parties, first aid and emergency policies and procedures, accident records, and the equipment and facilities of providers, are all taken into account. There is an inspection cycle and a licence renewal system at expiry, as well as a complaints machinery.
The following activities are within the scope of the Regulations:
- Climbing. Rock climbing, Abseiling, Ghyll scrambling, Gorge walking, Ice climbing.
- Watersports. Canoeing, Kayaking, Dragon boating, White water rafting, Sailing, Sailboarding, Windsurfing, Wave skiing, Improvised rafting.
- Trekking. Mountaineering, Hill walking, Fell running, Orienteering, Pony trekking, Off road cycling, Off piste skiing.
- Caving. Caving, Potholing, Mine exploration.
These activities are subject to detailed definition in the Regulations, which should be consulted directly in cases of doubt. Some activities within the above table can be exempt given certain conditions, artificial abseil towers and climbing walls for example. In their publication ‘Guidance on Regulations to the Licensing Authority’ the Health and Safety Commission provide further details as to the hazard levels within each of these activities, and the corresponding qualifications required of group instructor/leader and the technical expert advice available to the provider. The Act only applies to activities within Great Britain; however reputable United Kingdom providers will operate to similar standards where they provide activities in other countries.
Anyone who provides adventure activities within the scope of the scheme in return for payment (which does not have to be aimed at profit making) must have a licence and abide by its conditions. The scheme applies to all who sell adventure activities to schools and to the public for young people under 18. This can include both commercial and voluntary bodies. So a school now needs to check whether any provider it is using for regulated activities is licensed for those activities. A provider can be an individual, a group, a company, a local authority, a school, a service, a society, trust, partnership, or club.
A school does not need a licence for provision to its own pupils, but it does need a licence for provision to pupils of another school, or to other members of the public, for activities covered by the Regulations. This includes the Duke of Edinburgh Award when ex-pupils return or pupils from another school or other under 18 year olds are also provided for.
Outdoor Education Centres run by Councils such as Wigan’s CYPS Lakeland Centres are each required to have a licence for any activities covered by the Regulations. CYPS needs a licence as, for example, it is a direct provider of Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditions to independent students not in school or from various schools.
A Youth Centre is regarded by the DCSF as a ‘voluntary association’ for purposes of the Regulations and as such would not need a licence for regulated activities unless it provides for non-members as well as members. The Armed Forces can be providers but have Crown immunity from the Regulations.
A full list of current Adventure Activities Licensing Authority licence holders together with useful advice for providers and clients is available at AALS (external link)
Adventurous use of the outdoor environment is nationally recognised as making an important contribution to the broad curriculum of school or centre. Part of the value of this approach lies in the spirit of adventure, of apparent risk and in the satisfactory conclusion of an expedition or activity in the face of natural hazards and difficulties. This sense of adventure can only be maintained safely with competent leadership based on sound personal experience.
Suitably experienced leaders are best able to make specific judgements relating to the activity in the light of prevailing circumstances. This permits maximum flexibility of response by the leader to changes in weather, group disposition, individual weakness etc. Leaders must consider and apply as necessary, operational and safety procedures appropriate to the activity in question. Such guidance can be found in this document and in the guidance produced by the relevant national Governing Body and the DCSF. Leaders should consider the following factors in relation to the particular activity.
Group size should reflect the difficulty and seriousness of the venue and activity, bearing in mind that in an emergency safe, swift and efficient action will be necessary (see Qualifications and Ratios for Adventurous Activities). Group members should each have received sufficient prior training to ensure that the proposed activity forms a natural progression. The selected activity should be appropriate to the age, maturity and fitness of all members of the group. Care should be taken to ensure that the activity skills, abilities and experience level of any accompanying adults are significantly above those of the group members. Due regard must also be given to those group members with behavioural or special needs.
Factors influencing the choice of site will include:
- The purpose and level of the activity
- The experience and ability of the group
- Its familiarity to the leaders, and
- The time of year, weather, daylight hours and time available.
The effects of weather can be crucial to enjoyment, learning and safety. Leaders should obtain and act on appropriate local, recent forecasts.
The effects of altitude and geographical features should be understood and allowance made.
The implications of weather en route, clothing and equipment must be considered.
Early spring and late autumn weather is notoriously changeable, creating difficulties accentuated by relatively short days.
All parties should be clothed and equipped appropriate to the nature of the activity and its location, the time of year and expected weather.
Having the right equipment is not in itself enough; all the party members should be familiar with its use through appropriate training.
First aid and survival equipment carried needs to be appropriate to the activity, location, remoteness and time of year.
Leaders will need to plan for:
- The long term comfort and care of a casualty and the group (group emergency shelters are an excellent investment)
- The provision of emergency food and drink
- Emergency signalling for assistance.
Supervision levels should be appropriate to:
- The venture, time of year and prevailing conditions
- The specific activity and the skill involved
- The level of risk and the experience of individual leaders
- The age, ability and any special needs of the group.
Leaders will need to assess whether increased staffing ratios are appropriate in specific situations, following a risk assessment of the proposed activity and venue.
Leaders should resist external pressures (e.g. school staffing difficulties) that reduce staffing ratios below those which the leader finds acceptable.
It is expected that Group Leaders hold the relevant national Governing Body award for the activity they are leading. It may be possible for a technical adviser to 'sign off' a leader who does not hold the relevant qualification provided that:
- They are registered and have completed the relevant training course
- Log book evidence reflects suitable experience
- They use a specific location
- They are operating at or above the standard of the national award
An assessment of actual and potential risks of the proposed venture must be undertaken in the early planning stages. Such considerations should take account of all the above factors and any additional issues specific to the proposed activity.
Appropriate measures must be taken to eliminate or reduce risks to an acceptable and justifiable level. Leaders should undertake a risk rating of the major hazards and the severity of outcome themselves well in advance of any activity.
Risk assessments should be recorded in writing in advance of the activity.
New activities appear on a regular basis and thus will not be covered in the guidance here (e.g. kite surfing). These activities usually take time to establish a national Governing Body and thus a code of safe practice. The principles of risk assessment should be applied in the same way as other established activities. Existing NGB training schemes may be transferable to the activity, one example being site specific training operate safely on a high level ropes course.
It is considered good practice to involve all young people undertaking activities in the process of risk assessment. Examples of this practice are given at the rear of the DCSF booklet ‘Standards for LEAs in Overseeing Educational Visits’.
There is a shared view amongst many outdoor educationalists that, as responsible adults, we have a duty to expose young people to well managed and reasonable risks. An example of this may be where they may perceive the risk as being high such as in a 50m abseil, but the actual risk is reasonably low. Discussion of this difference in actual and perceived risks may help them appreciate the higher risk activities they may choose to undertake with their peer group, away from the influence of adults.
- Activity undertaken without direct leader supervision is an integral part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme expedition, such activities:
- Should form a natural progression to the programme of study and participants should be at a stage to benefit from such experience
- Require appropriate student maturity, levels of training and experience Require a system for frequent staff checks on the welfare and behaviour of participants, and
- Require that advance parental, written approval has been given.
Indirectly supervised or unaccompanied activities should not be implemented for any reason other than that above. They should not be introduced solely as a means of overcoming staffing difficulties or providing variety and choice of activity. Organisers should note that the skills, knowledge and qualifications of the leader overseeing unaccompanied activities should normally be greater than those required for staff-accompanied activity in the same circumstances. Leaders should appreciate the need for approval of the Head Teacher/School Educational Visits Co-ordinator and, where appropriate, CYPS and should recognise that he/she remains responsible even when the group is operating independently.
Unaccompanied expedition groups in open country must be prepared thoroughly to enable them to maximise the outdoor opportunities available to them. It is a logical development of a progressive programme of outdoor education.
There are a variety of voluntary organisations that run Awards or Schemes from which guidance can be obtained. The Duke of Edinburgh Award (external link), The Scouting Association (external link) and The Boys Brigade (external link) & Girls Brigade (external link) are examples of nationally recognised organisations which provide expedition opportunities to pupils. Information about other uniformed organisations can be obtained from the National Youth Agency (external link).
If offering expedition opportunities it is strongly recommended that advice & guidance be sought from such organisations.
Any information regarding incidents involving the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Expedition Section, should be forwarded to the Local Award Officer and the National Award’s Duty Officer Tel: 017654 382646 (out of office hours) Head Office (daytime) 01753 727400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Form RA1 is a useful checklist for providers and can be used as starting point when validating suitability of external outdoor providers for day visits or residential’s.