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Adventurous Activities and the Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge

An overview of the LOtC Quality Badge scheme and it's benefits

The Department for Education (DfE) and the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom have brought together existing quality and safety badges into one easily recognisable Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge for provider organisations. This badge is instantly recognised and trusted by local authorities and schools. External organisations that provide learning outside the classroom experiences for children and young people (i.e. LOtC providers) which have the LOtC Quality Badge have demonstrated that they: 

  • Offer high quality teaching and learning experiences; and
  • Manage risk effectively

The LOtC Quality Badge is awarded to LOtC providers who have pledged to participate in an on-going process to sustain high quality learning outside the classroom. The LOtC Quality Badge provides huge benefits for schools and other educational establishments. Using 'badged' providers will help schools, teachers and other leaders to plan learning outside the classroom experiences that meet their needs and those of their young people.

Why will providers want the LOtC Quality Badge and how will the process help them to meet the needs of schools and their pupils?

The Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge provides for the first time a national accreditation scheme combining the essential elements of provision - learning and safety. Widespread consultation with those involved with children and young people's services revealed the need for a common scheme which could provide an assurance as to the quality of the educational experiences on offer.

For USERS the LOtC Quality Badge provides an assurance that a provider:

  • offers "what it says on the tin";
  • takes account of the needs of users;
  • has an emphasis on 'learning/skills outcomes';
  • ensures the quality of the learning process; and
  • operates in a healthy and safe environment.

For PROVIDERS the LOtC Quality Badge:

  • accredits the quality of educational provision;
  • provides a marketing opportunity;
  • better enables 'fast tracking' for client approval;
  • improves consistency in educational provision; and
  • provides a useful development tool.

The scheme will help promote the valuable educational opportunities available and the confidence of users in what is offered by providers. Local Authorities, other employers, the education workforce, parents and young people can recognise and have confidence in the Badge Scheme and in badged providers. It is anticipated that this will enable the development of 'fast tracking' through administrative and approval systems.

Do I have to get the LOtC Quality Badge?

This is a non-statutory scheme and as such, there is no legal requirement for providers to achieve the badge. However, we are certain that providers will see the benefit of the badge and in reviewing and improving their own offering. Schools may ask providers if they have the LOtC Quality Badge.

How will the LOtC Quality Badge be awarded?

To ensure that the badge is fit for purpose, it is essential that safety and risk management are assessed at the right level.

The route providers take to achieve the LOtC Quality Badge is determined by the degree of risk management required to manage the activities offered.

Providers are not able to choose the route they take; the route will be determined by the activities they offer. There are two "Routes" to achieving the badge:

Route 1

Some activities and venues fall within the scope of everyone's experience, such as visits to theatres, art galleries, museums, historic houses, science learning centres, botanic gardens or places of worship. Here the risks are of an 'everyday' kind and are well within the experience of well trained school staff.

These providers will follow a Route 1 process where the LOtC Quality Badge is awarded when all the quality indicators can be met following the completion of an online Self Evaluation Form and the signing of a Code of Practice declaration form. There will be annual quality assurance visits to a proportion of badged providers to ensure standards are maintained at an appropriate level. And, of course, there will also be appropriate processes for visitors to raise concerns should they feel that a provider is failing to maintain the agreed standard.

Route 2

Other activities require a degree of technical knowledge and experience that are beyond the lay person, such as visits to farms, knowing which beaches are safe to use for field studies at certain states of the tide, or how to ensure a group of children are operating safely on a high ropes course or a circus trapeze. Providers of these activities will follow Route 2, where their safety management systems will be assessed by external agencies before they can be awarded the LOtC Quality Badge. They will still have to meet the same criteria for ensuring quality as the providers following Route 1.

Five sector-specific Awarding Bodies undertake the onsite assessments on behalf of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom. These are:

Although residential and overseas activities are within the experience of many people, the suitability of venues further afield, travel and accommodation in which groups of young people stay present unique safety management issues for teachers, and so these are included in Route 2.

Providers of adventurous activities who apply are assessed against The LOtC Quality Indicators and the AAIAC Provider Accreditation Criteria, which cover the detailed safety requirements of Quality Indicator 6, and are identical to those applied to Adventuremark.

Which activities fall into our sector?

A detailed list of which activities are in Route 2 and to which Awarding Body providers of these activities will need to go to can be found here.

How does the LOtC Quality Badge work in our sector?

Adventure Activity Associates Ltd have been appointed by AAIAC (the Route 2 awarding body for Adventurous Activities) to implement LOtC Badging. There are three paths to achieving the LOtC Quality Badge in Adventurous Activities:

  1. To apply click here
  2. Providers can be accredited by an approved scheme (a list of approved schemes can be found at www.adventureactivityassociates.co.uk
  3. Providers who hold an AALA licence can apply to Adventure Activity Associates for a "top up" inspection here.

All three paths will require providers to undergo a process of inspection against the LOtC criteria.

What is the application process?

Route 2 providers who want to attain a LOtC Quality Badge must apply to their relevant sector Awarding Body. If you are part of the Adventurous Activities sector you can click here to apply.

An on site assessment will be arranged in order for the provider to demonstrate how they meet the quality and safety indicators. When assessment is successfully completed, the final step in the badging process is for providers to fill in an online registration form including information about their provision.

What if I have more than one site?

A multiple site provider is defined as a provider which directly owns and runs 10 or more different settings. All the settings are centrally administrated and quality is managed by the provider's Head Office.

Multiple site providers will apply separately for each site, on a site by site basis. 

For Route 1, assessors will visit a sample of at least 10% of the provider's sites to assure each against the quality criteria. If any one site fails the assessment, the whole provider will not achieve the LOTC Quality Badge. The provider will have two weeks to provide any evidence remotely if any of the sites have been judged to be 'needs to provide further evidence'. Alternatively, if the provider has 'not yet met all of the indicators', a notice to develop will be issued for a 3 month time period, until such time as the provider has demonstrated that it has addressed any issues.

For Route 2, providers will follow the Awarding Body's individual arrangements.

How am I assessed for the LOtC Quality Badge?

Inspection 

All Route 2 assessments will involve a visit by an inspector. The purpose of the visit is to review and validate the evidence for meeting each detailed indicator and, where possible, offer suggestions on how they provider might meet those indicators where they are falling short. 

At times, there may be an element of judgement needed to decide whether the provider meets the 'good' standard.

Planning

Before the practical inspection takes place you may be asked to provide details of how you operate and to provide evidence that you meet the quality indicators. Arrangements will be made for a practical, on site assessment.

On site assessments

Assessments should last no longer than 6 hours, although this may vary according to the sector and complexity of the provider's offering. Assessors will need to satisfy themselves that providers have metall of the criteria to the required 'good' standard. Sufficient evidence should be reviewed until the assessor achieves comfort that the provider has met the indicators.

Follow up

If you:

  • have 'met' all the indicators, your assessor will tell you so orally;
  • 'need to provide further evidence', your assessor will tell you which indicators have not been met and will offer suggestions of how to meet them where possible. Your assessor will give you up to two weeks to provide the evidence necessary to meet these indicators. If you then meet all of the indicators, your assessor will inform you that you have been successful.
  • have 'not yet met all of the indicators', you must re-apply in the Awarding Body's normal channels.

What if I hold an AALA Licence?

Adventurous Activities Licensing Authority licensed providers can achieve the Lotc Quality Badge through the AAIAC 'top up' route. This will involve an additional inspection against the LOtC quality indicators

Accreditation through an AAIAC approved scheme

Providers can achieve the LOtC Quality Badge as part of an accreditation by a scheme which has been approved by AAIAC and includes inspection against the LOtC criteria. (a full list of approved schemes can be found at www.adventureactivityassociates.co.uk); 

What are the quality indicators?

In order to achieve an LOtC Quality Badge, providers must show that they meet six quality indicators- The Quality Indicators.

  1. The provider has a process in place to assist users to plan the learning experience effectively;
  2. The provider provides accurate information about its offer;
  3. The provider provides activities, experience or resources which meet learner needs;
  4. The provider reviews the experience & acts upon feedback;
  5. The provider meets the needs of users; and
  6. The provider has safety management processes in place to manage risk effectively.

Underneath each high level quality indicator is a number of sub-indicators.

Safety Criteria - Provider accreditation

The goal for provider accreditation in Adventurous Activities is that management, operating systems and personnel are appropriate to the scale and nature of adventurous provision and its intended target population.

To achieve this goal providers must satisfy the following criteria:

  • Staff are competent
  • Risks are identified and appropriately managed
  • Access to appropriate technical advice exists
  • Agreed operational procedures are implemented, regularly reviewed and responsive to changing events and circumstances
  • Internal and external communication is effective
  • Provision reflects the needs of targeted client groups and individuals
  • Safety critical equipment, facilities and services are fit for purpose

The indicators are process-orientated (e.g. the way in which the provider works with the user to plan the experience and set learning objectives) and do not attempt to assess learning outcomes directly, as these remain the responsibility of the teacher or group leader. The bar for this Quality Badge will be set at 'good' as defined by the generic indicators across both routes. There will be no higher or lower standard.

How much does it cost to get the badge?

There are three paths to achieving the LOtC Quality Badge in Adventurous Activities:

1. Providers can apply directly for accreditation to Adventure Activity Associates for a fee of £775+VAT

2. Providers can be accredited by an approved scheme for a fee of £165+VAT A list of approved schemes can be     found at www.adventureactivityassociates.co.uk

3. Providers who hold an AALA licence can apply to Adventure Activity Associates for a 'top up' inspection for a fee of £450+VAT

Note: An annual fee of £165+VAT  will be paid on the alternate years when no inspection takes place.

What will the LOtC Quality Badge look like?

Badged providers will receive a LOtC Quality Badge certificate. They will also receive an electronic version of the LOtC Quality Badge kitemark to use in their marketing and communications.

For how long will the badge be valid?

LOtC Quality Badges in the Adventurous Activities sector will last for two years.

Complaints process

The complaints process depends on the originator and nature of the complaint.

User complaints

Firstly, the user (e.g. a Headteacher, teacher or youth worker) is able to complain to the provider directly and/or can notify their LA Outdoor Education Adviser (or equivalent).

Should the complaint not be resolved at the provider level, it should be escalated to the Route 1 managing agent, LOtC Council (Route 1) or the Awarding Body (Route 2) who has issued that provider with a Quality Badge. LOtC Council or the Awarding Body will investigate the issue and make a judgement on the complaint.

If the complaint is not resolved at this stage, final recourse will be to the Council sub-committee. There will be a three-tiered complaints process:

Tier 1 'Local level Tier 2' LOtC Council (Route 1) or Awarding Body (Route 2) level Tier 3 'Council sub committee level

If the Awarding Body or Council finds that a provider has not offered the service as described in their self assessment and acted against the principles of the Code of Practice, it has the power to:

  • issue a notice to improve for a period of three months, after which, the provider will need to be re-assessed; and/or
  • remove the provider's badge for a period of 12 months, after which time the provider is able to re-apply for their badge or re-upload their details on the website (for route 1).

The action taken will depend upon the seriousness of the complaint and whether it is upheld. The provider has the opportunity to appeal the decision at which time, the complaint will be escalated to the next tier e.g. the Council, should the appeal be at the Awarding Body level.

Provider and Awarding Body complaints

The complaints process for providers who have issues with their Awarding Body will be the same as the process for users above, but will begin at tier two. Similarly, where an Awarding Body has a complaint, this will begin at tier three. If complaints are not resolved at any stage, the complainant has the right to take the complaint to the next 'tier' and ultimately to the Council. All attempts should be made, however, to resolve the complaint locally. Should OEAP receive complaints from users on more than one occasion, which may give rise to concern about the provision, the OEAP adviser can report the issue to either the provider or Awarding Body, or Council, depending on the seriousness of the complaint.

In the Adventurous Activities sector complaints should in the first instance be taken up with the provider. Where this approach is unsuccessful in resolving the issue the complaint can be presented to AAIAC; if this proves unsuccessful in resolving the issue the matter will be referred to the Council.

Appeals

Similar to the complaints process, where a provider appeals against a decision of an Awarding Body not to award a badge or not to have their badge renewed, the appeal will be made initially to the Awarding Body at tier 2 (as above).

Awarding Bodies each have their own appeals processes (such as the option for independent arbitration) and these should be used in the first instance. If the appeal is not resolved at this stage, the appeal will be passed ultimately to the Council quality badge sub committee for a decision. The sub committee also has the right to engage an independent arbitrator to assist in proceedings.

Route 2 – Awarding Bodies and Route 2 activities

School Travel Forum (STF) Educational and study residential and day visits in the UK* and world-wide, where they are organised by third parties on behalf of schools, colleges and youth groups including:
  • Study visits
  • Foreign exchange visits
  • Rock Concert tours
  • Sports, skiing and snow sport trips
  • Educational conferences
  • Cruises
  • Pilgrimages
  • Swimming pools in hotels, hostels or campsites
The STF remit normally does not cover visits that are exclusively outdoor and adventurous activities or expeditions. However, where such activities are included as a minor part in a wider package, the STF scheme ensures such activities are covered. *Organisations offering only day visits within the UK will not need to be badged through this route unless the activities offered are more hazardous.

Adventure Activities Industry Advisory Committee (AAIAC) A wide range of sports, challenges and skills come within the definition of 'adventurous activity'. Many involve an accepted element of risk and need to be led by competent staff with specialist training. They generally take place in the natural environment, but sometimes can be mimicked artificially in or outdoors. Courses are often organised by dedicated centres which offer multi-activity or specialist programmes as appropriate to their facilities or surroundings. Alternatively, freelance instructors can arrange activities in any suitable location. Participation in the following activities, when organised as described above, is covered by the AAIAC Awarding Body:
  • Abseiling
  • Archery
  • Artificial wall climbing
  • Bell-boating
  • Canoeing
  • Caving
  • Coasteering
  • Cycling
  • Dog sledging
  • Dragon boating
  • Ghyll scrambling
  • Gorge walking
  • High ropes courses
  • Hill walking
  • Horse riding
  • Ice climbing
  • Improvised rafting
  • Kayaking
  • Low ropes courses
  • Mine exploration
  • Quad biking
  • Mountaineering
  • Mountain biking
  • Mountain boarding
  • Orienteering
  • Pony trekking
  • Pot-holing
  • Powered safety/rescue craft
  • Rock climbing
  • Rowing
  • Sail boarding
  • Sailing
  • Sand yachting
  • Sea level traversing
  • Shooting
  • Sledging
  • Snorkel and aqua lung activities
  • Snowsports
  • Surfing
  • Swimming - pool, sea, natural waters
  • Swimming pools in hotels, hostels or campsites
  • Towed water sports / water skiing
  • Wave skiing
  • Wild camping
  • Whitewater rafting
  • Windsurfing
  • Yachting (coastal and off-shore)
  • Zip wires


Access To Farms (ATF) Activities that take place on a farm or horticultural premises, and where livestock, soil or horticultural inputs, products or equipment may be handled (excluding small horticultural sites such as allotments and community gardens where demonstrations-only take place).


Expedition Providers Association (EPA) Overseas travel that involves a deliberate element of risk, challenge or adventure, requiring specialist skills for safe management, i.e. expeditions overseas which include any of the following:
  • Abseiling
  • Archery
  • Building and renovation
  • Camel trekking
  • Canoeing
  • Caving
  • Cycling
  • Canyoning
  • Cultural visits
  • Dog sledging
  • D of E expeditions - trekking, by cycle and water
  • Gorge walking
  • Horse riding
  • Ice climbing
  • Kayaking
  • Mountaineering
  • Mountain biking
  • Orienteering
  • Personal development
  • Pony trekking
  • Rock climbing
  • Riding ? horses, camels and elephants
  • Sail boarding
  • Sailing
  • Sand boarding and yachting
  • Skiing
  • Sledging
  • Snorkel and aqua lung activities
  • Snow shoeing
  • Surfing
  • Swimming - pool, sea and natural waters
  • Swimming pools in hotels, hostels or campsites
  • Teaching and coaching
  • Team building
  • Trekking - mountains, deserts, tropical regions
  • Via ferrata
  • Water skiing
  • Wave skiing
  • Whitewater Rafting
  • Windsurfing
  • Yachting
If any element of the provision includes an overseas expedition, providers must apply through EPA.


Field Studies Council (FSC) Field study activities that take place wholly in controlled areas used by the public (such as botanical gardens, zoos, forest parks, bird reserves, grounds of field centres, historic buildings, farms, open air museums, commercially operated visits to caves and mines, etc.) will be badged through Route 1. In most other cases field study activities should be accredited under Route 2, because risks can change with weather, tides, terrain and the desire of some people to go beyond very safe public areas. Some field study centres offer a mix of fieldwork and adventurous activities. If this is a significant element of the provision then accreditation will be undertaken by AAIAC. The following types of field studies based activities need Route 2 accreditation:
  • River studies (where people enter the water
  • make measurements)
  • Coastal studies, including work on beaches (even apparently safe places used by the general public can be hazardous in bad weather), sand-dunes, saltmarsh, exposed and sheltered shores, cliff areas, etc.
  • Urban studies (where learners work in unsupervised groups - groups away from permanent supervision)
  • Studies in upland areas (including hill walking)
  • Studies in wetland areas and beside lakes
  • Studies using boats on canals, rivers and lakes
  • Studies in quarries and at other rock exposures (hard hat areas)
  • Expeditions
  • remote areas in the UK
  • Studies in caves and mines (except commercially operated tours)
  • Bushcraft activities
In many cases the activities of a centre, reserve, country park (or similar organisation) may involve mainly low risk activities in very safe, controlled circumstances, but with a few higher risk activities. Route 2 should be used in these circumstances because it removes Quality Badge limitations placed on centres by Route 1 accreditation.

 

Quality Badge Indicators

 

Pre Experience Indicators
B. The provider provides accurate information about its offer. Therefore:
  1. ensures that any promotional / written materials provide an accurate description of amenities, facilities and services provided and contact details; and
  2. has charging policies that state honestly the charges of the experience.
 
During Experience Indicators
C. The provider provides activities, experience or resources which meet learner needs. Therefore:
  1. offers a variety of activities delivered through a range of teaching and learning styles;
  2. equipment and materials are suitable for tasks/activities, the age and ability of the learners, are current and in good working order;
  3. makes good use of their location;
  4. the amenities, facilities and services are as described in promotional / written materials;
  5. where there are on site educational or instructional staff, staff are competent; and
  6. where there are on site educational or instructional staff, there is a process in place for monitoring and evaluating the quality of their teaching / instruction
 

 

Post Experience Indicators

 

D. The provider reviews the experience and acts upon feedback. Therefore:
  1. evaluates their own services;
  2. gathers feedback on the learning experience from users (teachers and learners), including what was agreed at the planning stage was delivered, whether learning objectives have been met and value for money has been achieved; and
  3. has a process in place to change practices as a result of review, evaluation and feedback.
 
 
Organisational Indicators
E. The provider meets the needs of users. Therefore:
  1. communicates effectively with users;
  2. essential written policies and procedures are reviewed, maintained and updated. This should be undertaken on a regular basis and cover all venues and all activities;
  3. shows an understanding of sustainability issues and the impact of activities where appropriate; and
  4. has a process in place to monitor the overall quality of provision across its site or sites (if multiple sites) and make changes where necessary.
 
F. The provider has safety management processes in place to manage risk effectively. Therefore:
  1. has safety management procedures in place, (which are shared with users) so that risks are identified and appropriately managed;
  2. complies with all external regulation relating to them e.g. Health and Safety at Work Act;
  3. has appropriate/agreed public liability insurance cover; and
  4. has relevant safeguarding procedures in place e.g. maintains Child Protection Standards and provides child secure venues.
For Route 2 providers, each awarding body has a detailed set of safety indicators which sit below the four safety indicators.