Phil Revell reports on a new benchmark for people working in the leisure industry
The Sports and Recreation Industry Training Organisation (SPRITO) launches its new level 2 NVQs later this month.
Teachers leading trips out of school rely on the expertise of the centres and locations that host them. People working in sport and recreation will soon have a new set of national vocational qualifications to benchmark their competences and focus their training.
NVQs have had a poor performance in sport and outdoor education, with most employers and practitioners opting for the training offered by National Governing Bodies such as the British Canoe Union.
NGB awards are recreational and, unlike NVQs, attract no Training and Enterprise Councils funding. So there has been pressure to reform the NVQs related to sport and recreation and develop a better structure.
The demands for safety which resulted from incidents like Lyme Bay, where four teenagers drowned on a canoeing trip at an outdoor centre, have led to a more professional approach by the industry. New inspection arrangements have emphasised the need for properly trained staff, yet employers have been unable to offset the costs of the training and the new NVQs are being offered as a solution.
SPRITO chief executive Stephen Studd said developing NVQs which were as appropriate for professional football as they were for nursery playleaders had been a challenge.
"We are keen for sport and recreation to develop a broader training strategy, " he said. The new NVQs will cover competencies related to residential accommodation, catering, and crowd control, as well as leadership and coaching skills.
Industry leader in outdoor activity holidays, with centres in France, Spain and the UK, is PGL. Its training manager Peter Thompson said PGL would be offering the new NVQs to staff as part of their training programme. He hoped the new qualifications would allow young people in the industry doing temporary or seasonal work to gain a qualification which would help their careers.
Eleven sports, ranging from aerobics to windsurfing, have so far had their technical definitions and competencies incorporated into the level 2 coaching NVQ.
But for some activities, notably in outdoor education, there are concerns for coaching standards.
Nigel Timmins, coaching development officer at the British Canoe Union, welcomed the new qualifications structure in principle: "It's a lot more relevant and it's written in a more accessible way."
But the BCU was concerned about canoeing being coached by people outside its own scheme. "SPRITO wants the BCU stamp of approval," he says. "But it does not want to give up any control over the award."
Mr Timmins said he was particularly concerned that some colleges might offer "coaching qualifications" assessed on standards acceptable to SPRITO, but unacceptable to the BCU.
He said the tragedy at Lyme Bay happened because decisions were taken by people not technically competent to be in charge of a group.
PGL's Peter Thompson said he saw no reason why the two structures should not operate side by side: "One enhances the other."
He believed that individuals would, for example, take an NGB qualification, such as one in sailing, perhaps through the RYA. "That says you've got a certain level of technical ability. Now, can you use it in the workplace with real clients? That's where the NVQs come in."