Life beyond AALA
We like what we’ve got thank you
We’ve come to know and trust the licensing regime and value the role its inspectors play. I am clear that the sector has benefited hugely through the development of an intelligent approach to risk management and legislation compliance. We don’t want to lose the culture that AALA has brought to the sector and any new regime needs to continue to bring the same rigour and developmental benefits to the sector.
Equally we must not pretend that the current arrangements don’t have their flaws. We must also be realistic when we are in a sector that is seen to have a very low rate of legislation breach by the HSE and all government departments continue to come under cost management pressures. Changes are coming and we should take the opportunity to ensure they result in a better approach not simply a more expensive version of the same thing.
A UK regime?
I’ve consistently heard a clear voice from the sector that some form of adventurous activity licensing needs to remain and that it needs to be UK wide. So we should start by acknowledging that it is not UK wide at the moment. Much to the frustration of Northern Ireland based providers AALA licences are not available in Northern Ireland and so they are unable to travel with young people to other regions of the UK to undertake adventurous activities that are within scope. Devolution is obviously also playing its part in making the current position less equal than we may think. The Scottish government has invested in a significant consultation with Scottish providers enabling a much better understanding amongst providers and government of options and preferred approaches to a new regime.
A new urgency
If we are to move to a sector led inspection regime that encompasses and possibly goes beyond the scope of ALAA, then we need to all have an opportunity to consider the options and understand the pros and cons of each. Though a relatively small population of folk have already started on this journey I am clear that the majority of UK based providers have not. HSE’s review of ALAA that started in 2016 was not a big surprise. A number of us have been working to enable the UK wide sector to ‘pick up the pieces’ if the ALAA was withdrawn. More recently this work has gathered pace so expect to have your opportunity to consider the options for a ‘post ALAA’ regime endorsed by HSE, made available for you to comment on soon.
What about quality of provision?
Where does the issue of quality fit? The need to make accessing a whole range of activity outside of school less of an administrative burden led to the creation of the CLOtC Quality Badge. This has had some success and has supported an increase in schools’ use of outdoor learning providers. To many the idea of a single badge, like the Quality Badge, that indicates safety and quality is attractive but we need to be careful. It is possible to drive out reasonably measurable definitions where there is legislation and due legal process i.e. the safety element. It is a different proposition to define and measure ‘quality’ when participants, processes and targeted outcomes are ‘richly diverse’. The development of alternative badges indicating quality in outdoor learning provision is indicative of this issue.
If we are to continue to develop standards of delivery and impact in outdoor learning provision and as a result raise the value placed on outdoor learning practices, we should not be too quick to adopt too simple a definition of quality. I’d like to encourage a debate about a rich and stretching definition of quality in outdoor learning at the same time as we seek to develop a UK wide more inclusive approach to inspecting and recognising standards in adventurous activity provision
Look out for opportunities to participate in consultations about a new sector led inspection regime adventurous activity provision for young people.