In summary, the roles are as follows. If you need to make any changes to the existing records we have for these roles, please take a look at our change forms.
The role of the Coach A note on wording: we believe every instructor is a coach, so we use the word coach throughout to refer to all those who work with NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering candidates.

What is the role of a coach?

Let’s start with a definition of what we call a coach:

(a) An individual used by NICAS on a freelance basis to provide independent coaching training and advice to and about specified Accredited Centres and Course Directors. Will have particular expertise in coaching and training climbing on artificial climbing structures.

(b) an instructor at a NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering Accredited Centre who delivers the NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering syllabus.

For the purposes of this web page, we’re talking about definition (b). Coaches have certain levels of NGB awards or experience before they can deliver certain levels of our syllabus.

What can you do?

Deliver NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering to the levels for which you’ve received an induction. If you’ve had a Level 4 induction, but then start working at a Level 2 centre, you can only deliver Levels 1 or 2 there. If you’ve received a Level 2 induction and go to work at a Level 3 centre, you’ll need a new Level 3 induction before you can start to deliver it.

If your Course Director is happy for you to assess candidates (they still take overall responsibility for sign offs), you can do that. Have a look at the logbooks the candidates are using: there is a page for Coach’s Comments, and spaces for you to initial and date each climb, belay or problem they log. Use these documents to see how each candidate has progressed, and to guide them towards their next challenges.

What can’t you do?

ONLY a centre’s Course Director or Assistant Course Director can sign off candidates’ certificates. If one of your candidates has completed all their syllabus criteria and their logbook is complete, check with your Course Director what they want to do next before handing out a certificate.

Freelance coaches’ note

For freelancers, the centre where you registered your candidates needs to be the centre where you present their logbooks for checking before the Course Director can issue any certificates. Your candidates can only count climbs, belays or boulder problems done at accredited NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering centres towards their syllabus logged criteria, but if they also climb elsewhere we do recommend they record all their climbing activity to demonstrate a breadth of experience. The Course Director may ask to see the candidates’ logbooks, or may ask them to complete a demonstrate of skills before he/she will sign off the certificates. Discuss this with that centre’s Course Director when you first meet with them.


Always refer to your Course Director with any queries in the first instance, but you can also come to us if you want clarification or have any questions. For example: we have special formats of the NICAS Level 1 & 2 logbook and certificate for visually impaired candidates; we sell cloth badges for each of the five NICAS levels; candidates with additional needs can nearly always complete at least Level 1 if not other levels as we allow a lot of latitude on those syllabus elements. If a candidate can’t tie their own knot, but could direct someone else to tie one, or can identify when one is tied incorrectly, that’s a reasonable adjustment to make. Our gives a lot more information on this. There are FAQs on this website, and lots more information behind the Provider Log-in section too.
Course Directors/Assistant Course Directors Each NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering centre appoints a Course Director who is the person on-site responsible for accrediting candidates and overseeing the scheme. You could say that the buck stops with them at a centre! This is the role of a Course Director:

The named individual at an Accredited Centre who is responsible, and ultimately liable, for overseeing the delivery of NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering. Someone who is frequently on site and has either recent and extensive experience of coaching, or involvement in hands-on delivery of the Scheme. The only person who may sign off a candidate’s accreditation certificate at an Accredited Centre (although this may be delegated to a nominated Assistant Course Director at Level 4 or 5 Accredited Centres.)

On a day-to-day basis the role of the Course Director is to deliver the NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering scheme, or to moderate coaches working under their authorisation. Once a candidate is accredited for a particular level the Course Director is responsible for signing off their certificate. Should there be any query about the proficiency of a candidate or their achievement of a level, the Course Director should have sufficient knowledge of the candidate to review, justify and if necessary amend, the accreditation awarded. Therefore the Course Director must be an individual who is frequently on site and provides some hands-on delivery of the Scheme, although they may delegate most day to day delivery and assessment to their coaches.

Coaches should refer to their Course Director about any queries on the syllabus, in the first instance. The Course Director is also responsible for making sure all the coaches are qualified to the right level, and have the right coaching experience, to deliver the Schemes. They might provide regular training or refresher training, or have meetings to discuss new teaching techniques and centre procedures.

They have additional access to a Provider section of our website, where candidate records are stored, and where there are more online resources. For this reason, it’s very important to make sure coaches give them enough information about each of their candidates so they can be correctly recorded. As a minimum, they need a personal and a family name for each candidate, their gender, date of birth, the date they started on either NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering, and the date on which they pass any levels.

Competent Persons & Technical AdvisorsAs part of the NICAS quality assurance for our Schemes, every centre who delivers NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering nominates a Technical Advisor (NICAS) or Competent Person (NICAS Bouldering) who is:

NICAS Technical Advisor (TA)

A named individual holding a high standard of climbing qualification (MIA or above) who supports the application for a NICAS Accredited Centre to deliver the scheme. They may provide staff training, course design, delivery & assessment procedures and will confirm that the Centre has appropriate resources to deliver the levels of the scheme for which it has applied.

What is the role of a NICAS Technical Advisor?

It is a requirement of every NICAS centre that they must have access to a qualified TA available at all times. We use the industry-standard minimum to describe who can be a TA as there is no one single qualification for this role. They should be qualified to at least MIA, MIC, UIAGM or equivalent standard, and we recommend centres choose one with a very strong background in the use of artificial climbing walls.

NICAS recognises that every centre has unique requirements and will have a unique contract with their Technical Advisor. Sometimes this will be a formal contract with an annual review, and sometimes an informal arrangement. For this very reason NICAS is not prescriptive in outlining the minimum contract requirements between a TA and a centre. In our experience, centres who actively engage with their TA benefit greatly from the experience.

A TA must visit a centre before they can sign off their initial application to deliver NICAS.

NICAS Bouldering Competent Person (CP)

A named individual holding a high standard of bouldering coaching experience or qualification who supports the application for an Accredited Centre to deliver NICAS Bouldering. They may provide staff training, course design, delivery & assessment procedures and will confirm that the Accredited Centre has appropriate resources to deliver the levels of the scheme for which it has applied.

Every site will have their own dedicated Course Director, however one TA or CP can oversee multiple sites. A centre’s TA or CP may be referred to for training or with queries which the centre’s Course Director can’t answer.

We expect NICAS Bouldering CPs to have “recent, relevant and extensive coaching experience” and they are often far more hands-on and involved in a centre than a NICAS TA equivalent.

What is the role of a NICAS Bouldering Competent Person?

When NICAS Bouldering was launched in 2014, the ABCTT recognised that bouldering centres often have a different structure and staff expertise, so the traditional Technical Advisor may not be appropriate. Therefore, aspirant NICAS Bouldering centres need to be supported by a Competent Person who has an active background in coaching as well as fulfilling most of the roles of a Technical Advisor.

The CP will support the delivery of the Scheme at the Centre, including supporting the original application, involvement in staff training, operating procedures, risk assessment, and any other necessary areas. A CP has to attend a NICAS Bouldering induction with NICAS before they can be a CP for any centre. They must hold suitable Professional Indemnity insurance for the advice they give.

As there isn’t a single minimum qualification to be a CP, we allow competency to be measured through one of three routes:

1. Qualification: the Competent Person (CP) holds a qualification which entitles them to act as a Technical Advisor, such as Mountain Instructor Award, Mountain Instructor Certificate or British Mountain Guide, with suitable and relevant experience of coaching bouldering. 2. Equivalent Qualification: the CP holds an equivalent qualification, such as Mountain Training Development Coach, with FUNdamentals 3 and suitable and relevant experience of coaching bouldering. 3. Prior Experience: the CP is the Chief Instructor or Manager of a Primary Centre or dedicated major bouldering facility, with extensive relevant current experience of coaching bouldering.

Many aspirant NICAS Bouldering centres are using a member of their own team to act as the Competent Person, rather than bringing in external expertise (which is frequently the case for a NICAS TA). If not in-house, a CP must visit a centre before they can sign off an application.

What do they do after they’ve been appointed as a TA or CP?

They should visit the centre at least once a year, and will give advice on diverse areas which may range from regular structural inspections of the facility, reviews of the Standard Operating Procedures and Risk Assessments at a centre, deliver staff training, and advise on equipment and inspection regimes.

One of our in-house Technical Experts, Pete Stacey, wrote this about the role of the Technical Advisor in one of our early newsletters. We’ve modified it slightly to include Competent Persons as well:

1. Consideration should be made for a skill-set or checklist of criteria for walls, and those acting as or wishing to become Technical Advisers to be developed. Knowledge and experience of working on climbing walls was felt to be essential. TAs should be practitioners of working on walls and be able to clearly demonstrate their understanding of the NICAS and / or NICAS Bouldering Schemes. 2. A concern may be some TAs are not doing their job properly, as application forms may be read and signed by a TA confirming the wall’s suitability, however it becomes apparent from some applications that the TA has not visited the wall or discussed the suitability with the managers. The TA / CP is not just a signature and taking the money. There is an expectation of more involvement and fuller awareness of the NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering requirements and the Schemes themselves. 3. The issue of the role and involvement of the TA at the wall in developing and approving methods of teaching, leading etc especially for higher level courses was discussed. The TA needs to be much more informed and involved in agreeing the methodology and process for teaching lead climbing for NICAS. It is a recommendation that all TAs and CPs attend FUNdamentals training.

The Association of Mountaineering Instructors deliver excellent training to aspirant Technical Advisors. NICAS also has a cohort of Technical Experts who can provide advice and guidance to centres, Technical Advisors and Competent Persons.

Technical Experts (Moderators)

What do the NICAS Technical Experts do?

Since the scheme started NICAS has tried to offer support to all NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering centres in a flexible way. Sometimes this means we need an independent pair of eyes to visit a centre, whether already delivering a Scheme, or an aspirant facility, to provide advice and support. We now have in excess of 240 walls delivering the scheme and need to call upon others to assist our 2 members of staff from time to time.

The NICAS Board approached a number of highly-qualified, highly respected and experienced MIAs and Technical Advisors to ask whether they would be willing to act as freelance Technical Experts. In this role they may be asked to visit an aspirant centre, undertake moderation at an existing centre, advise us on the suitability of proposed changes to the scheme or help us develop supporting materials.
You are most likely to come into contact with them if they visit your centre for a Moderation:

Moderation: What, Why, When, Who?

As the NICAS scheme has grown, NICAS has needed to ensure it’s being delivered consistently across the country and that candidates are being given the best possible instruction. NICAS is used within GCSEs, A-Levels and BTECs and is supported by Sport England; we need to demonstrate to them that its being delivered within Best Practice guidelines by all our centres. To help us do this NICAS has designed a two-tier Moderation system designed to support centres without being too onerous, time-consuming or expensive.

We have appointed a group of highly-experienced independent Moderators who will be our eyes and ears on the ground – their mugshots are at the bottom of this page. They’ll complete the visits, write the reports, and review any documentation sent to us before giving us their recommendations. NICAS pays for their time and travel so you have minimal disruption and costs.

Every five years for Awarding Centres, or every three years for Primary Centres, we’ll ask one of our Moderators to visit you and observe a NICAS session in progress. We’ll contact you well in advance and the Moderator will arrange a mutually convenient date to visit. They won’t be looking for the most advanced climbers to show off their skills, they just need to see everyday delivery of the Scheme. They will want to meet the Course Director and may ask to see documents such as candidate logbooks and instructor training records. They may take a short piece of video footage to support their report, but will always agree this with you in advance and will ensure that all identifying candidate information is redacted where possible. The Moderator will give you feedback on the day and you’ll receive a written report confirming their findings within a few weeks.

In between these major visits we’ll ask centres to complete a Self-Audit every few years: this is a simple form which asks you to review a NICAS session yourselves, then send it to us with a video clip. A Moderator will review your report and let us know their findings and recommendations.

The purpose of both levels of Moderation is for NICAS to see where we can support you further, to identify exceptional best practice and to help you and your instructors to feel confident in delivering the scheme with enthusiasm and skill. We will share examples of best practice and might recommend that your instructors are offered additional subsidised training such as BMC FUNdamentals courses, Mountain Training Coaching awards or a visit by one of our Coaching squad. We might suggest that you consider offering additional levels of NICAS, or that you register for NICAS Bouldering. If you have a Full Moderation visit then please take the opportunity to pick the Moderator’s brains: they have years of invaluable knowledge and can make suggestions in all areas of delivery of climbing tuition and instructor training.

Moderation Case Study: How was it for us? The Lock

My name is Skinner, I am the Climbing Operations Co-ordinator for Essex Outdoors, based at The Lock Climbing Wall, and have been in this role for 8 months. During the first few weeks of me starting at The Lock we had a NICAS moderation. At this time one of our senior instructors, Jim, was acting as the centres NICAS Director, which removed some of the pressure from me allowing me to experience the process from a different perspective.

Moderation can seem like a scary prospect, but often isn’t - Moderators do have a responsibility to check that there are safety systems in place and that the facility is suitable to deliver at a certain level, however it is also an opportunity to reinforce any strengths and weaknesses. As well as assessing the centres suitability, the moderator watched a session being delivered by one of our instructors, who obviously felt some pressure to deliver, but understood that they weren’t personally accountable for the outcome of the moderation. They were also offered some constructive feedback after their session and were given access to an online database of useful information (called Teamwork).

The Centre was offered advice in the form of a report. It outlined the positive aspects of the centre, our resources and instructors, as well as offering suggestions on areas of improvement. The report wasn’t really a surprise, as most of the suggestions had already been discussed, however it did help reinforce our findings when seeking approval to make changes. We were then given deadlines to make some changes and offered support in the form of a Technical Advisor, who we met for half a day to help us resolve any issues.

Overall I enjoyed the experience as it was a great opportunity for learning and discussion - there was still a feeling of our centre being assessed, but in the end we were all aiming for the same goal. My advice to anyone being moderated is to be prepared, but not to panic - After the formalities of paperwork and record keeping, the process is fairly relaxed - after all, NICAS is there to support you and your NICAS participants.

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