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Before we start, how do we pronounce NICAS and NIBAS, and who are the ABCTT?
It's Nye-cass and Nye-bass. The ABCTT are the charity who run NICAS and NIBAS, and we usually refer to ourselves as NICAS (meaning both schemes).

FAQs for candidates / parents / schools

Are there any age limits?

The lower age limit for candidates of both NICAS and NIBAS is 7. There is no upper age limit, but the scheme is aimed at the child to young adult sector. Our oldest registered candidate is 76!

We do not set restrictions for taking part in different levels of the scheme. A quote from our handbook: “Beyond the minimum Schemes registration age of 7, NICAS does not set minimum age limits for any level of NICAS or NIBAS. However, depending on their Standard Operating Procedures, Risk Assessment and insurance requirements, Accredited Centres may implement their own, higher, minimum age limits for any level of either Scheme. NICAS respects the unique decision made by each centre, on the advice of their Technical Advisor or Competent Person, regarding their age requirements for various activities, unsupervised climbing or membership. There is no maximum age limit for either Scheme, and both may be used with adults.”

I have a disability, an impairment, or need extra support. Can I climb?

Yes - NICAS and NIBAS are designed to be accessible to all. We give each centre's Course Director leeway to use their own extensive knowledge and experience of climbing, bouldering and teaching to make certain adaptations to NICAS and NIBAS when appropriate. We have a policy for candidates who need it. Contact us if you have any specific question we haven't covered in this document and we'll be pleased to help you.

We’re a school / youth group who use a commercial climbing centre. Can our staff teach or assess NICAS or NIBAS?

Your staff, if suitably qualified and inducted, are welcome to teach NICAS or NIBAS and conduct some level of assessment. However, the Course Director at the centre you use is ultimately responsible for ensuring consistency and quality of assessment and of candidates, so retains the overall liability for assessment. Only they can sign off and award certificates. More information can be found in the Centre Handbook.

My local wall isn't registered?

If you think they might be interested in delivering NICAS or NIBAS then pass over these website details and ask them to get in touch. We have a huge variety of artificial climbing structures which are used for NICAS and NIBAS - from mobile climbing towers on the back of lorries, to permanent tower and abseil structures, to converted buildings, to artificial boulders... We can advise them on what's needed to use our syllabus.

Where do NICAS and NIBAS sit on the National Qualifications Framework?

At the moment is doesn’t sit on there at all as it is an award rather than a qualification. NICAS doesn't currently equate to any UCAS points although both of these are areas we are exploring further. Two documents which you might find helpful are the , and our to centres.

Can we use the Schemes towards our Duke of Edinburgh, Scouting, GCSE, A-level or BTEC qualification?

Yes, NICAS and NIBAS have been used by our member centres for all of these schemes. Our Schemes allow climbers to demonstrate personal progression and commitment over a period of time. The DoE requires a person to develop their skill that they are logging, which is exactly what the schemes do. Details of the requirements can be found in the skills section of the DoE site. Contact your local NICAS or NIBAS wall in the first place for further information and advice, and see also our Schools, Clubs & Groups page. If they can't answer your question, contact us.

My child is a climber or boulderer already, can they join your schemes?

Your child can be registered for NICAS or NIBAS at their local Accredited Centre, who will advise on instruction and progression through the scheme. Search for your nearest centre. The minimum age at which a child can start on either Scheme is 7, although some centres may set higher minimum age limits.

I've already passed a NICAS level, can I join NIBAS part-way through?

The skills required for NIBAS are different to those required for NICAS. A Level 3 NICAS graduate may be allowed to join NIBAS as a direct entry at Level 2, however this final decision for this rests with the facility’s Course Director. They may ask you to demonstrate your proficiency or undertake an assessment before allowing you to join Level 2 of NIBAS.
There is no reciprocal equivalent for candidates who hold NIBAS but want to move into NICAS, as NICAS involves rope skills which are not addressed within NIBAS.

I'm doing level 3 NICAS and need to watch a video. Any suggestions?

We always recommend this one, Grit Kids, and will add more to the website as we find other suitable films for you.

I've lost my certificate: can I have a copy?

First of all, contact the wall or the organisation where you did NICAS or NIBAS. If they can't provide you with a copy certificate then get in touch with us. Give us as much information you can about where you climbed, when, and some identifying details and we will look for your record.

I'm moving... can I still do NICAS or NIBAS?

Your personal NICAS or NIBAS record is portable: it travels with you. When you first go to a new centre, they will transfer your online record using your unique candidate code (from your logbook) and you can carry on learning with them. If you don't have an electronic record, maybe because you started NICAS before 2013, give them your copy logbook and any certificates and they can set up a backdated record for you.

Can I sign part of my child's NICAS or NIBAS logbook?

The logbooks have two areas to be filled in: one is the simple climbing, belaying or bouldering log pages. We encourage candidates to fill this in themselves so they start to take responsibility for monitoring their own progress. These tables have a "witness" column, which can be countersigned by any climbing partner, peer, coach or climbing-experienced adult - that might be you.
Log page completion
The other part of the logbook is the formal "Assessment log" which contains the list of syllabus requirements. These boxes can only be initialled and dated by the coaches who are delivering NICAS and NIBAS, and they'll refer to the other log sheets to check what progress has been made. Logbooks also have a 'Coaches Comments' section for specific notes to be made, and for teachers, parents and group leaders to communicate back to coaches if necessary.

Should I log every route and problem, or just the ones relevant to my NICAS or NIBAS level?

There is no fixed answer to this: you may prefer to log everything, or you may prefer to log only those you complete 'clean' or on a final successful attempt. As long as you can demonstrate progression and breadth of experience in your logbook, both approaches are fine.

Do you have a glossary of climbing terms?

We haven't created our own glossary for all those climbing terms as yet... but there is a very comprehensive glossary available on the website that should help you sort your onsight from your overhang.

What happens if my child has an accident during a NICAS or NIBAS session?

By its very nature climbing has inherent risks and part of learning to climb is learning to anticipate and mitigate those risks. Falls and slips do happen, but if your child is injured during a NICAS or NIBAS session there is a process which the climbing wall will follow. They'll complete an investigation into what happened and report it under RIDDOR if medical treatment was needed. It may take the wall a couple of weeks to complete their initial investigation and write the necessary first reports, but you can ask them to keep you updated about progress. If the investigation needs to go further - such as the Health & Safety Executive wanting to be involved - this can take longer. If you have questions or concerns then talk to the wall manager in the first instance. If the incident was during an instructed NICAS or NIBAS session and you still have questions after the investigation is completed, you can contact us direct.

What is your policy regarding safeguarding?

As no members of the ABCTT (the official name of NICAS) Board, Executive, Administration, Technical Expert or Coaching teams coach or hold positions of trust with young people or vulnerable adults in the course of their NICAS work, NICAS does not have a dedicated Safeguarding Officer, but we do have a Lead Trustee for Safeguarding who is highly experienced and trained in this area. Each Accredited Centre, i.e. every climbing wall where NICAS and NIBAS take place, is required to have a suitable Child Protection policy and conduct DBS checks (or local equivalents) for all relevant staff.

Any enquiries regarding Safeguarding issues should be addressed to us so please contact us direct.

FAQs for centres

What is the difference between an Accredited Centre, a Primary Centre, an Awarding Centre, and an Awarding Organisation?

  • A Primary Centre is a major climbing or bouldering facility holding full membership of the ABC and authorised by NICAS to deliver Levels 1 to 4 or 5 inclusive of either or both Schemes. Primary Centres should be clean, well-maintained centres of excellence, acting as a local hub, as ambassadors for the Schemes and have affiliated Awarding Centres who look to them for support, logbooks and other NICAS materials.
  • An Awarding Centre is an artificial climbing or bouldering facility authorised us to deliver Levels 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 of NICAS or NIBAS as specified at the time of application.
  • An Awarding Organisation is an organisation, usually national (e.g. Sea Cadets), which is approved to deliver NICAS or NIBAS exclusively to its own members or candidates up to Level 3, at multiple named artificial climbing facilities where there is no public or commercial access to those climbing facilities.
  • Collectively, Awarding Centres, Awarding Organisations and Primary Centres are known as Accredited Centres.

How do we find a Technical Advisor or Competent Person?

If your facility does not already have a Technical Advisor (TA) or Competent Person (CP), we can supply a list of names and contact details for qualified people living or working in your area who hold these roles for other walls. A number of schools and leisure centres may have a TA working at county level, so it is worth asking your local council.

TAs and CPs will charge for their services. You should negotiate any costs with them direct and be clear about what their contact includes. At a minimum we expect any NICAS TA to have meaningful contact with the centre and visit at least on an annual basis, and NIBAS CPs should be regularly involved.

What supporting documentation is required with an application?

You should include:
  • Photographs of all climbing structures which are referred to in your application. These should make clear whether it is inside or outside, the type and depth of any matting, the nature of any lower-offs, quickdraws or belay points, the number of rope-lines, any foot-gap or visual bouldering indicator and so on.
  • Copy qualification documents for any coach who does not have a current Mountain Training candidate number.
  • Copy Statements of Competence for any site-specific staff who will be delivering the Scheme. These should be date-limited and signed by your centre’s Technical Advisor or Competent Person.
  • Copy of your route-setting policy, or a list of routes / problems with indications of when they were or will be reset
  • Confirmation of conformity to BS:EN12572 for any part of the structure built after 2007, and for equivalent conformity for any part of the structure which pre-dates 2007.
Contact us if you have queries about any of these.

How much are the annual registration fees?

These are on our Registration page and are reviewed annually. If the prices change we will notify renewing centres.

If you represent a non-commercial Awarding Organisation with multiple facilities the price for these is calculated on application, and depends on number of facilities and the levels to be delivered. Please contact us if you think you fall into this category instead of a standard Awarding or Primary Centre.

What is the Screening Committee?

The Screening Committee reviews all applications, re-applications, changes of Course Director, Technical Advisor and Competent Person. Their role is to scrutinise every application to ensure it meets the minimum standards required for the Schemes. Their goal is to approve quality climbing facilities with experienced coaches to deliver NICAS and NIBAS to as many candidates as possible. They may also be involved in resolving issues identified at Moderation, or complaints received by NICAS.

Who sits on the Screening Committee?

Take a look at Our Team page to find out the current committee members.

What do we do if we disagree with a Screening Committee decision?

Please write to us setting out what you disagree with, and providing additional evidence if appropriate. Anything which cannot be resolved at this stage will be referred to the Membership Manager for review, and they may ask a Trustee to oversee your case. If resolution cannot be reached, the case will be escalated to the NICAS Board whose decision will be final.

What are the costs of running the Schemes?

There is an annual registration fee for each facility, based on the award levels it offers (see here for prices). This is payable to NICAS.
There is a cost for the logbooks for your candidates. Primary Centres buy materials from NICAS at a bulk discount, then sell them on to Awarding Centres. Alternatively, Awarding Centres can buy directly from NICAS. When centres sell these materials to the public they make a small profit on the sale of each logbook. All logbook costs include certificates, which are kept by the centre an awarded as candidates achieve each level. Logbooks and the optional binders are VAT exempt as approved by HMRC.
All coaches need to receive an induction in order to deliver the Schemes. There is a fixed fee payable to us for each induction. A reinduction is required every three years for the coach’s approval to deliver either Scheme to remain valid.
A NICAS centre may need to invest in a few pieces of equipment for demonstration models: for example, if you use 1-piece harnesses with your climbers you'll need one 2-piece harness to fulf the criteria for Level 2. You may also need some other types of belay devices for Level 3. We are working with manufacturers to try to source harnesses and belay devices at trade or cost so that centres who need to buy one to fulfil NICAS requirements can get them very cheaply.
Finally, your Technical Advisor or Competent Person may require payment. You should negotiate this with them direct.

Our Course Director has done their induction, can we start delivering?

You can start to deliver NICAS or NIBAS once your centre has received written approval from us. This means we’ve received and assessed your application form, received your annual registration fee, and satisfactorily answered any queries we had about your centre. We’ll write to you once you’re OK to start delivering, and send you a certificate to display confirming your approval levels for NICAS and / or NIBAS.

Our facility is outdoors, can we deliver the scheme?

Yes! Despite the name both NICAS and NIBAS are designed to be delivered on any artificial climbing structure, whether indoors or out. There are some restrictions on delivery of the higher levels on structures which are outdoors or exposed to the elements, see the Centre Handbook for details, or contact us.

We're outside the British Isles, can we deliver your Schemes?

We have formalised our requirements for NICAS overseas and now have limited circumstances under which we can allow NICAS and NIBAS to be delivered outside the British Isles:

  • The wall must have either UK-trained coaches, or those holding mapped equivalent qualifications for the NICAS / NIBAS levels they wish to deliver.
  • They must have a UK-qualified (or mapped equivalent) Technical Advisor who visits
  • They need to have appropriate insurance which equals the requirements for a UK wall
  • They need to have equivalent Standard Operating Procedures and Risk Assessments such as would be found in a UK wall
  • The wall needs to meet our usual minimum requirements, and we may ask for evidence of structural inspection to BS:EN12572 equivalent standards
  • The Course Director has to attend an induction.

In the meantime we also recommend you review our requirements in the Centre Handbook and the application form which can be found here. If you think your rock gym may be able to meet our requirements to become an overseas NICAS / NIBAS centre then we’d be pleased to explore this with you.

Why does our Accredited Centre display certificate have an expiry date?

We register centres for NICAS and NIBAS on an annual basis, with a successful application valid for a 12 month period. Each year we’ll invoice you asking for your next year’s registration fee to renew your status.

Who can become a Primary Centre?

Any suitable climbing or bouldering centre may apply to become a Primary Centre. You need to complete a new application form including the business case explaining why you’d like to become a Primary Centre, how this will benefit any local candidates and Awarding Centres, and how you’ll deal with issues such as geographical overlap with existing Primary Centres.
Your centre must be a Full Member of the ABC, or an Aspirant Member where the ABC tell us they expect to grant full membership within 12 months. Additionally, your wall must meet our minimum physical and coaching requirements for either Level 4 or Level 5. Level 4 Primary Centre applications will only be considered where there is no local Level 5 Primary Centre.
Your application goes to the Screening Committee, Board of Trustees, the ABC and other local Primary Centres before any decision is made.
If you're not already delivering NICAS or NIBAS you may want to register as an Awarding Centre initially, until you're comfortable with the syllabus, before putting in an application to change to a PC. It's possible to be a stand-alone NICAS PC, or a NIBAS PC, or a PC for both, or even an Awarding Centre for one Scheme and a Primary Centre for the other - it all depends on your facilities and what suits your business best.

We have a mobile wall, can we run NICAS or NIBAS?

We allow mobile wall providers to offer either NICAS or NIBAS Level 1, subject to a satisfactory application. See the Centre Handbook section on Mobile Walls for details.

We need to order more logbooks, who do we contact?

Awarding Centres with an affiliated Primary Centre should talk to them in the first instance, however we are also able to offer (as of 2020) an online ordering system which any accredited centre (Awarding or Primary) can use.

Our facility doesn’t quite meet your minimum requirements, will you be flexible?

The Screening Committee assess every application on its own merits, so contact us with details of your specific case and we’ll be glad to advise you.

How do we get the NICAS or NIBAS logo next to our name in the BMC online listing?

We supply the BMC with a list of Accredited Centres each year, so if your application has been approved it should appear on their web listing soon.

Do experienced climbers have to start at Level 1?

No, we allow experienced candidates to go in at higher levels of NICAS or NIBAS by Direct Entry. Course Directors can take into account the candidate's existing experience, but may ask them to complete one or more 'assessment sessions' to decide which is the right level for them.

FAQs for coaches

I’m a freelance coach working at lots of centres, can I be a Course Director?

NICAS and NIBAS are approved for specific facilities, not to specific people. If you do not own or run your own climbing wall then you can complete an induction to deliver NICAS or NIBAS at an already-approved wall, but you will not be a Course Director in your own right. An approved centre can choose anyone suitably qualified and inducted to be their Course Director though, it does not have to be someone who is an employee of the centre or who is full-time.
We have a page of guidance specifically for Freelance coaches here.

When can I do an induction?

An induction as a coach for either NICAS or NIBAS can be arranged through NICAS. Book here or contact us for bespoke options.

Can I just buy certificates without the handbooks?

No, the NICAS and NIBAS award levels are a package with the purchase of the logbook being a candidate pre-requisite for each level.

Can I use the NICAS or NIBAS logos?

We allow Accredited Centres and inducted coaches to use our logos, see our document.

Where do NICAS and NIBAS fit in the scheme of instructional awards?

NICAS and NIBAS are not instructional schemes, but are personal achievement schemes. To instruct NICAS or NIBAS a coach needs nationally recognised qualifications or experience (see the Centre Handbook for details). Some military awards are recognised – contact us for details.

Who can sign each section in a NICAS or NIBAS logbook?

The logbooks have two areas to be filled in: one is the simple climbing, belaying or bouldering log pages. We encourage candidates to fill this in themselves so they start to take responsibility for monitoring their own progress. These tables have a "witness" column, which can be countersigned by any climbing partner, peer, coach or climbing-experienced adult.

The other part of the logbook is the formal "Assessment log" which contains the list of syllabus requirements. These boxes can only be initialled and dated by you as the coach delivering NICAS and NIBAS, and you may want to refer to the other log sheets to check what progress has been made. Logbooks also have a 'Coaches Comments' section for specific notes to be made, and for teachers, parents and group leaders to communicate back to you if necessary.

Should candidates log every route and problem, or just the ones relevant to their NICAS or NIBAS level?

There is no fixed answer to this: some candidates will want to log everything, some may prefer to log only those they complete 'clean' or on a final successful attempt. As long as they can demonstrate progression in their logbook, both approaches are fine.
Log page completion

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