Using NICAS towards GCSE PE

Depending on which exam board your school uses, you may be able to use climbing as an individual sport as part of GCSE PE. AQA, Edexcel and OCR all offer climbing as an individual sport for GCSE PE that can be accessed at either an indoor roped wall or a bouldering gym.

  • Nationally we’ve found that some students who are new to climbing can make excellent progress and achieve good results. Students who have extensive climbing experience (e.g. through NICAS) can excel in this unit.
  • Many PE students embrace this non-traditional, rewarding sport as a practical option.
  • Climbing sessions can be delivered over a block of weeks or over several weekly sessions.
  • Inspected safety kit will be provided by the wall/activity provider, and the centre will provide a coach trained to NICAS standards to either deliver or support delivery by the school’s staff.
  • Compared to many other sports situated away from the school, it offers a cost effective way for children to get into a new sport.
  • Indoor climbing doesn’t rely on the weather!

INTENT – allow students to access an exciting individual activity, strengthening practical marks.
IMPLEMENTATION – via NICAS trained coaches, supported by PE staff.
IMPACT – potentially high marks, great experience, additionality, independent climbers.

Give your students the opportunity to do something different, achieve, and potentially find a sport for life!

Top Tips for using climbing towards GCSE PE

  • Find a local climbing wall or climbing instructor: NICAS has over 270 registered walls to choose from.
  • Check that your local wall has knowledge and experience of delivering climbing as part of GCSE PE.
  • Where possible, ensure students have access to climbing shoes – this is crucial to gaining higher marks.
  • Ensure your local climbing wall or activity provider will coach climbing movement skills as well as teaching technical skills – students need to demonstrate they can climb with quality and precision.
  • There is unlikely to be a ‘live’ moderation: you will need to video everything! Speak to your local wall or activity provider about video evidence to go through their ideas about collecting this.
  • Does your school have staff who are climbers? If so, they may be able to help prior to a course: for example, with putting on harnesses, teaching knots etc.


NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering have been used to support academic and vocational qualifications since 2008. NICAS Climbing can be used to complement the GCSE curriculum for the Edexcel, OCR and AQA exam boards, while NICAS Bouldering can be used with Edexcel only.

Why not combine your existing climbing programme with students completing a NICAS Climbing or NICAS Bouldering course? This will show your moderator that students have attained a nationally recognised standard.

Students will need about 12 hours of contact time to get higher marks. Suggested programme options are 12 x 1 hour sessions; 6 x 2 hour sessions, or 3 x 4 hour sessions.

Find out more

NICAS – which stands for the National Indoor Climbing Award Schemes – is the industry leader in learn to climb and boulder schemes. Only accredited centres are able to run our schemes.

For more information on approved or recommended climbing centres and activity providers, ask your Educational Visits Advisor for your LEA or MAT, or drop us an email at