NICAS for Schools

The NICAS schemes are designed to create an engaging learning environment that not only gives participants a sense of ownership and belonging but also gives a sense of purpose to their climbing sessions. NICAS is used as a learning framework at primary, secondary and special schools, colleges and universities around the UK and abroad.

If you’re a teacher or instructor working with school groups, discover how you can bring the benefits of NICAS to your children and young people:

Benefits of NICAS for learners

Taking part in a NICAS can provide immense physical and mental benefits to learners, as well as giving group leaders and parents the confidence of enrolling their child on a national scheme. NICAS builds both physical strength and mental resilience, helps students develop social skills and boost their confidence by taking part in group sessions, and can be integrated with academic activities such as GCSE PE and the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

Find out more about the benefits of taking part in NICAS.

Where can students take part in NICAS?

Our schemes can only be delivered at NICAS accredited centres by coaches that have had a NICAS induction and meet our minimum coaching requirements. There are two main options for schools:

1. Become an accredited centre – if you have your own climbing wall and meet our minimum requirements, you can apply to become an accredited centre.

Find out more about becoming an accredited centre

2. Use a local accredited centre – if you don’t have your own wall or don’t meet our requirements, you will need to use a local accredited centre. You either need to book sessions using their instructors or, if your staff meet our requirements, you may be able to put a written agreement in place with their Course Director to run your own sessions at their centre as an external NICAS coach.

Find out more about becoming an external NICAS Coach

How to get started at your school

School staff often ask us for more info on the cost of delivering NICAS to their students before deciding whether to go ahead. Costs will vary depending on whether you are able to use your own climbing wall or need to go to a local accredited centre for sessions, but here’s some info on both options.

Using your own wall

If your school has its own wall, you may meet our minimum requirements to become an accredited centre, and would then be able to run our schemes at your school wall. Your costs would then include:

  • Registration fee – there is an annual registration fee for delivering our schemes at your own facility – view our current fees.
  • Logbooks for students – Logbook costs vary depending which scheme(s) you are running. As of Summer 2023, our suggested RRP is £10 per logbook for NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering, and £15 per logbook for NICAS Wild Climbers. All logbook costs include certificates as candidates achieve each level. Logbooks and optional binders are not subject to VAT. We offer English, English/Welsh Bilingual, and accessible Large Print formats for Level 1-3 logbooks.
  • Staff induction – all coaches need to receive an induction in order to deliver the schemes. There is a fixed fee payable for each induction – check our Induction Calendar for latest dates and prices.
  • Technical Sign-Off – if you are running the schemes at your own facility, you will require a Technical Advisor or Competent Person to support your application, who may require payment.

Using a local centre

If your school does not have its own wall or does not meet our requirements, you would need to take students to a local accredited centre. Some cost factors to consider include:

  • NICAS requires every learner to have their own logbook, and these are purchased through the accredited centre. When students pass a level, the centre will award certificates, which are usually included in the logbook cost.
  • Some centres ask for climbers to buy the logbook as a separate cost, and some include it within a course of lessons. The cost of instruction will be set by each centre, not by NICAS, and a session cost may cover entry fees, coaching costs, and use of equipment like climbing shoes or harnesses. Costs for courses vary around the country so ask your centre for details.
  • If a student progresses to Level 4 of NICAS Climbing or NICAS Bouldering, they will need to purchase a separate logbook covering the final two levels – Levels 4 and 5.
  • Your centre may give you the opportunity to buy badges as candidates pass each level – ask your centre if they stock them or contact NICAS direct.
  • You will also need to factor in travel costs to your local centre, as well as any refreshments to be provided.

Using NICAS towards academic qualifications

NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering have been used to support academic and vocational qualifications since 2008. NICAS can be used to complement the GCSE curriculum for Edexcel, OCR and AQA, while NICAS Bouldering can be used with Edexcel. In Scotland, NICAS has been mapped against the Curriculum for Excellence and Significant Aspects of Learning.

“The work the NICAS team have put in with the GCSE exam boards to align NICAS with GCSE PE has enabled us to include climbing as a sport option for students who can find some of the more traditional PE options harder, but who can really excel when given the option to climb. At the same time, it’s brought the GCSE climbing syllabus into the 21st century!”
Giles Davis, Harrow Way School

FAQs for schools

Our school wall is outdoors, can we use it to deliver the syllabus?

Yes! Despite the name, both NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering are designed to be delivered on any artificial climbing structure, whether indoors or out. (We do have some restrictions on delivery of the higher levels on outdoor structures or structures exposed to the elements.)

Our school is outside the British Isles, can we deliver your schemes?

If your climbing wall has British-qualified climbing coaches and access to a suitably experienced Technical Advisor or Competent Person with UK-based experience, you can apply to become an accredited centre. Alternatively, we can provide consultancy via independent Technical Experts who can fly out to your school to discuss your options and/or provide coaching – contact us to find out more.

Can we run NICAS on a mobile wall or tower?

Centres with a mobile wall can apply to become accredited to deliver either NICAS Climbing Level 1 or NICAS Bouldering Level 1.

I’m a teacher with climbing qualifications – can I deliver the schemes?

Our schemes can only be delivered at NICAS accredited centres by coaches that have had an induction and meet our minimum coaching requirements. If your school doesn’t have its own climbing wall then you may be able to deliver NICAS sessions at an existing accredited centre as an external coach. Please note that the Course Director at the centre you use is ultimately responsible for ensuring consistency and quality of coaching and assessments, and only they will be able to sign off and award certificates to your learners.

Find your nearest NICAS centres

Can I buy certificates without the logbooks?

No. Climbers cannot be signed off for a level of NICAS unless they have been provided with and filled in their NICAS logbook. Certificates are provided to the accredited centre when they purchase logbooks, and it is the Course Director’s responsibility to ensure that each candidate receives a logbook when they start taking part in NICAS sessions. If your students are looking for a one-off climbing session, ask your local accredited centre about running a NICAS taster session where your students can earn a NICAS Participation Certificate.

Are there age limits for NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering?

The lower age limit for candidates of both NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering is 7. There is no upper age limit, but the scheme is aimed at children and young adults. There are no maximum time limits, or limits on the number of attempts a candidate can take to pass a level, so it can be tailored to every student’s needs.

Is NICAS suitable for young people with additional needs?

We have worked hard to try to make the NICAS schemes accessible to all. We have a comprehensive Reasonable Adjustments policy that should enable nearly all candidates to achieve Level 1 over a suitable period of time. Contact us if you would like specific guidance.

Where do the NICAS schemes sit on the national qualifications framework?

The NICAS schemes are personal achievement award schemes, not qualifications, so sit outside the national qualifications framework.

Can students use NICAS towards our Duke of Edinburgh’s award?

As our schemes allow climbers to demonstrate personal progression and commitment over a period of time, many schools and colleges use NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering to fulfil the Physical element of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award syllabus. If you wish to use NICAS towards DofE, please check with your DofE Leader to agree the relevant section of the award and any requirements in advance.