Adventurous activities procedure
What you need to do to carry out adventurous activities safely
Last reviewed: 16 January 2023
This procedure explains how to apply our adventurous activities policy, and what you need to do to keep everyone safe during adventurous activities.
If you have any concerns about an activity being planned, contact our HQ adventure team. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the event organiser or not, keeping our members safe is everyone’s responsibility.
And if you feel uncomfortable or unhappy about safety or level of instruction when doing an activity, you must stop it immediately.
Make sure you also read our health, safety and welfare procedure. It explains what you need to do to make Girlguiding a safe environment for yourself and others.
- How do I find out which activities are ‘adventurous’?
- Instructor qualifications
- Running activities yourself
- Joint activities with other organisations
- Adventurous activities abroad
- Insurance, disclaimers and waivers
- Risk assessments
How do I find out which activities are ‘adventurous’?
Adventurous activities are activities which are exciting and fun. They have a higher level of risk than typical unit meeting activities because of what they involve, or where they take place.
You can find out which activities are adventurous using the adventure for girls activity finder. Choose ‘adventurous activities’ from the categories list and select ‘search’ to see a full list. There’s also a search bar at the bottom of this page to get you started.
When you select an activity or category of activity, you’ll be taken to its own subpage. This is where to find all the information you need to plan and carry out the activity safely. The ‘overview’ tab on this page tells you if the activity is adventurous. And the ‘planning and safety’ tab explains the rules on qualification requirements, safety regulations and ratios, which you must follow for each activity. You can also find out which of our activity centres run the activity.
If you can’t find the activity you’re interested in, try using a different search term. Or you can use the filters without putting in any keywords and look through the results.
We’ve tagged some of the pages with alternative names for the activity. For example, if you search for ‘tomahawk’, the search result will be for axe-throwing. You can see alternative names for an activity under the title on the activity page.
There’re some activities you can’t do as part of guiding. This is because adequate safety requirements haven’t been developed or because the activity doesn’t fit with our mission and values. These activities are not covered by Girlguiding insurance. Find out more about prohibited activities.
If you can’t find an activity using our activity finder and it’s not a prohibited activity, you must get in touch with the outdoor activity adviser for your country or region. If you’re not sure who your outdoor activity adviser is, speak to your commissioner. You can also email our HQ adventure team for advice. You mustn’t go ahead with the activity until it’s confirmed it’s okay to do so.
Our activity pages explain which qualifications the activity instructor must have. Experts check and update the training requirements and qualifications on these pages regularly. If there’s a national governing body for the activity you’re doing, you’ll find a link on these webpages as well.
Different levels of an activity may have different qualification requirements. For example, the instructor qualifications needed for canoeing depend on water conditions and the location. It’s important you know the type of activity you’re doing so you can be sure the instructor or external provider is qualified.
If you’re using a freelance instructor, you must get written confirmation that the instructor has the correct qualifications and training to run the activity, but you don’t need to check the individual instructor’s certificate or permit. Written confirmation can be in an email, it doesn’t need to be a formal letter.
If you’re unsure about qualification requirements or if the instructor has alternative qualifications, ask your outdoor activities adviser or contact our HQ adventure team.
Scout permits are only valid for Girlguiding activities if it’s a joint event with Scout members. You can find out more about joint events further down this page. If you’re using a Scout activity centre, the instructors must have activity-specific qualifications, not just a Scout permit.
If you’re using an external provider, like PGL, you must either get written confirmation that the instructor has the correct qualifications and training to run the activity, or check that the provider has a relevant license or accreditation which covers your activity. Find out more about licenses and accreditations below. If you’re doing lots of activities, the written confirmation must list all of them. But you don’t need separate confirmations for each one.
Reputable providers and instructors will be happy to share this information, so don’t be afraid to ask.
Blackland Farm, Foxlease, Glenbrook, ICANDO and Waddow Hall, our activity centres, follow our policies and procedures, so you don’t need to check paperwork when visiting. Visit our activity centres website to read our latest activity risk assessments.
Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA)
This is a Government-sponsored scheme that licences activity providers who follow good safety management practices. The AALA carry out inspections and make sure centres that offer higher risk activities to under 18s are meeting higher safety standards.
The four categories of activities covered are caving, climbing, trekking and watersports. If you’re doing one of these activities and the provider has an AALA license, you don't need to get written confirmation of their qualifications or training.
The AALA operates in the UK, excluding Northern Ireland.
This is a safety scheme for providers of adventurous activities which aren’t covered by the AALA. Adventuremark shows that risk management arrangements have been inspected and found to meet standards of good practice in the adventure activity industry.
If the provider is Adventuremark accredited for your activity, you don't need to get written confirmation of their qualifications or training.
Running activities yourself
If you have the relevant qualifications and training, you can run activities as the instructor. You must have evidence that your qualifications are valid and cover the activity you’re leading. Share this with your local commissioner when you tell them you’ll be running the activity.
Make sure to check the activity pages for information about including yourself in ratio numbers.
Joint activities with other organisations
Joint activities are when volunteers from different organisations work together to plan and deliver activities for young members from both organisations. Leaders from both organisations should make decisions after completing, or reviewing, a risk assessment. Everyone should understand what decisions have been made and why.
When planning, it’s important you’re clear who’s responsible for what. If an external provider or instructor is running your activity, leaders are still responsible for the young people taking part.
You must follow the relevant policies and procedures for Girlguiding and the other organisation. So, if either organisation has banned an activity, you mustn’t do this as a joint activity. And you must follow any age restrictions set by either organisation.
Girlguiding insurance covers joint activities. But only if members follow the policies of their organisations. If you have any questions about insurance for joint activities, ask our HQ insurance team.
If a volunteer is running the activity with a Scout permit, you must get written confirmation that they hold the correct permit and that it’s valid. You should also make sure that the permit covers the activity you’re taking part in. The activity leader or qualified instructor should decide what size of group is safe.
For more information on joint activities, take a look at our guidance on joint activities with other organisations page and our joint adventurous activities with Scouts and Girlguiding agreement. And speak to your commissioner about any questions or concerns.
Adventurous activities abroad
Regulations for adventurous activities may be different in other countries. You must follow the regulations with the highest standards, and the highest chance of reducing risk and preventing harm.
You must contact our HQ adventure team for advice on doing any adventurous activities abroad or in a Crown Dependency. Email us at [email protected].
Remember, Girlguiding insurance doesn’t cover international trips, and you’ll need to take out travel insurance. Check that your travel insurance will cover the activities you have planned. If it doesn’t, you shouldn’t do it, even if it’s allowed under our policies.
Insurance, disclaimers and waivers
Girlguiding insurance covers all guiding activities, including adventurous activities done in the UK or by BGO units in their home country, as long as they aren’t prohibited. Read information about adventurous activities abroad.
If you are using an external activity provider or freelance instructor, you must check that they have their own public liability insurance cover for up to £5 million. Ask to see a copy of the insurance certificate or written confirmation that this is in place. Some providers will have their insurance certificates available on their website.
Some activity providers and international Guiding and Scouting Associations will ask for disclaimers or waivers for each person taking part in an activity.
A parent or carer must sign these on behalf of any young member who is under the age of adulthood in the country where the activity is taking place. You could ask them to sign at the same time as they’re filling out the consent form. Make sure to share any information from the provider so they can make an informed decision whether to sign the disclaimer.
Volunteers must only sign for their own personal participation.
If the provider only wants a disclaimer for the volunteer booking the activity, you must share the documents and information with parents and carers. Once you have their agreement, you can sign the disclaimer on behalf of the group.
If you have any concerns about insurance, disclaimers or waivers, get in touch with our HQ insurance team by emailing [email protected].
The activity provider or instructor must complete a risk assessment for the activity. And you must see a copy of this before the day of the activity.
This is so you have a chance to review the risk assessment and raise any issues with the activity provider. We don’t expect you to be an expert on risk assessing adventurous activities, but if the risk assessment isn’t clear, lacks detail, or you think something is missing, this may be a sign that the right safety precautions aren’t being taken.
Don’t carry out or continue with an activity if you’re uncomfortable or unhappy about safety or level of instruction.
For support and advice, speak to your county outdoor activity adviser, or email [email protected].
Don’t forget to review the risk assessment on the day of the activity in case anything has changed. For example, the instructor, weather conditions, or the type of equipment.
You’ll also need to carry out your own risk assessment for all the parts of the meeting or event you’re responsible for. It’s important to share this with all volunteers and helpers taking part. And don’t forget to review and update the risk assessment if anything changes, including on the day of the activity.