Single Pitch assessment cThe Climbing Company

Climbing Awards Review - Update

April 2017

Since the last time we updated everyone in June 2016 we have spent a great deal of time considering the research. Here is a brief overview of the process so far and an outline of key milestones yet to come.


Stage 1 > Development of strategy document

This was approved at the MTUK board meeting in October 2015 and outlined a plan for the review. The aim of the review is to identify and make recommendations regarding: Improvements to any of the eight individual awards; Improvements to the pathways between the eight awards and identify any gaps in Mountain Training’s provision.

A large working group was established, consisting of board members, directors and Mountain Training staff.

Stage 2 > Qualitative research

Autumn 2015

This was carried out by members of the working group on behalf of Mountain Training and involved conversations with key stakeholder organisations including:
  • mountaineering councils (BMC, Mountaineering Ireland, Mountaineering Scotland)
  • national centres (Glenmore Lodge, Plas y Brenin, Tollymore)
  • providers and course directors
  • professional/representative associations (AMI, BAIML, BMG, MTA)
  • the education sector (AHOEC, OEAP, SAPOE)
  • other bodies including Adventuremark, ABC, ABCTT, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, Girl Guiding, Institute for Outdoor Learning, the military, Mountain Rescue, Outdoor Industries Association, Scouts
Feedback gathered during this stage helped to inform the survey questions and highlight key themes.

Stage 3 > Quantitative research

Winter/Spring 2016

We commissioned the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) to carry out a quantitative research phase through two surveys; one for organisations and one for individuals.

The response to these surveys was described as ‘very good’ from organisations and ‘good’ from individuals (172 organisations submitted responses as did c.1400 individuals). This data was analysed by UCLan and added extra dimensions to the project, but also confirmed many of the themes which had emerged during the qualitative phase. A summary was presented to the working group on 13th June 2016.

Working group members also provided data from our Candidate Management System, including an analysis of deferral results, the costs of launching previous schemes and comparisons of Mountain Training schemes to other adventure sports and more traditional sports.

Research results

Evidence to support a new climbing qualification structure.

Survey findings:

  • 78.4% of individuals surveyed were satisfied with the awards (though over 50% only ‘somewhat satisfied’). However these are inherently biased figures from an inclusion point of view as the surveys will not have accounted for those who looked at our schemes and turned away….
  • A lower percentage of females were 'completely satisfied' - 17.2% female, 26% male. A higher percentage of females thought we require additional awards - 40.2% female, 30% male.
  • Over 2/3 of respondents used the SPA as their entry point into MT schemes. Of these 68% stayed there i.e. it is the only climbing scheme they participate in. The SPA is accessed less by women and exited less by them (56% of female candidates make it their entry point compared to 65% for men)
  • 91% of survey respondents said that you need to be a climber to be an instructor.
  • The SPA and MIA had some support for remit and content change (35% and 26% respectively).
  • 48% of organisations surveyed use local endorsements to increase their staff’s deployment, and not MT awards. About two thirds of these are endorsed to operate independently and one third to operate alongside a qualified instructor. These are mainly for the activities of indoor climbing (site specific), indoor lead climbing (easier to do in-house rather than the CWLA?), abseiling (Scouts etc?) and outdoor leading. Outdoor leading would appear to be an under supported market.
  • 73% of organisations endorsed staff to work alongside qualified staff outdoors (assistants?).
  • Teaching skills were rated highly by both organisations and individuals. Communication skills were rated 4th after essential technical skills.
  • Organisation survey (p.21): ‘The need for a single pitch leading award emerges clearly. Secondly, a need for greater alignment across award levels of teaching skill was seen as desirable. Finally, responses suggested a recognition that not all climbing is mountain based’.
  • Individual survey (p.26): ‘A need for additional awards to meet several varied needs; Assistant awards (low level monitoring of activity, Climbing Wall and single pitch), single pitch award, (assistant as cited earlier and the teaching of lead)’
  • Individual survey (p.37): ‘Interaction with peers and other instructors (community of practice) emerges as the most significant factor in progression, structured experience between training and assessment. Experience, as both a climber and instructor prior to training emerges as a significant factor’.

Themes that emerge from the survey:

  • The need to strengthen the ‘Instructor’ role
  • Support for an assistant role in the earlier awards
  • Developing teaching skills throughout the awards
  • Learning from and maximising experience
  • The need for trainer education

Outcomes required of the new climbing award structure

– Working Group summary, autumn 2016 (designed to increase participation, retention and diversity in the activity):
  • Enable increased diversity of instructors (ensure and develop reasonable accessibility and access to all Mountain Training awards for aspiring candidates)
  • Encourage progression through award pathways. Progression can be horizontal as well as vertical (supporting existing qualification at a level)
  • Develop high quality instructors who reflect the educational philosophy of Mountain Training
  • Enable a process that values the accreditation of prior learning and quality experience, incorporating some reflective practice.
  • Create strong bridges from participation into Mountain Training qualification pathways

Stage 4 > Research analysis and modelling

Summer 2016 – Spring 2017

Recent work has focused on the framework for a revised climbing qualification scheme. Various options have been discussed and an interim report including a proposed model was shared with all the national Mountain Training organisations at the MTUK meeting on March 25th 2017.

The report relied heavily on the two phase consultations and from this had recommended a number of changes, which along with various outline developments to existing schemes included three potential new schemes: the first was the concept of ‘accredited rock skills’ courses, akin to our existing Hill and Mountain Skills courses; the second was the novel proposal for a climbing assistant, less a qualification and more a proficiency statement, which it is accepted will require considerable further debate and discussion; and thirdly single pitch instructor qualification for traditional and sport climbing, which would be an intermediate qualification and possible stepping stone between the Single Pitch Award and the Mountaineering Instructor Award.

Milestones yet to come…

Stage 5 > Proposals for syllabi agreed in principle

To be completed by June 2017

The working group are now developing specific proposals for the scope, terrain and particular competencies of each qualification (the syllabus) with the aim of getting agreement at the end of June (the next MTUK board meeting).

Stage 6 > Pathways and viability

Assuming that any new standards (the learning outcomes of a qualification) are agreed in principle, we will work throughout the summer of 2017 looking at pathways within and between our climbing schemes. Not until we know what the standards of each scheme will look like can we work out how prospective candidates might achieve it and how it might integrate with the schemes around it. This will include both ‘sideways’ and ‘upward’ progression.

The viability of each scheme is also an important thing to consider in terms of the commercial aspect; how long does a course need to last? What is our estimate of how many participants will get involved and therefore who, where and how many training providers should we be aiming for? Roughly what might it cost the candidate? With this in mind, will it appeal to enough people to warrant creating a whole new qualification? Etc.

Final agreement (October 2017)
After the pathway and viability study the revised climbing qualification scheme will be officially agreed by the national Mountain Training organisations at the MTUK meeting in October

Stage 7 > Implementation

Once the new scheme has been officially agreed we will begin a period of implementation. This is likely to take a year and will involve recruiting and training the delivery workforce as well as handbooks and other resources.