/ SPA Pre requisites... groupwork?

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BrandonBallentyne on 18 Oct 2013 -

So to go for assessment is it important to have gained experience in groups?

I'm an experienced climber and I don't think the SPA assessment will be that difficult. I just want to know how many people actually got experience working with kids etc etc shadowing other instructors before going for the Assessment?

I'm asking as i have my assessment booked in Nov. Ive taken friends out......... but never worked with groups of children.

Is this something you'd be failed on If you didn't have this experience?

P.s, Im not posting in my real name due to any possible repercussions.
highclimber - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to BrandonBallentyne: Have you done the training? I'd highly recommend getting some group experience before assessment, especially on releasable abseils though it is not something you will be failed on if you haven't got any so long as you know what is expected at assessment. There were two other people on my assessment that had not got any group experience and they passed.

The handbook states that candidates 'Should' have gained group expeirence prior to assessment.
BrandonBallentyne on 18 Oct 2013 -
In reply to highclimber:
Yeah I've done my training just have no group experience. I didn't want to turn up and be deferred purely on this basis alone.

Is it quite common that people don't have any group experience then?
highclimber - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to BrandonBallentyne: The assessor isn't looking for reasons to fail you and so long as you demonstrate on the day that you meet the minimum requirements to pass then you'll pass. Not having group experience isn't, as far as I am aware, a pass or fail criteria for the assessment.

I don't know how many people that turn up to assessment haven't got group experience.
griffen - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to BrandonBallentyne:

SPA handbook says:

Candidates should not present themselves for assessment until they have:
1. led a minimum of 40 climbs, outdoors on leader-placed protection. A substantial number of these must be at least Severe grade and they should be on a variety of rock types.
2. assisted with the supervision of climbing for approximately 20 sessions at a variety of locations, some outside and some indoors (a session is a half day or evening).

I'm no expert but I reckon turning up without those logged sessions would result in a defer.
highclimber - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to griffen: The key wording here is 'Should not'. There is no real way of assessing someone's ability to work with groups unless you give them a group to work with on the assessment which isn't commonplace. so, deferring someone for not meeting the above recommendation could be very difficult for the assessor to justify.
Offwidth - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to highclimber:

Missing requirements in the logbook are difficult to justify?? Even if someone lies the inexperience will likely be obvious in the assessment.
BrandonBallentyne on 18 Oct 2013 -
In reply to highclimber:

Right, Interesting stuff.

Do you think taking a non climber to a climbing wall or crag and teaching them the ropes could be classed as a 'group session'?

I doubt it would. However i fail to see that with the 1000's of qualified SPA's out there that they all managed to get 20sih group sessions in. I've emailed a tonne of folk to try and get experience with groups but to no avail!

Logbook-wise, should i cover my arse and write in some group sessions. Not sure I'd be too happy doing this......... Like i said, i think my personal skills will easily demonstrate how competent i am looking after groups even if i haven't logged any?????

Not sure whether to be worried about this. Any assessors out there able to comment?
highclimber - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to Offwidth: my point is it's very easy to see if someone has maybe overstated their climbing ability - if you can't climb severe (or whatever grade is appropriate for the conditions) on the day , you get deferred regardless of what's in your logbook. If you turn up without group experience logged and you can answer the questions regarding group management etc and can demonstrate how to deal with a mixed ability group etc on the day then you shouldn't get deferred
AlH - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to BrandonBallentyne: I'm an Assessor but I don't know you.
What did your trainer recommend? They would have had an opportunity to judge the best route between training and assessment for you. Can you go back to them?
In general I recommend to candidates that they under take a mixture of shadowing/assisting existing/higher Award holders (this lets them see many techniques that may have been new to them in a variety of contexts as well as pick up more- you can rarely cover the entire syllabus in depth on a training course, that's what consolidation is for)
some independent time looking after novices once they feel confident to do so (this puts you on the spot and makes you deal with situations yourself).

In my experience candidates who have not worked a reasonable amount alongside existing Award holders perform worse at Assessment. It is possible that if they have just been practising with novices / other trainees that whilst things may have seemed ok to them they were not getting feedback from an Award holder on issues they may have been unaware of.
But I don't know you or your experience, how your training course went etc.
Hope that makes sense.
barbeg on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to BrandonBallentyne:

I'm not wanting to appear a pompous oldtw*t here, but if this is your approach to the qualification then I think you should ask yourself why you are doing it.....
BrandonBallentyne on 18 Oct 2013 -
In reply to Andrew Mallinson:

The reasons I am doing it are pretty obvious.

It's because of the respect that I have for the qualification that I raise my concerns.

Like Ive stated, Ive taken folk out climbing. But not worked with groups. I haven't worked with groups as Ive never held my SPA qual.

I've been climbing for at least 5 years now. I know what i want out of it and the reasons for me doing it. I just dont want to get hung up on a requirement I haven't managed to tick because its loosely defined. In all honesty i just wanted to ask if i should be concerned about this. I want to work with groups. But having not done so already on a crag I dont want to get turned away at the door.
jezb1 - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to AlH: Would you defer someone for having no logged group sessions?
Paul at work - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to jezb1:
> (In reply to AlH) Would you defer someone for having no logged group sessions?

Yes. If the minimum required number of group sessions were not present, then there will be a deferral from me.

The real question is what is a group. You don't need to have done formal group sessions with big groups of children. A group is 2 or more people, and I would guess that the OP has probably introduced people to the sport of climbing, at an indoor wall or even outside. He will have needed to make decisions on appropriate routes to use, rope systems, taught and then supervised belaying etc. So would have probably some log-able group supervision sessions.

It is normally pretty easy to spot candidates who haven't worked with groups outside during an assessment. I make it even easier and tend to have a few people for them to coach on the second day of my assessments.
earlsdonwhu - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to BrandonBallentyne: It is quite useful to have got the experience and issues surrounding the management of young kids or teenagers and adults are often a bit different.
Sandstone Stickman - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to BrandonBallentyne:

I think you are under estimating the value of the experience that should be gained by working with groups. You might be an experienced climber, but the skills for properly managing a group of newbies in a safe manner at a crag are quite a different thing.

There is no comparison with taking friends out compared to a group of unruly teenagers - The first time you could find this out is when your own neck and their safety is on the line... The SPA is not just about good ropework, group management is also essential.

Can you defer until you’ve got more experience? Good luck!

Stamford Raffles - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to BrandonBallentyne: I passed my SPA on the 6th, the 20 group sessions can be as simple as taking 4 novice mates to the wall 5 times each and teaching them the basics. And practice your group abseil.
Mel Turnbull on 18 Oct 2013
In reply Hi what area do you live in if the north east i can provide group sessions if any helpto Stamford Raffles:
jezb1 - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to Paul at work: Thanks Paul. Worked on plenty of trainings but worked on my first assessment the other day. One candidate deferred due to lack of group days.
AlH - on 18 Oct 2013
In reply to jezb1: Like Paul says it depends how you define a group. In the syllabus the wording (from memory) is along the lines of 'assisting with the supervision of climbing for approx 20 sessions'. So it does suggest that those sessions are helping someone else but equally it's 'approximately' 20. To be honest I don't think its ever come down to just the numbers for me. If they haven't had the right depth and breadth of experience that has shown up clearly during the Assessment process.
During Training I also point out that I'd take 20 as a minimum. I think when I went for Assesments I would aim for 50% more than the min. requirements. I'd rather go into an Assessment with plenty of experience in hand than have any questions in my mind about that depth or breadth.
BrandonBallentyne on 19 Oct 2013 -
In reply to AlH:

As it stands I have taken quite a few people out to both walls and the crag and pretty much taught them how to climb from scratch,,, or at least got them on some routes, made sure everything was safe, and sparked their own passion for the sport.

So If we're saying 20 days as a minimum, ( which i think i just about have if the above applies as a day, plus Ive still got a month to get more ) and they are entered in two sections of the logbook ' single pitch supervising ' and ' climbing wall supervising ' , would that count???? Or should they all be at the crag and under Single Pitch Supervising as its the SPA not the CWA?
SteveoS - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to BrandonBallentyne:

The only reason of getting an SPA is to be an instructor. If you can't instruct it'll ruin the experience for you and your clients. I'd say instructing experience is the most important skill.
AlH - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to BrandonBallentyne: I really think you need to read the handbook in detail. There is no way I can (or would want to) begin to assess you online. I've PMed you to see if I can find you anyone for you to assist in the supervision of sessions in your area.
bpmclimb on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to BrandonBallentyne:
> Okay,
> So to go for assessment is it important to have gained experience in groups?

The simple answer is an unqualified yes. That's why the SPA syllabus lists it as a requirement. Taking a couple of mates out is not the same thing, not even close. Just because you have found it difficult to gain that experience doesn't mean it's not important, or that you're somehow exempt on the basis of your personal climbing experience. Sorry, but there it is.

Bluebird - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to BrandonBallentyne: I must say, that as someone also working towards their SPA (done training and now busting their balls consolidating their log) that I get a bit frustrated with folks thinking/hoping they can find ways to get over bits they find difficult? Building a log is hard, finding small groups to take to the crag is hard, finding the time in the week to get it done is hard. The whole purpose of the SPA is group work and instruction of others surely - indeed in the days of yore it was called SPSA - Single Pitch Supervisory Award (why was it changed by the way?), therefore by definition it's about group work. Taking a few mates climbing is no where near understanding how to run a group session (usually for young people) - how to keep them safe, whilst providing a great climbing experience tailored for their needs/ability. Taking a few mates out is no substitute for understanding the specific needs of a bunch of folks with physical/mental disabilities.

To be honest, I would hope and expect that anyone rocking up on assessment day without the minimum's would be deferred by default, otherwise it undermines the efforts I and others I'm sure are going to to takes groups out on the crag whenever and whereever I can.

now, if you have friends and family with kids who are at school, a quick email usually does the trick in getting kids and parents interested in climbing, approach your local climbing wall and ask to shadow group work with them - most walls are sympathetic to those going for SPA since they've been there themselves.
Jamie Wakeham - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to BrandonBallentyne: SPA isn't just a climbing qualification, it's a group supervision qualification. The assessor is signng you off not only as fit to rig the ropework, but also to keep control of a mob of teenagers whilst you do so. And, being perfectly honest, if you've never worked with kids before, you won't have a chance of doing so. I'd been a secondary teacher for 7 years when I did my consolidation period and I learned plenty about managing groups during it.

Ask yourself what you would do with a group of kids whilst you went and put together a hitching rail for top-ropes, or rigged a releasable ab? And how would you run those three top-ropes with, say, 11-yr-old kids? How would you get them safely up to the abseil? There's a lot of management skill in this that has nothing to do with being a climber.

This is why it's a requirement. If you dn't turn up with 20 sessions (which, I believe, equates to ten whole days as a session is counted as a half-day, isn't it?) of group work then I'm fairly sure you'll, rightly, be deferred. It's a pain in the arse to do this and you'll spend a fair bit of time volunteering for free, but yes, everyone with the award had to do it. Some of it can be done teaching mates for free, as long as they recognise that you aren't yet qualified, but really some needs to be shadowing already-qualified instructors - how else will you get to know what they do and how they do it?

Sorry if this isn't what you wanted to hear - but I can't quite believe you're asking this in mid-October with a November assessment booked! Advertise on here for opportunities. Contact outdoor ed centres and offer your help (and these might not be local - you may well have to travel about to get all this in before November). You've just missed the uni clubs freshers' meets season, which was a golden opportunity for you to get big group sessions in.
Bluebird - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to Jamie Wakeham: +1 Jamie
jwa - on 19 Oct 2013
In reply to BrandonBallentyne:
> (In reply to Andrew Mallinson)
>I want to work with groups.

Then get some experience in assisting with groups. You will learn a lot. You might manage to pass your SPA with the experience you've already got, but it will be a big shock when you're actually in charge of a real group. You might also find it hard to get work when an employer asks you what experience you've got. A sticker on a page will only get you so far.

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