/ Reading Climbing Centre - poor kids courses?

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LastBoyScout on 24 Jan 2011

Two of my friends currently have their kids booked in on courses here and so far don't seem to be impressed with them.

Had my mate's wife and kids round on Friday evening after their 2nd session, as she was frustrated with the amount they seemed to be doing and wanted to borrow my kiddy harnesses for them to practice putting on and tying in. Apparently, there were 9 kids and 1 instructor, they hardly did any climbs and even then they barely got 4' off the ground!

Just chatting with another mate and his daughter got 2 climbs and a total of about 6' in an hour, even with a ratio of 6:1.

In short, neither of them are impressed with what they're getting for the money they're paying - especially given that one of them has a 50 mile round trip from Newbury to get there. Both of them have asked if I would take the kids there for a session.

Yes, they've both complained to the management, but I was curious if anyone else had experienced the same thing?
another_mark on 24 Jan 2011
In reply to LastBoyScout:
Experienced similar at Harrogate (same company). Too many kids and too few instructors which resulted in the kids getting bored and losing interest.

It gets expensive when they only get a couple of climbs and the bored kids just get disruptive.

I think they also suffered from allowing very young kids into the groups who weren't able to concentrate for the whole session.

Dare I say that the instructors also varied in how well they handled the younger kids. Some were very good and some weren't.

I know a couple of people stopped going because of this. Seems to be a common issue though - I also heard crit of Leeds for similar reasons.

Harrogate did revamp their kids sessions recently - not sure exactly what changes have been made.

I assumed that new centres have to find their feet a bit - I would hope that they will take on board the comments and review things.
In reply to LastBoyScout:

We are always keen to receive feedback from sessions at RCC. Tom Vaessen, RCC’s Assistant Manager, spoke to both parents on Friday night and on Sunday, but we would be keen to hear further feedback if anyone has anything to add.

Both our casual kids’ clubs and structured NICAS sessions run on a 1:9 instructor ratio, as is the norm throughout climbing centres across the UK. However, the two different types of session each have a different focus. For those wanting to come along and do as much climbing as possible, without learning any of the other aspects of climbing, such as belaying, we offer the casual sessions. For those wanting to progress through the NICAS awards (www.nicas.co.uk) we offer six-week blocks of sessions which take kids through structured sessions, focusing on different aspects each week. I believe the sessions mentioned above are the NICAS club.

Our NICAS sessions follow a pattern of a 15 minute warm-up, which includes traversing and climbing games as well as general warm-ups. Following the warm-up a fun specific skills exercise is taught; this then forms the focus for the rest of the session, through climbing and balance exercises and a warm-down. The emphasis is always on enjoyment whilst learning, with a section of the NICAS syllabus being completed in each session. NICAS sessions are grouped by level (1-5), within each group there are always differences in learning style and ability, which means each session can be adapted by the instructor to suit. The main aims of the NICAS sessions are to teach kids sustainable skills which will lead to a life-long passion for climbing, as shared by all our instructors.

The new kids’ club structure is shared across all our centres, and incorporates a new Little Monkeys session for 5 & 6 year olds, allowing us to focus the sessions differently for younger kids. The Rock-Its cater for 7-11 year olds, and Hang Time for those aged 11-17, further splitting the age groups, learning styles and focus of our youth sessions.

Through speaking to our customers we believe we have the correct balance between instructor ratios and cost of the sessions; if we were to further reduce the ratios, the cost of each session would change also.

If anyone would like any more info, or would like to discuss the contents of each different session, please don’t hesitate to contact each of our centres directly; our staff will be glad to help and can advise what type of session is best suited to your requirements.
ExTankie on 24 Jan 2011
Having taken my little girl twice to Reading Little Monkeys on both occasions she received no instruction whilst climbing. Two children were climbing at the same time with other children assisting with the belaying, however the climbers were just told to climb and when they got stuck no assistance was given to help them learn and improve as climbers, they were simply lowered down. 1 hour, 2 climbs and less than twice her height in total ascent. We won't be doing Little Monkeys again.
LastBoyScout on 24 Jan 2011
In reply to Manchester Climbing Centre:

Thanks for your response.

I would still have expected more climbing than apparently takes place, even if the focus of a particular session is on, say, belaying. That is, after all, the fun part of it - and that's not to detract from the importance of learning safe belaying skills.

I also think that 9:1 is too high a ratio - whether it is the norm, or not - especially for young children, where they have a shorter attention span and need more help.

And yes, I've done a lot of instructing young kids, so I'm speaking from experience.
In reply to ExTankie:

I'm sorry to hear that you have had two negative experiences at RCC. As I mention above, we are keen to hear feedback from our customers to enable us to constantly improve our sessions. The feedback from kids' session at RCC is normally good, it is important to also receive constructive criticism. If you would be happy to discuss this in more detail perhaps next time you are in the centre or by telephone, I would be glad to hear from you. I work between Harrogate and Reading, but the guys at RCC will happily give you my mobile number if I am not at the centre.

Best regards,

Mike Lloyd
Centre Manager RCC
Stuart (aka brt) - on 24 Jan 2011
In reply to Manchester Climbing Centre:
> (In reply to LastBoyScout)
> Both our casual kids’ clubs and structured NICAS sessions run on a 1:9 instructor ratio, as is the norm throughout climbing centres across the UK.

Sorry to wade in but I think this is a bit disingenuous; the norm?
In reply to LastBoyScout:

Thank you for raising the issue. We will be looking for further feedback, both online, face to face and through the RCC feedback system to constantly review how different sessions are delivered accross our centres. The recent changes to our kids sessions are a result of such feedback.

As an instructor yourself, you will no doubt have worked with a variety of groups. Our experience over the last six years at MCC is that the maximum figure of 1:9 is a group size that normally lends itself to an enjoyable group, with the possibility of three climbers on the wall, three belayers, whether using 'bell-ringing' technique on Italian Hitches or for the higher NICAS levels, belay devices, and a third person backing up the rope before the instructor. This allows for the third person not only to be involved, but to take in everything that is going on, reinforcing learning. This principle of learning through observation as well as pactice is something we utilise from our kids groups right through to outdoor learn to lead courses.

For some courses, such as our younger sessions, we choose to work to smaller ratios, and shorten session times to reflect the shorter attention span of younger kids, such as Little Monkeys which is 1hr. Within each session, our instructors can also respond to the strengths of the climbers and tailor the session to suit. Sometimes this will be more traversing and bouldering than roped climbing, or vise versa, depending on the desired outcome of each session.

We also offer a variety of other courses to cater for those who require a smaller ratio, which of course come at a higher cost. Essentially we are trying to cater for everyone, especially during a recession, where the cost of activities becomes even more important. As I say, this is what we have found to work so far, but if there is a need to change things we will always listen to our customers and try to address any concerns.

Mike Lloyd
Centre Manager RCC
el_monty - on 24 Jan 2011
Hi, I thought I would give my angle on the issue as an instructor who teaches a kids group at Bournemouth climbing wall. I teach a 1 and half hour session and have a maximum ratio of 1:8 and a usually 2 instructors for the group. When a child starts with my group the first thing that we teach them is how to belay, tie in and put a harness correctly. This normally takes a few sessions before the child is ready to climb and belay with a partner. The first few sessions they only get between 3-5 climbs but once I as an instructor has seen they are competent to do these 3 things then the sessions following they can climb as much as they wish. We also split the new kids from the more experienced kids so that everyone learns what they need.

I hope this insight has helped.

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