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    The term Leader is taken to include teacher, instructor, coach, facilitator, guide etc. and means the person responsible for running the session whatever that session might involve. We recognise that at various times any or all of these roles will be required by an effective AAI Leader. By professional, we use the term in the sense of ‘expert and specialised knowledge in the field in which one is practicing and excellent manual/practical and literary skills, high standard ethics, behaviour and work activities’. Consequently, voluntary and amateur AAI Leaders are fully included in the scheme.

    AAI believes that most people are inherently honest and motivated to do their best in all situations. We have written and planned the AAI structure around this essential tenet of honesty and professionalism. AAI leaders love their sport, and have worked hard to develop their skills, fitness, judgement and knowledge and gathered the necessary equipment to give their clients a great experience. A safe and effective session depends on the judgement and maturity of the leader to have the necessary awareness and ability to make the right decision at the right time. This ability is to some extent innate but can also be trained and developed in people with the right attributes.

    The AAI Leaders awards are designed to develop and assess these essential qualities.

    In many industries worldwide, risk reduction has been in the domain of specialist professionals who understandably see danger at every turn. They have developed structures of training, administration and record keeping in the hope of alleviating these risks. Health and Safety requirements including session plans, risk assessments, reports, ratios and so on make outdoor leaders overly defensive. Sadly, for people working outdoors, this can be over prescriptive and can have negative effects on the quality and safety of the learning experience. This malaise has been recognised by many working in the outdoor field and results in watered down and stifling activity sessions that do nothing to arouse the sense of adventure in outdoor people.

    The AAI aim is to recognise Leaders for their professionalism and their natural desire to do a good job in providing a quality and memorable outdoor experience. We want leaders who think on their feet and are adequately skilled and resourced to operate flexibly and autonomously within the confines of their skill set, the scope of their award, the range of conditions that can reasonably be expected and what is seen as up to date good practice amongst outdoor leaders worldwide.

    There are a few issues that affect outdoor leaders that the AAI scheme intends to address, namely revalidation, child protection and litigation.

    The issue of staying up to date has challenged many outdoor qualification schemes and especially in coaching or leading. Traditionally, a qualification is automatically revalidated by attending a workshop, symposium or whatever; although these hardly ever involve any kind of test to ensure that the holder is up to date. The AAI operates this issue differently. As a worldwide web based organisation, we encourage Leaders to communicate within the members section and to discuss and perhaps arrange sessions to address leadership issues and to network and interact with peers thereby keeping one another up to date and informed. While this is not a pre-requisite of renewing membership and Leadership awards, attendance is seen as a potential counter to the question of whether a Leader has kept up to date and is operating to industry standards. As professionals, we expect AAI Leaders to take responsibility for their own qualifications and any associated add on qualifications that are required to operate effectively. These include first aid qualifications and life saving awards which are often required to be retaken periodically. As such, all AAI Leaders recognise that their AAI award is not valid if any required associated qualifications are out of date or have lapsed until they are retaken. They are not however required to send copies to the AAI; the onus is on individuals to ensure they are covered. The annual renewal declaration is a reminder.

    Another common pre-requisite of outdoor awards, particularly when working with children or vulnerable people is to have a check against official records to ascertain whether there is a previous offence relating to this category on file for that person. Sadly, this is not foolproof as it relies on having already been caught and sentenced and fails to alert against those who have evaded detection, or those who slip through the net by means of changing their location or country and many countries do not operate such a scheme. The AAI expects Leaders to have been checked by the authorities in their home country where one operates and AAI Partners will have up to date checks on file with their employment records. However, as an added safeguard and to cover countries where no checks are made, the AAI insists that at all levels of the scheme AAI Leaders and Masters must never work with young people or vulnerable adults alone, but at all times alongside and with the assistance of other suitable people. This safeguards both the Leader and vulnerable Adventurers.

    In any inquiry or court case where Leaders actions are questioned, the basis of investigation is whether the Leader was ‘fit for purpose’. This means operating within the scope of their award and operating to the reasonably accepted standards of the industry. It has generally been found, that incidents involving outdoor leaders where safety has or has potentially been compromised has been due to these two main factors. The Leader has for some reason operated beyond his qualification remit, or the session has not been run to the normally accepted standards of the outdoor industry.

    These areas tend to be the main focus of the litigation and media industries when trying to establish what occurred and whether blame is attributable to anyone. In the AAI scheme, the professionalism and integrity of leaders is paramount, they must be able to justify their actions based on their experience and judgement. They compromise their AAI cover if they operate beyond the laid down remit of their AAI award, or if they have failed to keep up to date with the industry standards. A statement to this affect is required to be acknowledged by each Leader on joining the scheme and renewing membership.