Here are some of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) I’ve received while delivering sessions in schools since 1997. Questions in bold text. Responses in italic text:
- Who is the National Governing Body (NGB) of fencing in this country? All fencing activities, clubs and coaches are regulated by British Fencing (BF).
- What qualifications do fencing instructors hold? Coaches registered with British Fencing (NGB) qualify to coach the individual weapons (Foil, Epee or Sabre) separately. Qualifications start at Level 1 and currently finish at Level 4. Certificates are valid for 5 years after which time a re-validation process is undertaken. BF decided First Aid training is optional but for me it’s better to be safe than sorry. As part of my own Continuing Professional Development (CPD) I also voluntarily undertake a range of additional training, e.g. Equity in Coaching, Coaching Disabled Athletes, etc.
- Are Disclosure and Baring Service (DBS) checks made by the National Governing Body (NGB) on coaches? Yes, all coaches and volunteers involved in coaching children or vulnerable people under go an Enhanced DBS check every three years.
- Do coaches have public liability insurance and how much? Coaches registered with the NGB are covered by an insurance policy which gives >£5M (five million) pounds of cover.
- Are instructors trained to be aware of safeguarding issues? Coaches also under go Child Protection/Vulnerable Person awareness training on a three year cycle.
- Is the sport safe? Absolutely yes! Safety is the most important aspect of the training fencers receive from the outset. Safe behaviour is enforced by the coach should a lapse occur. Any repeated breaches or disregard for the safety of yourself or others together with any violent conduct, will trigger disciplinary procedures and will lead to exclusion unless acceptable conduct is restored.
- Can you supply a risk assessment for the activity? Yes I have risk assessments for Midi-Fence and fencing with metal sword which are review on a regular basis. I’m happy to provide copies of these by email to interested parties.
- Is parental permission required? Clearly each school and LEA will have their own policies, be guided by them. Sessions where plastic swords are used are extremely safe probably safer than say badminton as head protection is used. Sessions using metal swords are also very safe, statistics show fencing to be one of the safest sports. Injuries involving the weapon are very rare, a fencer is much more likely to become hurt by slipping, tripping or pulling a muscle. This was the case in the fencing competitions of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
- Who is the activity suitable for? With the correct equipment choice, group size, support staff, teaching/coaching methods and approach the vast majority of the population can gain from participating in fencing sessions. I tend to believe most children younger than 7 years old should wait for their first experience of the sport. There isn’t an upper age limit in my mind so long as each individual has the motivation to ‘give it a go’. Clearly some medical conditions, irrespective of age, will be an issue but coaches and prospective fencers should be guided my medical advice. Over that past 25 years I have been repeatedly surprised by who has gained from taking up fencing.
- Can pupils with learning and physical disabilities take part? Yes. In many instances they can be integrated with mainstream pupils. Sometimes sessions with pupils in similar circumstances work better. I have delivered sessions to those pupils with moderate learning difficulties right through the spectrum to pupils with severe and multiple difficulties. All have been interesting, challenging and fun for myself and the pupils. The sessions have included plastic ‘Midi-Fence’ and also metal swords.
- What type and size of space is needed? What support is needed? It depends on the type of instruction and the number of participants. For 1 to 1 instruction I know of a coach who gives sessions in the passageway at the side their terraced house! For instruction of groups of 10 to 20 a gym of badminton court size with run-off areas is sufficient in the early stages of learning to fence. A sports hall can accommodate 50 +. If metal swords are being used a ratio of 1-10, responsible party to pupils is needed. With plastic training weapons normal ratios apply.
- How long do sessions last and when can they be held? Depending on the motivation and age of pupils, it is possible to deliver sessions which last as little as 45 minutes. Its more usual for sessions to last between 1 and 2 hours. If the pupils are highly motivated and physically well conditioned sessions of over 2 hours are possible. I have delivered sessions in lunch periods, during curriculum time, in experiential time, after school, in the evening, at weekends and during the holidays. I have not yet delivered breakfast sessions but can’t think you this wouldn’t be possible in the right circumstances.
- Can pupils gain achievement awards and could the activity count towards a GCSE? British Fencing has an achievement award scheme. Courses lasting 6 or more weeks give the pupils the opportunity to reach a grade 1 standard in Foil. Yes credit against a GCSE is possible. I have been involved with several schools in South Yorkshire where pupils have learnt to fence foil, together with judging, scoring and refereeing matches as part of this qualification. I’ll be happy to discuss this if you are interested, my contact details are on the Contact page of this web site.
- The equipment needed, who provides it? Clubs/coaches provide the fencing equipment used in most school or club based sessions. The cost is built into the fees charged. Some schools find it better if they have their own equipment, coaches will be happy to give guidance in this matter.
- What should pupils wear for fencing sessions? For Midi-Fence sessions using plastic swords normal sports kit is OK, court shoes are better than running shoes. Girls might find it more comfortable to wear the plastic chest protectors that will be provided. For sessions using metal swords full protective fencing clothing is required. Long sports trousers are necessary. It is also a requirement for girls to wear the plastic chest protectors that will be provided to avoid both short term discomfort an the possibility of long term damage to mammary tissue. For either type of session lasting longer than 45 minutes it is advisable for the pupils to provide themselves with a bottle of still water. Refreshment in hot weather is particularly necessary.
- Does the equipment used meet British and EU safety standards? Yes, fencing equipment is highly regulated and has to meet both the International Fencing Federation (FIE) and Conformité Européenne (CE Mark) safety standards. These regulations are applied to all of the equipment used including swords, masks, protective clothing, etc.
- Could the school include fencing in the curriculum and what would be needed? With the introduction of plastic training weapons of the Midi-Fence type has made fencing in the school setting a real possibility. The schools Midi-Fence instructors can be trained on a one day course, or two half days at your own premises and at a time suitable to the school. The cost is dependent on the number of session required and the number of delegates. The kit needed is supplied in sets, consisting of 10 protective masks, 10 Midi-Fence plastic Foils, a book of lesson plans complete with a heavy duty storage bag, at a cost of approximately £400 Ex VAT. This kit can be used to introduce any age to the sport and should last several years. When used with reasonable care this kit can last many years. If you are interested please contact me via the Contact page of the web site and I will be happy to facilitate your school becoming involved and to provide continuing support and training. As an alternative or as a follow-on activity sessions can be run using metal swords by a British Fencing qualified coach. If you are interested in this type of session please don’t hesitate to contact me via the Contact page of the web site to discuss your option.
If you didn’t find an answer to a question you have about fencing in schools please don’t hesitate to contact me either through the Blog on this site or via telephone or email. My contact details are on the Contact page of this web site. I look forward to being able to help you.