How to plan a YAC session
Included in the Paperwork section of the Leaders' Area is a Session Planning Template which should help you to think through how each session will run, and make sure that what you are doing is covered by YAC insurance. There are completed examples to guide you, for an indoor and an outdoor session.
If you are new to planning YAC sessions, then it’s very important to make sure you fully understand how to manage the safety of your members and volunteers. Read this guidance, as well as our information on planning safe activities: especially the sections on assessing risks and insurance. Ask someone with more experience to look at your plans and offer advice: there may be someone at your Branch who can do this, or you could ask a Leader at another Branch or YAC HQ. You will find that planning gets easier and quicker with practice.
How long should a YAC session be?
It’s up to you! YAC sessions are usually at least two hours long, and length can vary depending on what you’re doing. Just make sure that parents know what time to drop their children off and collect them.
How many volunteers should be present?
During a session, YAC volunteers should always work within sight and hearing of another YAC volunteer. You should avoid being alone with a group of children, and make sure that you are never alone with an individual child.
Each meeting should therefore ideally be run by a minimum of four approved YAC Branch Leaders or Assistants who have current (i.e. less than three years old) criminal record disclosures through YAC. This will allow enough adults to accompany groups of children to the toilet, or to manage an emergency if one should arise. If you don’t have four volunteers for any session, make sure you plan in advance how you will manage this, including limiting the number of members who can attend. You must never run a session with fewer than two formally registered YAC volunteers.
The required ratio of adults to children is at least one YAC volunteer for every eight children. If you run a session outside this ratio, you will not be covered under YAC insurance. Adults who are not YAC-registered volunteers (for example, guest speakers, parents, venue staff and volunteers whose criminal record disclosure is more than three years old) do not count toward the 1:8 ratio.
On some occasions, you may decide that the activity you’re doing needs additional supervision. Doing a risk assessment for each session will help you to think this through. If you are going out to visit a site for example, or planning an activity which involves the use of potentially dangerous equipment, you might prefer to have one volunteer for every four children. You can manage this by limiting the number of places available at each session.
It often works well if your team take on particular roles during the session, to make sure that important jobs get done and the session runs smoothly. These can include:
- Someone in overall charge of the session.
- Someone who takes the register, checks the consent forms and makes sure all the information about the group is readily available.
- Someone in charge of first aid: this must of course be a qualified first aider, who is responsible for the first aid kit.
- Someone who makes sure all the children are collected safely at the end of the session.
Can parents or guardians stay at sessions?
To enable members to really get involved in your sessions and interact with one another, it’s usually best for parents and guardians not to stay. Sometimes however, either you or the member might decide you do want a parent to stay. This could be, for example, because a child has an additional need you don’t feel able to manage, or because of nervousness at a first session.
Parents must not be asked to take responsibility for any child except their own, and should never be asked to take other children out of sight and hearing of the rest of the group (for example, a parent should not be asked to take another child with them when taking their own child to the toilet). Parents do not count towards the adult:child ratio.
As with any adult taking part in a YAC session, you should give parents a copy of YAC’s Code of Conduct so they understand the behaviour they can expect from you and that you expect from them.
If a parent is going to be accompanying their child to every session, you may like to talk to them about whether they’d like to become a YAC volunteer.
Some Branches run occasional family sessions when all members bring along their parents and siblings. This can create a really great atmosphere, but please make sure that parents know they must supervise their own children at all times.
How should a YAC session be structured?
Each Branch, and each session, is different; but the following steps should be included in every meeting:
Arrival of volunteers
- Arrive in plenty of time to set up the room and activities before your members arrive, and record all the adults present on your session register.
- Check all the necessary equipment has been brought.
- Review the session and venue risk assessments.
- Make sure that everyone understands what they will be doing during the session.
Arrival of YAC members
- It’s often useful to put one person in charge of registering the members as they arrive. It’s also useful for that person to have someone with them to intercept questions from parents so they can concentrate! Make sure a register is kept of everyone who has arrived, including volunteers, members and anyone else.
- Check members have any medication they need, such as inhalers or epi-pens; any member without their necessary medication cannot remain at the session. Make sure you have an emergency contact telephone number for every member.
- Collect a meeting fee (if you’re charging one) and record this.
- Check who will collect each member at the end of the session, or that they have permission to leave on their own. Make sure parents/guardians are clear about what time the session ends.
- Make sure that members are appropriately dressed for the activity you’re doing. If they’re not, talk to their parents about whether it’s suitable for them to take part.
- If members arrive away from the activity room, for example at a museum reception, make sure your team understands how members will be accompanied to the room and that you have enough people to do it.
- Make sure members know where the toilets are and where to put their belongings.
- Have an activity that members can do while waiting for others to arrive.
- Welcome everyone and give a brief introduction to what you’re going to be doing. Make sure you introduce any new adults.
- Discuss any health and safety points. It can be more effective to involve your members in identifying risks and thinking of ways to stay safe, rather than just laying out rules. At the start of an activity, ask the group if they can think of any potential risks on the site and with the activity you’re doing, and get them to come up with their own safety measures (including your own suggestions of course!) Make sure that all your members and volunteers are present so no-one misses important safety information.
- If your session involves splitting into groups, make sure there are enough YAC volunteers present to supervise each group, remembering that each volunteer must be in the sight and hearing of at least one other volunteer.
- Think carefully in advance about how you wish to divide the young people. Will older members work well together or could they be useful in helping younger ones? Are there combinations of individuals who do or don’t work well together?
- If the session is outdoors, make sure you have a wet-weather back up plan! Similarly, have a plan of what to do it a speaker arrives late or an activity takes less time than you expected: bad behaviour is more likely to occur when young people are at a loose end.
At the end of the meeting
- Involve the members in packing away and tidying up.
- Review what you have done and give members the chance to ask questions.
- Give details of the next session if appropriate.
- Make sure members know that they must not leave without saying goodbye to you and letting you see the person responsible for picking them up: it’s a good idea to cross names off the register as each person leaves, and to make sure your members and their parents know you must do this. It’s easiest for one volunteer to take charge of this, but make sure they have support so that they don’t get distracted by parents with questions.
- You may like to have a quick debrief with your volunteers after the members have left, to talk through any issues