In this month's Safety Talk, BSAC's Safety and Development Manager Jim Watson discusses the training standards of skills and how instructors can occasionally forget how daunting those basic skills were as a trainee.

For a new diver, everything is unique, challenging and different to any previous experience. Is it surprising, therefore, that many new to diving find the whole thing a little daunting if not an insurmountable objective? Those of us with more experience sometimes forget how much of a challenge even basic skills can be as we no longer find them much of a challenge. We should all take time to remind ourselves about the environment we are going into and why we are reliant on the specialist equipment and training we require to do so.

Many years ago (don’t ask), I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated at some students I was training for their Third Class (oops gave it away there…) and why they were not able to do the skills as well as I felt they should. In taking the time to consider why they couldn’t follow my teaching I came to realise I was expecting them to perform not at the level of competence required but at my current level of skill. 

Taking further time to reflect back, I considered the level I had been at when I first achieved the qualification. It was not only a useful reminder of the level the students should be aiming for but also a measure of how far my own diving skills and experience had progressed.


Throughout my diving and instructing career I have frequently had to make similar adjustments to my own personal benchmark for both diver and Instructor training. Even when you think you have it clear in your mind what the requirements are there is always something that requires you to re-evaluate them. Of course, encouraging everyone to strive for more than just the minimum standard is desirable. However, we owe it to our students to make sure that the minimum required standard they must achieve is that as laid down in the respective training programme. Recent revisions to Ocean Diver, and more recently the practical elements of Sports Diver, aim to detail out much more what these standards are. Instructors should avoid trusting their memory and ensure they apply the standards as laid down. Likewise, the requirements for each level of Instructor Training are similarly supported by a detailed set of minimum standards. 


Within BSAC Instructor Training there is an infrastructure that is designed to support Instructor Trainers to ensure they apply the relevant standards. Each event is managed by a National Instructor who has a number of essential roles that include the maintenance of standards and the ongoing development of Instructor Trainers on the course/exam. The maintenance of standards requires a balance between ensuring the appropriate minimum standard is achieved for the respective grade and also, importantly, that higher standards are not artificially set.

Within normal diver training, similar principles should be applied with respect to the standards required. That role falls not just to the Diving Officer and Training Officer but to all instructors as well. The more senior the instructor, the more students should expect them to have a clearer understanding of the required standard and for them to advise less experienced instructors to avoid adding to the training programme unnecessarily or to add in their own pet additional skills requirements.

 Think SAFE – Dive SAFE

Jim Watson
BSAC Safety and Development Manager

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