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BOPA - How to apply

The first consideration is to determine if a BOPA is the appropriate route to take in the given circumstances.

If the child is being paid or anyone else is receiving payment for the child to take part then a BOPA is NOT appropriate and a licence must be applied for. If the performance in question is a type where it is normally expected a child would receive payment the local authority should question the absence of payment and may take the view that a BOPA is not appropriate in the circumstances.

If absence from school is required then again a BOPA will not be appropriate and a licence number must be applied for but see BOPA - Section 7.

If the above criteria are met, the organisation should approach the local authority where the performance is taking place to discuss applying for a BOPA and complete a BOPA application, conditions of approval form and safeguarding checklist.

The organisation should apply to the local authority in plenty of time in order that they have sufficient time to assess the application and ask for further information should this be required. It is suggested that 21 days in line with regulations would be a reasonable time frame.

As stated earlier it is at the discretion of the local authority whether to issue a Body of Persons approval and the organisation will need to provide evidence of the following:

  • Clear, robust and well embedded safeguarding policies and procedures in place.
  • A designated child protection/safeguarding officer.
  • A regularly updated (every 12 months) child protection policy together with details of how this is communicated and followed.
  • Evidence of any child protection/safeguarding training provided.
  • Procedures for checking the suitability of persons who will have responsibility for children.

The local authority will also ask the organisation to agree to certain conditions which will include the following:

  • To comply with Regulation 11 and Regulations 15 to 29 of The Children (Performances and Activities) (Wales) Regulations 2015.
  • To ensure an appropriate number of local authority approved chaperones or other suitably approved persons are engaged to care for the children and ensure they are supervised at all times.
  • Ensure suitable arrangements for first aid.
  • Maintain detailed and complete records of children involved in the event including emergency contact details and any medical issues (see below).
  • Obtain a signed statement of fitness from the parent of each child (see below).
  • An authorised officer of the local authority having unrestricted access to any rehearsal, technical rehearsal or performance at any venue the organisation may use.

If the event is large with several different groups participating, the organiser must assure/demonstrate to the local authority that individual groups will maintain a detailed register of the children they will be responsible for during their time at the event. This should include the name, address, age of the child together with emergency contact details and details of any medical issues. The responsible person must ensure this confidential information is held securely throughout the duration of the event and is available at the place of performance for inspection purposes. The parents should also have signed a statement of fitness. If it is requirement that an entrant's form is completed in order to take part in the event best practice would be that a statement of fitness is incorporated within this.

It is not a requirement that the organiser must provide the local authority with the names, date of birth, address and school of the children taking part. Such detailed information does not inform the licensing officer's decision to issue an approval. The licensing officer should request the numbers of children taking part, gender split and age range and this should be taken into consideration to ensure satisfactory supervision.

There may be other conditions that a local authority may wish to impose depending on the individual circumstances of the performance.

Note: Department for Education advice 1.3.7 states: Where a performance is taking place under the auspices of a BOPA the legislation does not require that the child be supervised by a chaperone approved by the local authority.

This statement cannot be taken in isolation. The local authority has to be certain the organisation has clear, robust and well embedded policies for safeguarding children and the supervision and care of the children is paramount. When considering whether to issue an approval to a group, the licensing officer must ask the group to explain their procedures for carrying out background and suitability checks on the adults who will be caring for the children. For example; what is the procedure for obtaining a DBS check and how would they deal with any adverse information on a disclosure? Do they obtain independent references? What training do they provide in terms of child protection and child performance legislation? Experience shows they will very often be unable to demonstrate acceptable procedures are in place and as such only the use of local authority approved chaperones will enable the group to be considered for a body of persons approval. It is the firm view of NNCEE that children performing under a BOPA are best supervised by local authority approved chaperones and this should be the default position when possible.

However, it is acknowledged there may be some exceptions. Licensing officers should look at events on an individual basis and refrain from adopting a 'one size fits all' approach. For example due to the nature of the event and what is required from the children taking part, Licensing Officers may view alternative arrangements to the 1:12 or lower ratio of local authority chaperones as satisfactory to safeguard all the children involved. By entering into detailed discussion with the organiser regarding the operation and running of the event ie signing in and out procedures, holding areas, changing areas if required, the proposed movement of the children between various areas of the venue and their supervision, licensing officers may agree a mix of supervision options consisting of local authority chaperones, DBS checked adults, teachers and a child's own parent. See following examples.

Example 1

A cathedral holds a number of evening events in which several schools take part. It was appropriate to grant a BOPA and in this case the local authority did not make it a condition that local authority approved chaperones were engaged. The children were supervised by their teachers, however the local authority agreed a ratio of teachers to pupils ensuring sufficient numbers were present and supervision was not being undertaken by parent helpers.

Example 2

A BOPA was issued to a local authority organisation that ran a choir for children with a variety of different special needs. This choir was due to perform at an event organised by the local authority group. As many of the children had quite specific special needs more supervision was required than the usual 1 chaperone for 12 children. It was agreed that the people best qualified to supervise and provide the specific support these children needed was the support staff from the child's special needs school, who were neither teachers nor chaperones.  The support staff who were DBS checked and trained in dealing with these specific needs were to support the local authority music teachers for the choir. The music staff had undergone safeguarding training and training on the performance regulations as part of the requirement for the granting of the BOPA and were also DBS checked. This arrangement worked well and the children were able to fully participate in the concert.

Example 3

An organisation was due to hold the finals of their annual dance event. Heats had been held around the country and the winning groups were travelling to the venue for the grant final. High numbers of children were taking part and would be present at the venue for the maximum permitted hours where they would rehearse and then perform at their allotted time.

A face to face meeting was arranged with the organiser at the venue. It was discovered the individual dance groups had a mixture of supervision arrangements in place ie. the required number of local authority approved chaperones, a mix of chaperones and DBS checked adults, DBS adults and parents. It was agreed with the organisers that a sufficient number of their staff would be approved as chaperones. These chaperones would ensure the individual dance groups and their chaperones were escorted backstage to the dressing rooms at their allotted time, were escorted to and from the stage and then escorted back to the respective 'holding' area following the performance. This ensured the backstage area was being supervised by local authority approved chaperones throughout the performance. Arrangements for supervision of the children when not backstage or performing were also discussed and agreed. This arrangement worked well and the event ran smoothly.

Example 4

A local festival organiser approached the local authority to discuss applying for a BOPA for their annual festival. This took place over a number of days with a large number of entrants being children. Apart from the usual groups of children, a number of the children were sole entrants who would be either singing, playing an instrument or reciting a piece of prose. The local authority was advised it was normal practice for these children to sit in the audience with a parent until they were called to perform at their allotted time; the organiser was not aware if they had arrived until they were called. It was agreed with the organiser the parent should act as chaperone for their child, remain with them in the audience and escort them to and from the stage. It was also agreed that a list of child entrants should be maintained for each day and the parent should sign their child in on arrival and out when leaving.

Whenever possible it is considered best practice that the person or persons from the group are interviewed by the licensing officer. This can take place at local authority offices or if it is a local groups preferably at the place where they rehearse and perform. This will enable the licensing officer to see at first hand the procedures the group have in place and to carry out an inspection of the place of performance and rehearsal as required by Regulation 17.