For prospective and current ICS staff: find out important information about teaching on a course and join the team for 2021

Key information

All staff are expected to read the ICS handbook, taking particular note of the safety and welfare section. The handbook has been developed over the last 40 years with a collaborative input from many instructors along the way. It includes principles of child psychology and expresses the core ethos of ICS, along with specific operating procedures.

New instructors will be sent a copy in PDF format, if you need a new copy of the handbook just let Jae know. 

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Key information

Practices & Ethos Summary

We have three main objectives:

  1. Firstly, we look after the students’ safety and welfare. This means not exposing them to unreasonable risks, and ensuring that they get appropriate attention when they are physically injured or emotionally upset. If a child reports any distress beyond what is expected in the normal training procedures, you must inform the principal immediately.
  2. Secondly, we strive to increase their self-confidence and self esteem. We achieve this by presenting challenges which we help them meet by encouragement; congratulating their efforts when they do well, being patient when they fail.
  3. Finally we aim to teach them to sail or increase their sailing, racing and/or seamanship abilities, and encourage an appreciation of the natural environment. We help them achieve as high a standard as is possible during the course, whilst maintaining a strict policy of honesty. i.e. Giving awards only when the relevant level has been achieved.

We achieve these objectives by working within a structure with strict times (start times, break and meal times, etc.), in an organised but friendly and relaxed atmosphere.

How we communicate with the students is of vital importance. The way we do this affects not just how successful we are in transferring information, but more importantly, the way in which the students develop their life skills (self reliance, problem solving, self discipline, and so on). The psychiatrist Eric Berne realised the importance of the way in which we communicate with each other, not just by the words we use, but also the tone. A frown, a laugh, a gesture, they all effect the way in which information is received. Berne used the term ‘transactional analysis’ for the study of the way in which we communicate. It is an interesting and important subject for everyone, but especially important to those teaching children.

The psychiatrist Thomas Harris introduced the idea that we all (adults and children alike) have within us ‘parent’ ‘adult’ and ‘child’ and we transact communications from one of these within us, to one of these within the person with whom we are communicating. I place a tremendous importance on staff communicating to children on an ‘adult-to-adult’ basis; from your adult to their adult – speaking to them as you would an adult – not talking ‘down’ to them. Adult-to-adult conversations are information seeking and information giving. Those children who are used to adults (e.g. parents and teachers) talking to them in this way will have a well-developed ‘adult’; that is, they will feel confident about assessing a question and giving an answer, or asking a question when they need information. Children who have parents and teachers who do not seek information by asking questions and valuing the answers will have a little-developed, or weak, ‘adult’. When we (ICS staff) talk to children on an ‘adult-to-adult’ basis, we help to develop their ‘adult’; and thereby help develop their self-confidence, their self-worth, and their ability to communicate.

Congratulatory rhetoric is adult-to-child and that is important too (we all need it!). Admonitions are ‘parent-to-child’ and are never useful and often damaging. Everyone makes mistakes. Even negative behaviour should be seen as transitory and not part of the child's personality. Saying "you're a naughty girl" (parent-child), is completely different to saying, "that behaviour is not acceptable," (adult-child). The latter accepts that the child is in control of their behaviour and has the power to change it in the future.

I place great importance on skippers feeling that they can approach any staff member at any time with any ‘adult-to-adult’ question, and when they do so, they will get a proper ‘adult-to-adult’ response, perhaps with a bit of ‘adult-to-child’ but with nothing ‘parent’ in the response. For example the question “I’ve found this glove, what shall I do with it?” might get the response “Well done,” (the congratulatory ‘adult-to-child’) “Could you put it in the lost property box over there” (the ‘adult-to-adult’). The response: “I told you this morning about lost property. Have you forgotten already?” would be a ‘parent-to-child’ response. Please try to avoid ‘parent-to-child’ transactions.

On a practical note, remember that some children sail slow boats. The RYA hire boats for example are much heavier and slower than down-to-weight class Optimists. Remind the skippers that are sailing polypropylene boats, which are inherently slow, and congratulate them when they sail well, rather than sail fast.

We have a policy that everyone on the premises during the course are students or staff. Parents of students and friends of staff distract both students and staff in their work. A unique benefit to students on ICS Easter courses at Papercourt is that everyone on the premises (in fact pretty well everyone in sight) is either a student, or a staff member involved in serving students’ needs.

Praise Effort, Not Talent

Research has shown that people of all ages perform significantly better when their hard work is acknowledged, rather than some innate talent they apparently possess. It can seem like a subtle difference but saying, "Wow, you're so good at this!" puts a lot of pressure on the person to continue to fit that mould. Whereas saying something like, "That's great, you're doing well, if you keep working this hard you'll improve quickly," takes the pressure off of them having to prove they have a natural talent (which would supposedly require no effort and is therefore always a fantasy) and puts the emphasis instead on the work involved to get there.

General policies – a quick check list for instructors

  • Get to know the course names of the children in your group
  • Talk adult-to-adult (information giving and seeking) and adult-to-child (congratulatory)
  • Be clear in your instructions so that the student knows what is expected of him
  • Realise that if they don't understand what's going on, or what they're supposed to be doing, it is the fault of the instructor, not the skipper
  • Praise effort often, don’t criticise
  • If you have to discipline, address behaviour in 'adult-child' mode
  • Set achievable objectives
  • At all times, know where all your children are and what they are doing
  • Check children in your group have sufficient clothing / protection for weather conditions
  • Check buoyancy aids before going afloat
  • Check Buoyancy bags in boats and that masts are tied in securely
  • Check mast-tie-downs or clamps
  • Send in capsizers (unless warm and no stress in which case they can sail on of course)
  • Send in children who are physically or psychologically injured
  • Send/bring in individual children or groups who are cold
  • Give team points for trying and achieving
  • Provide golden moments for under achievers
  • Use correct terms – avoid simplified or over complicated terms
  • Don’t swear or threaten

Safety & Welfare

The ICS safety policy, extracted from the ICS Handbook, provides detail on instructors' responsibilities as well as useful information surrounding safety & Welfare.

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Safety & Welfare


  1. Overall and final responsibility for the safety and welfare of children and staff is with Jae Willis. In his absence, another staff member will act on his behalf. The name of this staff member will be displayed on the notice board.
  2. When children are in their working groups, the Group Leader instructors take responsibility for the safety, health and welfare of the children in their group and for the other instructor(s) allocated to the group.
  3. All staff are required to read this document and the section in the ICS handbook on ‘Welfare’.
  4. Jae Willis will check validity of first-aid certificates.


    1. Whether or not an injury requires treatment is a decision to be made by the Group Leader instructor while children are working within groups, or by Jae Willis at other times.
    2. In the case of any injury requiring treatment, the injured person is to be sent to Jae Willis (or in his absence the person nominated by him whose name will be displayed on the ICS notice board).
    3. The first aid kit is kept in the staff office. Jae Willis will ensure that the first aid and medical boxes are maintained.
    4. The names of Group Leader instructors allocated to each working group, will be displayed on the notice board. The names of persons qualified to give first aid will be highlighted in yellow.

Record accidents, illnesses and treatments on the relevant student control cards.

  • In the case of a serious accident or illness Jae Willis (or in his absence, the person nominated by him) will contact the parent or next-of-kin.


  1. Children are split into working groups of about 8 (higher numbered groups might have more children – a maximum of 12). Each group has at least one safety boat.
  2. The wearing of buoyancy aids is compulsory for children while on or near the water. The wearing of buoyancy aids is compulsory for staff while on the pontoons or on the water.
  3. The minimum standard is that for all staff and all children who can swim, BAs must comply with the CE50 Newton Standard. Group Leader instructors will be informed by Jae Willis of any non- swimmers who will be required to wear BAs meeting the CE150 Newton Standard.
  4. PSC will ensure that planing safety boats will be fitted with kill cords. ICS staff using a safety boat fitted with a kill cord must have the end clipped around the thigh whenever the engine is in gear.

Welfare and medical

The safety and welfare of the children on the course is ultimately my (Jae Willis) responsibility and if something serious happens, I am legally responsible. However, I delegate this responsibility to the Group Leader instructors when the children are working in their groups, and Group Leader instructors may delegate to their assistant instructors when appropriate. Many staff members are experienced teachers or sailing instructors and are aware of the heavy burden of responsibility involved in looking after children, but our record is remarkably good. We have as yet never had a serious accident, never had to take anyone to hospital, or call a doctor. Rather than ‘touch wood’ it is more useful to be aware why we have a good record, and reassess our policies and procedures regularly to ensure that we keep up our good record. Firstly, and perhaps the most important factor is that we run a tight ship; that is, every child is in a controlled environment all the time. When in a working group, both the Group Leader instructor and the children know what they are supposed to be doing, where they are supposed to be. So if one were to ask a child at any time ‘what are you doing’ he will have an answer e.g. ‘I have to put my rig in, and sail round that buoy, then back to the pontoon, then report to my instructor’. And of course the Group Leader instructor knows where all his children are and what their objectives are. Children never have ‘free time’ when they can do whatever they like. This way the environment is always, to a greater degree, under control.

It is important to ensure the children in your group are dressed warmly and wearing a suitable buoyancy aid, correctly tied, when going afloat. Children have a remarkable inability to judge how cold they might get on the water, when they are making the decision standing in a warm clubhouse. Talk of layers. A wet suit is worth three layers. Explain that wind blowing on a wet absorbent outer garment causes the moisture to evaporate and this evaporation causes the garment, and the person in it, to cool. Bear in mind that some children need far more clothing than do others. Encourage them to learn from their experiences: if they were cold yesterday they will need more clothes today. Advise them to add a layer or two (no one can be happy or learn anything if they are cold). Hypothermia is rarely a problem because even in the coldest conditions, the sessions are so short that children cannot be cold for any prolonged period. However, be ever vigilant for the first signs of hypothermia: disinterest, shivering, incoherent speech, and when diagnosed, take child by rescue boat immediately to the clubhouse for recovery.

If a child in your group is injured to the extent that you or your partner instructor would have to abandon your group to deal with the situation for more than a few minutes, it is usually best to send the injured child in to the clubhouse. We have our own large first-aid kit and if there is a more serious problem, we have a stretcher, and access to a doctor and hospital. The most common injury is a bruise caused by a boom hitting a head. Although it has not happened yet, a relatively likely injury can be caused by falling onto concrete (there are numerous concrete paths and walls) or slipping on a wet wooden pontoon.

It is also important, in fact sometimes even more important, to respond to ‘psychological injury’. When a child has had a fright, take the trouble to ensure he or she is OK. In the event of an accidental capsize, or serious bang on the head with a boom, it is usually best to send him/her back to whoever is in charge in the clubhouse, and continue working with your group. Always inform me (I monitor the VHF base station). The chances of a medical problem just because of the capsize is very remote because the exposure to cold is for such a short time, but it is important to tell me. In 1990 we had a child abandon the sport. No-one monitored or responded to the ‘psychological injury’. He decided he never wanted to go out in a boat again in his life and nothing could make him change his mind. This happened on the Tuesday. Nothing could persuade him to come again and as far as I know he has never stepped into a sailing boat since. It wasn’t the capsize that put him off but the firm idea that he had done something wrong and no one paid any interest in his plight. His self-esteem took a big backward step. Of course a child in the top group wearing a dry suit is invariably completely unaffected by an accidental capsize and can stay on the water working in the group. Indeed, any child wearing a wet suit or a dry suit who is not cold and not shocked, can continue in the group activity.

You should know about Weils disease. It is spread by rat’s urine. Contracting the disease is a possibility (albeit a remote one) around any fresh water in the UK (including rainwater trapped in boat-covers kept at sea clubs) and we are required to take precautions. The symptoms (several weeks after contracting) vary in intensity from a mild flu-like illness to a fatal form of jaundice due to severe liver disease. The kidneys are often involved and there may be meningitis. Penicillin is the main cure. The signs/symptoms (several weeks after contracting) are: fever, jaundice, enlarged liver, bleeding from mucous membrane (nose, throat, urine), nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys). Our policy, approved by the RYA, is to ensure all open wounds are covered with a waterproof dressing, capsize drills are conducted away from the waters edge, and anyone who has been immersed takes a shower.

A note to parents is included in every skipper’s folder so that in the unlikely event of a child developing the symptoms after the course, the parent would make the child’s doctor aware of the possibility of Weils disease. Early treatment is invariably successful. Don’t over-rate the problem; it is very rare; if a child asks you about it, make light of it and say it is very rare. At the initial briefing (1000 on the first day) I give information about the risk and the preventative measures which are relevant to all inland sailing venues in the UK.

I’ll now describe some of the more likely medical problems you might encounter. Medical information provided by parents appears on the control cards. You should carefully study the cards of the children in your group at the beginning of the week, and the card of any child transferred to your group during the week, noting any medical information.

Many children suffer from a mild form of asthma. Most of those that do bring their own inhaler. It is important that they use their own inhaler, not someone else’s, as they don’t all contain the same chemical. No harm can come from excessive use of an inhaler, although tachycardia (racing pulse) palpitations and irritability can occur if too many doses of salbutamol (“ventolin”) are administered. Instructors are often asked to carry inhalers afloat for safekeeping. You should check that they are clearly identified with the child’s name. In practice they are rarely required, but any child asking for his inhaler should always be given it immediately. In the very unlikely event of a very serious attack the child must be taken to hospital (by two adults in case resuscitation is required). The hospital should be warned in advance of arrival.

Some children suffer from Eczema, a disorder of the skin, which looks dry and flaky. Eczema is not contagious or infectious, and psychological harm can be done to children who suffer from eczema by others (e.g. their friends) reluctant to touch them. Scratching in private should not be discouraged. Sufferers will invariably be aware of the importance of not causing bleeding and infection by scratching.

Some children have grommets fitted in their ears. A grommet seals a perforation in the eardrum, without which hearing ability would be seriously impaired. Infection is a significant possibility should lake water enter the ear, so the child will have been provided with ear plugs for use during capsize drill. If you are involved in running capsize activities, bear in mind that a child wearing ear plugs may not hear your instructions.

In the very unlikely event of a child having a fit, the most important consideration is to protect from injury. Those prone to fits will have an indication on the control card, including whether recovery is likely to be ‘quick’, or ‘confused for a time’, or ‘needs to sleep’. Child should be brought ashore and placed on side recovery position with support under the head.

Experts believe that one in ten children may be dyslexic to some degree, but only about 1 in 40 are diagnosed and information about these will appear on the control cards. No two dyslexic children experience exactly the same pattern of difficulties. Generally they have difficulty with their perception, organisation and processing of symbolic information. They may experience:

    • Mixed dominance – ambidexterity and difficulty in telling left from right
    • Directional confusion – not just left/right (port/starboard), but up/down, in/out and general difficulty in positioning things in space
    • Difficulty with sequencing – the alphabet, days of the week, events in the day and generally positioning things in time
    • Difficulty with working/short term memory – holding any verbal information
    • Short attention span
    • Poor motor control – may be clumsy and awkward and experience poor hand-eye co-ordination.
    • Difficulty in copying from a blackboard or from books

When you have your group assembled for a theory session, and there is a child in your group identified on his control card as being dyslexic, he should be encouraged to sit near you. Be aware that he will have persistent difficulty learning anything in sequential order and that constant over-learning is essential at every stage. He should not be asked to read aloud in front of the group. His ability should be judged more on his oral responses than on written answers. He needs praise and recognition. If possible give him a copy of instructors notes or a hand-out at the end of the briefing or lesson rather than expect him to copy from the blackboard. Patience is required if he loses his way and arrives late for a theory session or always appears to be in the wrong place or at the wrong time. Remember his sense of direction and time are not good. Whenever possible the dyslexic child should be asked to repeat back to you what he has been asked to do. His own voice is a useful aid to memory. The design and presentation of worksheets needs to be carefully thought out: bold headings, clear print, less writing more diagrams etc. Remember always to portray a positive attitude and endeavour to make each experience a positive one for the child.

Mild dyslexia is unlikely to effect a child’s ability to learn to sail, but will probably effect his ability to read and write. Parental support will resolve the problem of homework, but you need to bear the problem in mind when communicating with, for example, a blackboard. After a briefing take the child aside to satisfy yourself he understands your instructions.

Children who are short sighted normally wear glasses but might be reluctant to use them in a boat. In the case of beginners, the child will sometimes focus his attention within the boat and its rig (rather than the instructor on the far pontoon) resulting in the boat going round and round in circles. If he cannot see the target, he’ll need to wear his glasses.

A few children have hearing problems. If you have one in your group, speak clearly and loudly towards him, but don’t change your tone.

Some children have food allergies. These are brought to the attention of the galley master who prepares special food for them. Details are on the control card.

Some children are what one might call precocious. Details will not be on the control card (unless I know them from a previous course) but you’ll recognise the problem within five minutes of receiving your group. They constantly demand attention and recognition, are sometimes aggressive, and may be inclined to bully other children. They are difficult to help because it seems unnatural to congratulate them. However, these children need congratulatory encouragement even more than most. Contrary to how they appear, they actually have a low level of self-esteem. They are often criticised full-time by their parents and teachers. Don’t fall into the obvious trap of not praising, or of finding fault. Instead, find ways of giving more praise more often, and boosting their self-esteem no matter how unnatural it feels to do so. The rewards of such a policy can be dramatic, but as these children are returned to their usual home and school environment after the course, the benefits we might achieve are probably short-lived.* Historically, bullying on our courses has been very rare. However if it does occur, immediate intervention is essential (and inform me later).

*[Since writing this paragraph I have been advised by a child psychologist that the benefits are not necessarily short-lived. “To the contrary, a single event raising the child’s self-esteem could be a turning point and a foundation on which to build the self-confidence they appeared to have but didn’t have.”]

Some children are under-achievers. They appear to fail at almost everything. They often have learning difficulties. All children have the need for special moments where they feel really good about themselves, but under-achievers have a greater need because these moments are more rare. I use the term ‘golden moment’ for a special moment when an under-achiever succeeds in the eyes of his peers and a firm, very beneficial, impact is made on the child’s memory. A ‘golden moment’ can have a dramatically advantageous effect on some children. The average child gets plenty of golden moments and there is no need to monitor. Some under-achievers need a situation to be contrived in which they can get a ‘golden moment’, perhaps succeeding at something not related to sailing.

You’ll be glad to know that 90% of children have none of these problems, so the few that have can have that little extra effort and attention from us that they need.

If you smoke, I ask this of you: please don’t smoke in the clubhouse or the galley or the changing rooms, and please don’t let any child on the course see you smoking. We are all role models to some degree, and we do the children on the course a disservice if we allow smoking to be associated with the healthy occupation of sailing and learning. Thanks.

ICS Child Protection Policy

As defined in the Children Act 1989, for the purposes of this policy anyone under the age of 18 should be considered as a child. The policy also applies to vulnerable adults.

It is the policy of ICS to safeguard children and young people taking part in boating from physical, sexual or emotional harm. ICS will take all reasonable steps to ensure that, through appropriate procedures and training, children participating in ICS activities do so in a safe environment. We recognise that the safety and welfare of the child is paramount and that all children, whatever their age, gender, disability, culture, ethnic origin, colour, religion or belief, social status or sexual identity, have a right to protection from abuse.

ICS actively seeks to:

      • Create a safe and welcoming environment, both on and off the water, where children can have fun and develop their skills and confidence.
      • Be prepared to review its ways of working to incorporate best practice.

We will:

      • Treat all children with respect and celebrate their achievements.
      • Carefully recruit and select all employees, contractors and volunteers.
      • Respond swiftly and appropriately to all complaints and concerns about poor practice or suspected or actual child abuse.

This policy relates to all employees, contractors and volunteers who work with children in the course of their ICS duties. It will be kept under periodic review.

Risk Assesment

In accordance with recommendations from the RYA, we conduct regular Risk Assessments. Staff are encouraged to report any suggestions to improve this assessment.

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Risk Assesment




Drowning from capsize Students ‘Buoyancy aids compulsory’ rule, while on or near water – children told at initial briefing. Rule enforced by senior instructors. Senior instructors to check personal BAs meet RYA standard. Capsizes are attended to immediately.
ICS provides spare Buoyancy Aids to RYA standard.
Drowning from falling in from pontoon or shore or safety boats Students and staff, and parents on last afternoon ‘Buoyancy aids compulsory’ rule for students while on or near water – children told at initial briefing. – enforced by senior instructors. Senior instructors check BAs meet standard.
Buoyancy aids compulsory for staff when on water.
Parents told in ‘final letter’ of ‘compulsory buoyancy aids rule’ for visiting children
Drowning from being trapped under sail after capsize Students ‘Buoyancy aids compulsory’ rule. Children briefed on this possibility at capsize briefing. Controlling staff close at hand. Possibility is in any case negligible.
Hypothermia from immersion or exposure Students Staff informed that cold children (whether or not immersed) must be brought ashore.
Head injury from boom Students Instruction given to children by instructors. Policy for Senior instructors: injured children must be sent in to Principal for treatment
Head or body injury from slipping or tripping on pontoons or concrete paths Students and staff Policy for Senior instructors: injured children must be sent in to Principal for treatment
Hit by moving vehicle in car park Students and staff, and parents on last afternoon PSC has speed limit. Children kept away from car park on last afternoon when parents arrive. When children leave with parents we assume parents will monitor.
Contaminated water (blue/green algae and Weils disease) Students and staff PSC tests water periodically and treat if necessary. We have policy on Weils disease (children informed re open cuts at initial briefing, capsize away from edge, shower after immersion, warning to parents in ‘post course information’ in case of flu-like symptoms)
Back damage from lifting boats Students and staff Senior instructors ensure sufficient bodies to lift boats (minimum 4 children for Optimists, 6 for polypropylene ‘Oppies’)
Fingers pinched between boat gunwhales or gunwhale and pontoon Students Students briefed at initial briefing, reinforced by staff. Optimists are comparatively light and the likelihood of other than minor injury is slight.Injured students sent in for treatment.
Fire or burning accident in kitchen Staff (Students not permitted in kitchen) Fire blanket at hand. First Aid kit readily to hand.
Fire at petrol refuelling point Staff Station is far from buildings and is locked metal cabinet outside. Refuelling under supervision of experienced bosun. Smoking prohibited at all times on entire site.
Scalding from showers Students Member of staff at hand when hot water very hot to ensure safe mix before standing under and turn off hot first
Slipping on changing room floor Students Students Instructed to put wet clothes straight into plastic bag, and to take towel to shower to dry before leaving shower cubicle. Floors sponged dry immediately become wet.
Use of raised plastic floor tiles in changing rooms reduces risk of slipping on wet floors – instructor in charge of changing rooms on capsize day to ensure that these tiles are used.
Splinters from wooden pontoons Students Policy for Senior instructors: injured children sent in to Principal for treatment
Medical requirements Students and staff Special medical requirements identified on control cards, and where appropriate brought to notice of relevant staff. .

Upcoming courses

To apply to join the team this year: First select which course(s) you'd like to apply for.
Summer Half Term Adventure Course

Course 1

27th May - 31st May 2024

Cookham Reach, Maidenhead

Toppers and Optimists

Summer Adventure Course

Course 2

30th July - 3rd August 2024

Cookham Reach, Maidenhead

Toppers and Optimists

Selected courses

Join the team

Please select at least one course above.