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By Alison Boler

Campaign to Reduce the Minimum Age 

for Junior Diving Membership of the BSAC

Lowering the age limit for learning to dive within a BSAC Branch 

from 14 years of age to 12 years of age.

Please note that the motion to change the BSAC Branch age limit failed in 2002, however, in the interests of information and education, we have left this website intact, as it contains lots of helpful information for people wishing to teach younger people to dive


British Sub Aqua Club
AGM 2002
Special Resolution 

That The Articles of Association of British Sub-Aqua Club be amended as follows:

Article 8.1 Replace the word "fourteen" with the word "twelve"

Article 47(C) 4(b) Replace the numeral "14" with the numeral "12".

The Rules of the British Sub Aqua Club be amended as follows:

Rule 8.2 Replace the numeral "14" with the numeral "12".


Click here to view the supporting statement


Campaign to Reduce the Minimum Age for Junior Diving Membership 

A group of ordinary BSAC members have proposed a Motion to the BSAC AGM 2002 to reduce the minimum age for Junior Diving Membership from 14 years to 12 years. This website has been developed to be a source of information and discussion around this Motion in an attempt to ensure that BSAC Members clearly understand the facts and can vote accordingly.

The reason that this Motion has been raised is basically to allow BSAC adult members or prospective BSAC adult members to dive with their young teenagers. Its as simple as that. It is not part of a huge drive to recruit children into the sport. It is simply to allow members to bring their teens into the sport via the Club in a safe manner that will enable them to have an enjoyable introduction to the sport as they make the transition to adult participation. 

It is crucial that you understand that a YES vote will not change your Branch or your own diving unless you make a positive choice to train or dive with young teenagers. You can choose to remain with adult members. On the contrary, a NO vote merely stops other people from having that choice. It is an undemocratic and unfair restriction on other BSAC Members' right to choose for themselves.


The minimum age for Junior Diving membership has been set at 14 years of age for many years. It is not currently possible to determine why this age was selected in the first place as it does not represent a milestone either medically (puberty) or legally.

The CMAS (World Governing Body for Scuba Diving) has run a program of diving for the 8+ year olds for some years now and has recorded almost 1 million dives without serious injury.

PADI issued 122,298 Junior Open Water Diver certifications between 1988 and 1998 and is aware of only 1 fatal accident involving a Junior Open Water Diver. 

Over the past 10 years SNUBA operations have allowed children as young as seven to dive in open water.  SNUBA operators report 1.4 million dives without incident.

The proposition to reduce the minimum age to 12 has been made twice before. On both occasions the majority of BSAC members who voted, voted in favour of the motion. However, a motion to change the BSAC constitution requires a 75% majority of voters to be in favour, and this has not been achieved. 

What is the Motion?

The change to the constitution is a simple change which reduces the minimum age to 12 years for Junior Diving Members. There is also a BSAC Policy Statement which accompanies the Motion that has been agreed with the BSAC National Diving Committee and which seeks to make recommendations regarding the safe conduct of diving for young teenagers and the rights of Branches and Members who may or may not wish to become involved. 

Click here to view the Motion

Why Now?
· Because BSAC Schools have now successfully taught Ocean Diver to 12 and 13 year olds for the last 6 years.
· Because the other club based organisation in the UK - the SAA - have successfully opened their programme to 12/13 year olds for the past 3 years.
· Because all of the commercial agencies operating in the UK have successfully taught young teenagers for many years
· Because the equipment required is very readily available
· Because with the changes to the DTP, it will soon be the case that you will have the same qualification - Ocean Diver - available to young teenagers from a BSAC School but not a BSAC Branch. This is not logical.
· Because diving is increasingly a family sport - particularly when on holiday.
· Because we are losing these potential young members and it is hard to get them back.
· Because we have a wonderful snorkelling system that comes to an abrupt end with no transition to diving at the appropriate age
· Because there is no logical reason to exclude them anymore.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Difference will this make to Me, if I Vote Yes?
Absolutely none unless you actively choose to become involved with diving with young teenagers.

My Branch does not wish to be involved in training 12 year olds. 
There is absolutely no reason for you to do so. Your Branch's right to set its own minimum age for membership is enshrined in the BSAC Constitution and cannot be over-ruled. Many Branches operate an adults only environment and for them, this motion would change nothing.

What if my Branch accepts 12 year olds? Do I as an Instructor/Dive Leader have to teach them/dive with them?
No. The Policy Statement makes it clear that the individual member has the right to choose whether or not they wish to dive with minors of any age

We might want to accept some young teenagers, but we don't want to become a free crèche. Is this going to happen?
No. Your right to set your own membership rules is enshrined in the BSAC Constitution and is not over-ridden by this motion. You could make a sensible rule that only existing member's children would be accepted and only if they dive with their parents or guardians. Realistically, is there any difference in this matter between a 12 or a 14 year old? If you are not having the problem now, you are unlikely to gain it because of this change.

Is there an increased risk of medical problems with 12/13 year old divers?
There is no evidence to support this. The UK Sports Diving Medical Committee approved 12 year old divers for the SAA three years ago. DAN also approved this age group some years ago. There is slight evidence that children younger than 12, i.e. pre-pubescent, may be more prone to some bone conditions. This is why we have picked a minimum age of 12 years. 

Is there an increased risk of diving incident with 12/13 year old divers?
There is no evidence at all to suggest this. The SAA enabled 12 year olds 3 years ago. The commercial agencies mostly have a minimum age of 10 years. Many of the CMAS Federations also have age limits much younger than 12. With the type of restrictions on the diving that the BSAC would be putting in place, any risk to the diver would be extremely minimal - less than encountered in horse riding for example.

What are the extra legal requirements of allowing 12/13 year old divers?
There are no extra requirements other than what is already the case for divers under the age of 18 years. All are minors in the eyes of the law and should be treated accordingly.

Can 12/13 year olds cope with the theory work?
There is nothing to suggest that a keen 12 year old would experience more difficulties with the theory than a keen 14 year old. There is in fact no evidence to suggest that they would have more difficulties than some adults as they are used to study. It may be that certain aspects of the course might need more explanation - or different explanation - with this audience. For instance, an adult would probably have a basic concept of what a "valve" was. A child might need to have this word explained. At the end of the day, they must pass the theory test to pass the course in the same way as anyone else.

Can 12/13 year olds cope with the practical skills?
These young teenagers are limited to Club/Ocean Diver until they are 14 years of age. This in itself limits the practical skills they are required to do. For example, they must be able to lift their buddy from depth, but not tow or land them. In the revised training programme, they will not need to learn to use a compass or an SMB. They are being qualified as basic entry level divers. In our experience, there is no reason to doubt that a fit and keen 12/13 year old would not be able to successfully complete the course. 

Aren't there equipment difficulties?
No. It is obviously extremely important that these divers - like everyone else - has equipment that fits them. There is now a large choice of diving equipment from nearly all the main manufacturers on the market for children aged 8 years upwards. In practice many 12 or 13 year olds are of a size where a small adult is the correct size anyway. 

Do 12/13 year olds have the maturity to allow for safe diving?
This is a difficult question that is only really answerable on an individual basis. However, there is no difference in this situation to the 14 year old or 16 year old. In addition, the safeguards around the diving minimise this factor i.e. they must dive with an adult, preferably a parent; whilst under training they must dive with an adult NQI. They are restricted to a maximum depth of 15 metres and of course cannot undertake planned decompression diving.

How do we cope with non-diving parents who wish us to train their young teenagers?
You may decide not to accept young teenagers whose parents are not divers. If you do, it is important that they understand the risks involved and the rules within your Branch which cover diving and diving with minors. This website contains a list of points that could be covered in this brief. LINK However, this issue is not any different with regard to 12/13 year olds than it is currently for 14 year olds. 

What does "present on site" mean with relation to parents attending branch dives?
We are recommending that the parents/guardians of a minor be present when diving activities take place. This is not a new issue with this motion. It exists currently for any diver under 18 years of age i.e. minors. 

Realistically, these young teenagers who are restricted to 15 metres are not going to take part in most branch dives. It is likely that the Branch will organise certain dives within the diving year which will be appropriate to family attendance, at sites which are also suitable to the Ocean Diver. In most cases the parent/guardian will be the buddy of the young diver. In the case where the parent/guardian is not a diver, they should be on site with the shore party. It is obviously not always practical for non diving parents to go out in the Branch inflatable. 

Please note that this issue is one that a Branch which currently accepts 14 year old members is already dealing with.

Where could these young teenagers dive safely?
Anywhere where the conditions are suitable for entry level divers restricted to a maximum of 15m. In reality we expect that mostly these kids will dive on holiday whether in the UK or overseas with their parents. However, some Branches that specialise in "family diving" organise diving on various weekends around a site which allows easy shore access to a sheltered spot and scope for activities like BBQ's afterwards. You know your own diving backyard best but I can think of various locations around Dorset (which I am very familiar with) that would be eminently suitable. I would suggest that we are talking about wet suit shore based diving which means summer, optimum conditions diving. This is about giving a fun introduction and transition to diving which opens up the possibilities to be explored over the coming years. Its not about anything arduous.

Isn't this just to compete with the commercial agencies like PADI? We are a Club and should not do this.
This is not in any way a commercially competitive driven move. The BSAC is now in a position where even the other non commercial organisations like the SAA have moved ahead. We have to ask ourselves why we would not enable this choice to our members when other club based organisations in the UK have successfully done so. There is no factual evidence to back up a minimum age limit of 14 years of age. It doesn't make sense.

Why not just send these people to a BSAC School to do Ocean Diver?
It is correct that for the last 6 years, BSAC Schools have been teaching Ocean Diver to 12 and 13 year olds. However, this merely emphasises the fact that ordinary BSAC members do not have the same free choice to train and dive with their children with their Branch as they would do with a school. How can it be right that it is OK for a school to train these divers and not for a Branch? Why should BSAC members who are instructors have to pay someone else to professionally train their children when they could do it themselves or utilise trusted friends/instructors within their own Branch? 

What's in it for the BSAC/Our Branch?
If you choose to get involved, you open the door to welcoming young members at the entry level and do not turn them away to train elsewhere. It is far more difficult to convert a customer than to gain them in the first place. 

In addition, it is typically BSAC Instructors who feel strongly about this issue because they are prevented from training their own family. Are these also the people we want to alienate and drive elsewhere? 

What will happen if the vote fails?
It will be re-introduced at every other AGM in accordance with the Rules until a majority of 75% is achieved. Of course, people who feel strongly enough about this failure to move with the times may just continue to leave the BSAC as many of our overseas members have already done. 

We've tried to answer some of the questions you've asked, now here are some questions to ask yourself:

What's so special about 14? Have I ever questioned this or have I just accepted what has always been the status quo? Why 14 and not 12? Why 14 and not 16?

If there isn't a logical, sensible answer, then lets make a limit that has the backing of the diving medicine experts. That's 12 years of age.

Why do I think I know better than all of the other diving organisations, our own schools and the diving medicine experts? 

What do you think the Governing Body of the sport should do when all expert advice points in one direction? Is it credible to have a position that cannot be substantiated by fact?

What impression do you think that the next generation of divers gets of the BSAC Branch system when they can learn to dive everywhere else, including the BSAC's own schools, but not within its Clubs? 

What impression do you think the family who wants to learn to dive gets from the BSAC when faced with this situation?

Who are the friendliest divers in the UK?

Is there a demonstrable reason why the SAA is inherently more suited to teach 12/13 year olds, or a safer environment in which they could learn?  If the answer is no, do you therefore believe that they are wrong to do so?  Do you believe that the CMAS and the UKSDMC are wrong in backing them to do so?  

How do you think your Branch instructors feel when they are told they may have taught thousands of divers but they can't teach their own young teenagers but they can pay for them to be taught at a BSAC school down the road by strangers?

And you agree with this???!!!

Given that you need not change one thing about your club or the way you dive if you vote YES, why would you choose to stop other people having the same choice by voting NO?

I really beg you to think hard about this last one. A YES vote will make no difference to you at all unless you wish it to. It could make the world of positive difference to many other members.

Diary of a Training Course

Over the next weeks I am going to be teaching a group of three children to dive using the SSI Open Water Diving Course. The three children are 12, 12 and 10 ½ years old and all girls. Two of them are my own daughters. Click the above link to view our progress.


It is advisable to have a discussion with both the potential young diver and their parents/guardians before committing to training.  This discussion is to enable the instructor to form a better opinion of whether the young teenager is ready to start training and therefore to give better guidance to them.  Again, these are my own ideas and words and carry no official stamp of approval.  However, they mirror the questions that Bob and I asked ourselves when thinking about training the girls and also the ones we put to them.  If it’s a help to you then please use it, but its not part of the proposal and you may decide that nothing of the sort is necessary.


We have prepared some sample questions to ask parents when considering a commitment to training:

Click here to view the page.


We have also prepared a sample Risk Awareness Statement for use when teaching young divers.  Again, this carries no legal or official stamp of approval.  It is just our own words and may well have missed pieces of information out. Please feel free to use it as a basis of discussion within your Branch:

Click here to view the page.


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