Booking guidelines

Guidelines for booking CHaOS school visits

What are these guidelines for?

CHaOS have over ten years of experience in running science roadshows, and over this time we have learnt about what helps to make an event work well. For a number of years we've usually discussed these details with schools that make further enquiries about a CHaOS visit, but we've now decided to post them here on our website to give all interested schools a chance to look at the details of a typical CHaOS event. (For instance, we want to avoid repeating a misunderstanding that left us with no indoor space to run our experiments on a filled with scattered showers!).

These guidelines are for a typical CHaOS Science Roadshow visit to a school. Variations from these standard terms and conditions may be possible, but must be discussed with the CHaOS team at the time of booking in order to ensure that everyone gets the greatest value from the visit. We think this makes it fairer for everyone, as schools know what they're getting from us, and it allows us to make each visit more effective if we have the opportunity to plan the details in advance. Once we've agreed the details of each school visit with the organising teacher or member of staff we usually write these down in an individual "contract", so that we can check that everyone agrees what will happen on the day.

If you have any queries about these guidelines please don't hesitate to contact the CHaOS team, as our main interest is to make school visits fun and as easy as possible for everyone. Please fill in our webform here, or drop us an email to

1. What you can expect from CHaOS

We will provide:

  • Around 12-15 enthusiastic volunteer scientists or "demonstrators", each staffing a fun hands-on science experiment. Most of our demonstrators are science students at the University of Cambridge, though we often bring some graduates too!
  • All of the specialist equipment and expertise needed to run the event.
  • Sessions aimed at a level that is engaging and exciting for pupils in years 5-8/ ages 9-13. (See also next section)
  • Sessions in which small groups of around 3-5 pupils move around the experiments, getting the chance to see several different things during the session. These sessions are designed for 50-60 pupils unless otherwise discussed.
  • A whole day of sessions: we can host up to 300 pupils in one day. If there are fewer than 200-300 pupils in years 5-8 at your school, we would suggest variations on a standard visit, such as a half day or a combined visits with another nearby school.
  • Prompt and helpful answers to any queries that you might have about the event, and a willingness to be as flexible as we can be with how the event is run.
  • Good value for money. Our charge to schools usually represents less than half of the full cost of the visit, with the remainder coming from external sponsorship raised by us. This makes the cost of a CHaOS visit compare extremely favourably with, for example, a visit to a science museum.

You will be glad to know that we take safety extremely seriously, in particular note that:

  • Each of our experiments is risk-assessed by competent members of the CHaOS committee, and the risk assessments of all but the very newest experiments are available on our website at
  • These risk assessments are checked each year by appropriate staff members of the University of Cambridge.
  • Mains electrical items are subject to PAT testing by the Health and Safety Department of the University of Cambridge.
  • CHaOS events are covered by public liability insurance, under the University of Cambridge Public Liability Insurance. Further details are available on request.

2. What CHaOS needs from a host school

We are keen to make this event as educational and exciting as possible for your pupils, as well as hassle-free for all of the staff at your school. In order to do this, we expect the following from you:

2.1: Space

  • Sufficient indoor space to host the roadshow. This is usually either a school hall or two/three adjacent large classrooms. Do think about whether there is enough space for up to 60 of your pupils engaged in practical activities in 12-15 small groups.
  • Access to 6-10 tables/desks to set out some of our experiments, along with some electrical power and access to a water tap (it is not absolutely essential that the water is in the same room as we'll be running the workshop).
  • In the event of good weather, it is great if we can have access to some relatively nearby outdoor space to run messier or larger experiments if possible.

2.2: Format of the sessions

  • Unless otherwise stated in writing, we expect each of the sessions we run will be between 45 and 75 minutes (ie the length of a typical lesson). Variations from this format may be possible, but this might not be suitable for all age groups and requires further planning on our part. Please let us know if you'd like to discuss this.
  • The pupils should be in year groups 5 to 8 (ages 9-13), as this is the level at which most of our experiments and explanations are aimed. If you would like some of the sessions to involve pupils outside of this range then this must be agreed in advance by the CHaOS committee.
  • Each session has a capacity of 50-60 pupils. If there are more pupils than this it is not possible to run each activity as a hands-on event
  • We can run up to around 5 sessions in a day, to fit in with your standard school timetable. Please make sure that there is reasonable time provided for a lunch break, as our demonstrators need a break to be at their best all day.
  • After-school sessions for children and their parents or the chance to chat with sixth formers about university may be possible, but depend on our travelling time to the next school
  • For a standard full-day visit we'd be expecting to see 200-300 pupils in years 5-8 (split into 4-5 sessions of 50-60 pupils). Variations from this may be possible in some regions (for example, we might be able to split the team between two small but geographically close schools), but must be discussed with the CHaOS team before any booking can be confirmed.

2.3: Supervision by school staff

  • We expect that members of school staff will be present to supervise the event; typically you should be providing a similar level of supervision to what you would for a normal lesson. We require at least one member of staff per area/room.
  • Many members of staff (including non-scientists) comment to us how much they enjoyed spending a lesson seeing their pupils engaged in practical activities!
  • CHaOS does not provide first-aiders, and we expect to be informed how to contact a school first-aider on the day of the visit.

2.4: Setting up our experiments

  • We need to allow around 2 hours to set up our equipment for the roadshow.
  • We generally prefer to set up the evening before the event. If this is not possible, we may be unable to start the event at the very beginning of the school day.
  • The time we arrive to set up will vary depending on where we are travelling from, but typically might be around 4.00- 6.00pm if we are coming from an event at another school some distance away.
  • We will usually bring three vehicles: an equipment van, a MPV and a car. It is extremely useful if parking is available for the van as close as possible to an appropriate door, at least for the setup. If parking is likely to be difficult on the day of the event, please think about this in advance and let us know the arrangements.
  • On the day of the visit, we need access to the venue at least 1 hour before the first session is due to start.
  • It's disruptive for us and reduces time available for the hands-on sessions if we have to move our equipment during the day. If your school hall is essential for school lunch it might be easiest all round if we can set up in two classrooms instead.

3. The CHaOS Child Protection Policy

We recognise that child protection, and the legal issues surrounding it, is increasingly important for schools today. As such, CHaOS have an up-to-date, extensively-researched Child Protection Policy, which can be found on our website at In particular, please note that:

  • By the time of the school visit, all demonstrators present will have applied for enhanced disclosures from the DBS. The CHaOS child protection officer assesses DBS disclosures to ensure that volunteers meet the relevant requirements of our child protection policy.
  • CHaOS stores information on whether demonstrators have a valid DBS disclosure, along with sufficient information to relate the DBS disclosure to a named volunteer should a query arise. However, note that we are not legally allowed to show schools DBS disclosure forms for individual volunteers.
  • Recently, some schools have required all demonstrators to present photographic ID. This will only be possible if you have informed us that this is required by June 1st (for a summer visit) or at the time of booking for other CHaOS visits, and in some cases may incur additional costs.
  • Where we can, we like to take photographs of events to use for CHaOS publicity purpose. We are aware that this is not always possible, and we will respect your school's policy. However, please let us know whether or not this is an option, or if you'll be taking photographs yourself as we are very grateful for suitable photographs that are passed on!

4. Costs of a CHaOS school visit

  • Away from Cambridge most school visits costs us about £600 to run, not counting the contribution of the time of our volunteers. Most of these costs are covered by charitable sponsorship, but we ask schools to make a contribution towards the cost of a visit. If we're able to visit you without camping our costs are lower, so we ask for a smaller contribution for visits to Cambridgeshire schools.
  • The standard financial contribution required from schools in 2016 is £85 for a day visit from Cambridge, or £150 for a summer event where we will need to camp near your school. This can be adjusted for schools in difficult financial circumstances if agreed by the CHaOS committee in advance of confirming your booking.
  • It is helpful if your school can provide us with lunch (eg a school dinner), as this minimises the amount of time demonstrators must spend shopping/preparing lunch during the day.
  • The agreed total contribution will be billed as an invoice that we will bring on the day of the event, and is usually payable within one month of the visit occuring.

5. Confirming your booking

  • If we're travelling away from Cambridge to visit you we may need to make you booking provisional until we can find other nearby schools who'd also like us to visit, but we'll make this clear in our emails to you.
  • Once we’ve confirmed the date of your booking we will do our absolute best to maintain this commitment. In the past 5 years the only late-notice cancellation was when a school was closed due to a swine flu outbreak!
  • We ask that you also maintain the commitment to hosting the visit, as the CHaOS Science Roadshow can only visit a limited number of schools each year and we have to turn away many schools who request visits from us.

6. Extras for your visit

CHaOS want to make the most of each school visit: please let us know you've got any more ideas for fun things on the day!

In the past we've been interviewed by the school newspaper and the local papers and radio, run after-school sessions for parents as well as the kids, have had lunch with sixth formers, and have put on extra talks for year 9s. We're willing to do these for your school where we can, but we just ask that you let us know in advance!

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