Working in the entertainment industry can be a rewarding and valuable experience for children and young people. However, there are specific laws which sets out the arrangements that must be made to protect the child’s welfare and make sure that their experience is safe, enjoyable and rewarding.
What age does a child need a Licence?
The law applies to all children from birth to the end of compulsory school.
In many cases, a Child Performance & Activity Licence is required before a child can take part.
These performances include:
- Theatre and pantomime
- Films, TV
- Commercials, video, internet for commercial purposes
- Band/choir/dance shows
- Paid Modelling – all types, broadcast and non-broadcast
- Amateur drama productions
- Broadcast dance/singing competitions
- Paid Sport (taking part in a sport where the child, or someone else in respect of the child taking part receives payment, other than expenses).
The following table gives examples of when a licence may be required and when it may not. It is for illustrative purposes only and should not be considered a complete list.
A Licence may be required for
A Licence may not be required for
Performances that meet the criteria in section 37(2) of the 1963 Act. These can include: acting; singing; dancing; playing in an orchestra; stand-up comedy; magic act; and any production where the activity is contrived or constructed for dramatic effect.
Observational documentaries where a child is filmed carrying out normal day to day activities for example playing in the street, participating in an ordinary lesson, training for their sport.
So-called "reality" television where the activity in which the child participates is manipulated/controlled or directed for the purpose of the entertainment.
Elements of a programme where the child is not being directed but is being observed doing normal activities are treated as observational documentary provided the child is filmed being themselves without direction.
Presenting or compering (where this has an element of contrived performance).
Daily news reporting, news reports (including investigations in the public interest, for e.g. testing if shops sell goods to a child underage).
Entertaining or performing where the performance meets any of the criteria under section 37(2) of the Act e.g. for a paying audience, on licensed premises, a recording for broadcast or public exhibition.
Being interviewed as a member of the public; Self-generated content e.g. a child records themselves and puts that on the internet; Castings and auditions that are not recorded for public exhibition; Being part of an audience (watching a show either in a studio, theatre or stadium).
Dancing at a community dance festival or performance that meets any of the criteria set out under section 37(2) of the Act.
Dance workshops held on the same day of the performance at a different venue. (Practical dance sessions led by a dance teacher or artist. They may explore an idea or practice some dance movement; they introduce the participants to different dance styles or techniques; and encourage interaction between participants from different schools or groups)
Photo-shoots and modelling where the child (or someone else in respect of the child's taking part) receives payment.
Photo-shoots and modelling where no payment is made in respect of the child's participation.
Taking part in a sport where the child (or someone else in respect of the child's taking part) receives payment, other than expenses.
Being a ball boy or girl (If they were actually playing football or tennis and payment other than expenses was made then they could well fall within the remit of the child performance legislation. But they are not playing and therefore we do not think they could be said to be taking part in a performance or a paid sport)
Why have a Licence?
A licence is issued for a child to take part in a performance. The licence states the conditions which must be observed to ensure the child’s safety and well-being.
The Local Authority must be satisfied that:
- the child’s education will not suffer
- the place of performance/rehearsal is satisfactory
- his or her health will not suffer ( a medical declaration to prove that a child is fit to take part in the performance or activity is part of the application. We will however request further information if we feel it is appropriate to do so).
The Local Authority can refuse a licence if it is not satisfied the above will be met.
Do I need a licence for school performances?
A licence is not required for children performing in a school production - a school as defined under the Education Act 1996 (not a dance school).
What are the permitted hours for all performances?
The Children (Performances and Activities) (England) Regulations 2014 state the following regulations in relation to all performances:
Age 0 to 4
Age 5 to 8
Age 9 and over
Maximum number of hours at place of performance or rehearsal (Reg. 22)
Earliest and latest permitted times at place of performance or rehearsal (Reg. 21)
7am to 10pm
7am to 11pm
7am to 11pm
Maximum period of continuous performance or rehearsal (Reg. 22)
Maximum total hours of performance or rehearsal (Reg. 22)
The minimum overnight break for all children is 12 hours. However it is generally expected that most children should normally have an overnight break of no less than 14 hours duration. Consideration will be given to the time required for the child to travel to and from the place of performance and their home and whether to place any conditions on the licence to ensure the child has an adequate overnight break.
Application for a Licence
A Licence is granted by the local authority where the child lives (this may not necessarily be the same local authority as the child’s school) check here if you are unsure
A child needs to have a licence before the performance takes place. The Law allows us to ask for 21 days to process a licence application but at most times of the year, we ask for the application to be sent to us at least 7 days before the first performance. We will always try our best to issue a licence but sometimes if the licence request is very late, we may not be able to do this.
If school absence is required for the performance then please request that the head teacher of the child’s school completes the School Absence Request Form.
Advice for Parents
As a parent you will receive a copy of the licence. The licence is a legal document and any conditions that have been applied must be adhered to. When you receive your copy please read it carefully.
For photographic modelling, a licence will be issued for a single shoot on a specified date at a named location. You will need to contact your child’s school to request any absence from school in advance of each modelling assignment.
For TV programmes, commercials, films, sound recordings or theatre productions the licence is issued for the part the child is playing.
If the part is a TV extra with a long running TV drama series the licence will be issued for six months. It will be a condition of this type of performance licence that the licence holder provides written advance notice to the council of any filming engagements your child has during this period.
The Licence will state what days if any your child has permission to be absent from school. A licence for TV extra work will state how many days absence the head teacher may be willing to grant for filming work. You will need to contact the school to request absence in advance of each filming engagement.
A child must be chaperoned by their own parent or by a chaperone approved by a local authority.
What are the rules about chaperones?
A child taking part in a performance must be supervised at all times during the performance by a registered chaperone that has been approved by the licencing authority, unless under the direct supervision of their parent, or person who has parental responsibility for the child. More information can be found on the Chaperone page.
Performances that do not need a licence
In certain circumstances an exemption from the licensing process may be possible:
- When no payment is being made to the child or another person other than defraying expenses.
- When there is no absence from school
- When a child has not performed on more than four days including this performance in the last six months.
If the above applies, it is good practice that the producer advises the Local Authority where the child lives that they wish to make use of the four day exemption by completing an Exemption Declaration Form. The Local Authority can then issue an Exemption Certificate which can be held at the place of the performance and produced in the event of an inspection.
Body of Persons Approval (BOPA)
If your organisation is performing in Rotherham, you can apply for a Body of Persons Approval (BOPA). A BOPA allows groups and organisations to have an overall licence for their performance. This means you don’t need a licence for each child in your performance and it will cover all children, including those who live outside the Rotherham area.
Your organisation can be any type - it does not matter if you are a professional company, amateur group, stage or broadcasting company.
To be granted a BOPA, a group must demonstrate that they have clear, robust and well embedded safeguarding policies and arrangements in place that protect the children. All performances must comply with the law.
Your performance should meet the following criteria:
- all performances and rehearsals must take place in the area covered by Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
- performances and rehearsals must take place outside of school hours
- no payment is being made for the children’s involvement in the performance
- the organisation must have a child protection policy.
- The organisation will provide the LA with details of each performance/rehearsal including the dates, times, and location at least 21 days in advance of the first performance.
We should have evidence that your organisation has
- a designated safeguarding/child protection officer
- a regularly updated safeguarding policy together with details of how it 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 and young people.
We will ask you to agree to certain conditions which will include:
- Compliance with Regulation 11 and Regulations 15 to 29 of The Children (Performances and Activities) (England) Regulations 2014.
- A risk assessment is undertaken for the place of the performance
- A first aider is present at the place of the performance
- Ensuring you have the appropriate number of Local Authority approved chaperones to care for the children, having specific regard to their sex and age, ensuring that each child is supervised at all times.
- Agreeing to any authorised officer of the LA having unrestricted access whilst any dress or technical rehearsal or performance is taking place at any venue that your organisation uses for such purposes.
Children performing abroad
The Children and Young Persons Act 1933, section 25, states the procedure to obtain a licence for a child who's going abroad (i.e. outside Great Britain and Ireland) to take part in a performance or activity for profit; licences are issued by a justice of the peace from the Magistrates Court. Most applications are made to the City of Westminster Magistrates Court, which has vast experience in dealing with such applications.
When children are performing abroad, the decision about whether or not a licence is required is solely in the hands of the Magistrates Court. The issuing of licences for children performing abroad is outside the remit of a local authority; we have no legal authority to issue licences for performing abroad, or to request that Magistrates Courts issue licences.