Child Performance Licence

What is a Child Performance Licence ?

A child performance licence is a government requirement that affects children who perform in TV, Theatre, Modelling or paid Sporting Events and are under the compulsory school leaving age, in England, Scotland and Wales.

The production company involved must apply for the Child Performance Licence and can face fines if they use unlicensed children.
A child performance licence is issued by your local education authority for the area your child lives in and not the area their school is located in (if this is different).

A licence is not required for children performing in a production produced by their full time academic school.
The licence is there to protect children by restricting the hours a child can be present at a performance location, the hours they can work and the amount of breaks they should have. It also requires the production company to provide a suitable chaperone for your child and to provide tutoring when the child is working during school terms.

Children require a licence even if they are not being paid to perform IF the audience are paying to watch the performance. There are only two exceptions to this rule.

  1.  If the child(ren) involved have not taken part in other performances for more than 3 days in the preceding 6 months AND they do not require any absence from school (and are not being paid).
  2. If the organisation responsible for the production has been granted an exemption by the local council to enable them to engage in amateur performances without the need to apply for a separate licence for each child. This is known as a Body of Persons Approval.

These are normally issued to Youth Organisations, Amateur Drama Societies, Dance Schools etc, and again require that the children are not paid and do not require any absence from school.

The current regulations for performing children are covered by The Children and Young Persons Act 1963' and 'The Children (Performances) Regulations 1968'. These acts can often be interpreted slightly differently by the individual councils and have resulted in children becoming victims of a "postcode lottery" where some councils offer far more flexible licence arrangements than others.

For many years some councils offered a "6 months Open Licence" to their children which allowed the child to perform a certain amount of days within that 6 month period, without having to apply for individual licences for each job. This effectively meant that the child could undertake professional work immediately and that the council simply had to be notified, normally by email, of the details / dates.
However other councils insisted on individual licence applications requiring anything from 7 days to 28 days notice to grant the licence.

This often made is impossible for the required paperwork to be issued in time for the child to perform and child acting agents would actively seek talented children who lived in Open Licence areas to put forward for TV and Film work.

Fortunately most councils have now stopped issuing an Open Licence to individual children and most councils can normally offer a licence within 7 - 14 days of receiving the required paperwork.

If you have a performing child and are considering professional performance opportunities for them (or are looking into applying for an acting agent for them) then you would be advised to contact the Performing Licence Co-ordinator at your local council to ascertain their application requirements.

Filming opportunities can often be very short notice and therefore it pays to be familiar with your council requirements and contact name.

If a child is working during school term then it's essential that you can get permission from the School Head for their absence. Some councils require a formal letter and others will want to contact the school directly.
It's quite common to find that the Performing Licence Co-ordinator works part time or is the sole person responsible for the licence applications and can therefore be swamped during holiday periods and during Panto season.

A complete application must include:

• Part 1 of the Licence Application (which is completed by the production company)
• Part 2 of the Licence Application (which is completed / signed by the parent)
• Birth certificate for the Child (copy)
• A GP letter stating that the child is medical fit to work (for TV/Stage/Film work) or a Parental letter (for Modelling)
• School Letter - from Head, approving absence from school
• Recent Passport Photo of child

Children who have reached the end of their statutory education do not need require a licence, and this has not been affected by the recent raising of the participation age to 17/18.