New Labour's Youth Clubs in Schools : Hardly Pioneering or Innovative!

Children and Young People Now reports that

Labour to explore putting youth clubs in schools

I sigh in frustration. Dutifully I download the Labour Party’s Policy Review on Services for Young People. My sigh ponders whether to become a sob or a scream. Surely this is not serious.

Labour’s Policy Review

The bottom line is that if New Labour wants to be treated seriously it must be self-critical. Sadly this document lacks both humility and history. In the case of the former there is not even a hint that its own policies from 1997 onward, economic and social, paved the way for the Coalition’s assault on youth work. Thus without embarrassment we are told that:

Youth work and youth services have been undermined not only by a lack of funding and protection but by a history of short term and piecemeal funding which has often made it impossible to develop the consistency of relationships that are crucial to success.

As for the latter to suggest that putting youth clubs in schools is a pioneering breakthrough illustrates arrogance and ignorance in equal measure. Thus we are pointed in the direction of two case studies, the structure and contradictions of which will be familiar to most of us.

Innovation in practice
Quintin Kynaston School
QK is an outstanding school with a pioneering approach to youth provision. An alternative to the model of youth work being delivered through a traditional youth club, the school provides a youth club every weeknight, and employs youth workers who do outreach work in deprived local estates. They are able to mentor pupils in a way that separate youth services often can’t as they have far more young people attend, and are able to track the children through school as well. Services users have access to all the school’s dance, music and sports facilities, and new teachers have to spend at least one night a week in the centre. At times, external youth clubs have been targeted by gangs. But young people in the area feel safer using the school, as they are familiar with the facilities and staff.
Hellesdon High School
Hellesdon High School hosts a youth club from their sixth form centre on a Friday evening. The service is run by trained volunteers from the local community. The previous youth club, the Big H, shut in May last year, after Conservative run Norfolk County Council cut its budget for youth services. Since then, a group of organisations including the school, the police, the parish council and a local charity, Momentum, helped get the service back up and running, open to young people aged 11 to 16 and offering a range of facilities including computer games, a pool table and snacks.

For the moment I’ll bite my lip and point the reader to this piece by Bernard Davies on

Extended schooling: some lessons for youth workers from Youth Service history

Just one quote, Bernard looking back to the Milson-Fairbairn Report of 1969 comments:

“The Fairbairn sub-committee…….pressed for more youth wings on schools and
more community use of these; for more teacher-youth tutor posts and for common
approaches, techniques and activities which, when listed, made the proposed
youth club programme seem indistinguishable from a progressive school or
college curriculum. It was logical, therefore, for the sub-committee to conclude
that the ‘concept of youth service as a separate system should be allowed to

Obviously debate about the relationship between youth work and schooling, between informal and formal education, has a long pedigree. More recently in 2008 the Department of Education in Northern Ireland undertook a rigorous appraisal of the dilemmas through a research project,

An investigation of youth work, as a process of informal
learning, in formal settings

This is recommended reading for Stephen Twigg, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, apostle of ‘co-location’, which means evidently ‘maximising the use of facilities by making them available to other users outside of the times of their core use’ – never heard that before – and Karen Buck, Shadow Minister for Young People, who extols the virtues of late, early intervention, ‘early intervention is not a concept exclusive to the early years, but means an approach designed to support the early identification of problems and the use of tailored support to resolve them. Labour is rightly proud of our achievements with Sure Start and Children’s centres. We want to build on that approach, to ensure that the child who falters late in their young life has an equal promise of the ‘early intervention’ which can help turn their life around’ – targeting in present managerial jargon.


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