Youth Work and Schools : External and complementary, not internal and supplementary!

To be honest we are a bit slow in catching up with the following National Youth Agency initiative, taken in late March.

New commission into the role of youth work in education


The National Youth Agency has launched an independent commission to assess the value of youth work within formal education across England and Wales.

The commission is being chaired by former Children’s Minister Tim Loughton MP and made up of key figures from both the youth work and education sectors including: 

  • Fiona Blacke, Chief Executive, National Youth Agency
  • Baroness Beverley Hughes
  • Rosina St James, Chair of the British Youth Council
  • Mark Carriline, Executive Director of Children’s Services, Bury Council
  • Damian Allen, Director, Children and Young People Division, Children’s Society
  • Ndidi Okezie, Executive Director – Regions, Teach First 

The National Youth Agency’s initial research has identified that the emphasis on a set of core academic skills has the potential to squeeze out another set of skills – how to think creatively, collaborate, empathise at the very time when they are needed more than ever.

Youth work has a key role in helping young people develop these abilities, as some schools have started to recognise.

The commission is keen to gather evidence and involve as many stakeholders as possible, including young people. Contribute your views by filling out our short survey.

To view the commission’s launch press release click here.

Our provisional response is as follows :

A discussion about the relationship between formal schooling and informal youth work is always worth having. However in the present climate we fear that the Commission’s predetermined desire to define interventions as youth work, which previously might have been called, for example, Personal and Social Education, Careers Advice, Pastoral Care or even Remedial Education is another moment in the continuing dilution of youth work as a distinctive educational practice founded on a voluntary relationship with young people. Youth Work as informal education in the service of young people must retain a clear independence from schools. It is external and complementary, not internal and supplementary.

And, given the NYA’s scant regard for history, it is necessary to note that a debate about this relationship is nothing new. Educational fashions come and go. Merely as an example, the issue was at the heart of tensions in the 1969 Milson-Fairbairn report. Bernard Davies in analysing the report points out the general feeling held over forty years ago maintained that “secondary school curricula and methods needed to become more responsive, especially to pupils reluctant to stay on. A more strategic youth service infiltration into formal education was thus seen as having great potential benefits for schools.”

In addition see our post Youth Clubs in Schools, which includes a link to a very relevant piece by Bernard on ‘Extended Schooling : Lessons for Youth Workers’.

 Have a look at the NYA stuff, complete the survey and let us know your thoughts.


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