Whilst this piece appeared in the Times back in March I don’t think it has lost any of its interest or relevance. To what extent is the Chief Scout Commissioner, Wayne Bulpitt, on or off our wavelength when talking about the essentials of youth work – for instance his emphasis on non-formal learning? Of course he risks our wrath in not acknowledging the existence of paid youth workers. So too in my opinion his use of the notions of ‘voluntary’, ‘volunteers’ and ‘volunteering’ masks more than it reveals. All the same, despite perhaps our differing discourses, isn’t there a dialogue to be had?
The scouting movement has warned that plans to extend the school day until 6pm risks damaging youth organisations that offer alternative ways to develop character among children.
In an interview with The Times, the Chief Scout Commissioner appealed to politicians to re-consider plans for schools to offer “soft skills” as part of an extended day.
Such a move would hit long-established voluntary groups such as Beaver and Cub packs. It also defied the scouts’ experience that grit, leadership and service to others were best learnt informally with volunteers, he said. Wayne Bulpitt, Chief Commissioner of the Scouts Association, said the Government could do more to develop character in young people by encouraging voluntary work.
His intervention follows growing policy discussion on the need for schools to offer a more rounded education to young people in addition to academic learning.
This has been led by business leaders and was echoed by MP on a cross-party committee on social mobility. Michael Gove last month he wanted schools to open until 6pm to broaden children’s education with after-school activities, while Tristram Hunt said character and resilience should be taught in schools rather than left to chance. Mr Bulpitt said scouts welcomed the shift in debate onto issues that have been at the core of their programme for 100 years but said children developed such qualities via non-formal learning.
The Scout Association is trying out ways of working with schools, including at an academy at Toxteth, Liverpool where scouting is taught in lessons as part of the curriculum. At another academy in Bradford, teachers have set up a scout troop with sixth formers among its leaders. A number of its 7,242 scout groups meet in school premises and many of its leaders are teachers, but it remains a voluntary organisation.
Mr Bulpitt said: “We would very much like Michael Gove and Tristram Hunt to talk to us because, whilst we are piloting work with schools, this notion that it has to be done in the classroom in an extended school day we don’t intuitively think is the right way. “Whilst we will pilot doing it that way, one of the things that makes scouting particularly successful is the voluntary nature of it, leaders are volunteering their time to help young people and young people are there because they want to.” Extending the school day until 6pm could particularly hit Beaver scouts: around 120,000 boys and girls aged 6 to 8 attend beaver colonies, which typically meet between 5 and 6pm. Cub packs, which have 150,000 members, often meet only slightly later. “For me some of the things I learnt as a 14-year-old patrol leader leading my small group of fellow scouts at that time are things that I still remember today – some of the mistakes I made and was able to learn from, things I never repeated . So offering those in a non-formal way, complimenting the formal education is something that scouting can do,” he said.
Mr Bulpitt also asked why Mr Gove – and Ed Balls, his predecessor – wanted to encourage combined cadet forces in state schools as a character-building activity but rarely talked about the scouts or similar youth organisations. “What we offer is a little bit different from what the cadets offer. It is not that one is better than the other but they appeal to different types of people,” he said. “On our part we would like scouting to appeal to wider groups of young people as well.”
He has already arranged a meeting with the Confederation of British Industry to emphasis the role in character development offered by scouting and to seek wider employer recognition of the Queen’s Scout Award, an alternative to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme. Scouting has been growing for the past eight years, with 440,000 youth members and 110,000 adult volunteers. Its fastest growing membership is among its Explorer section for teenagers aged 14-18, of whom 40 per cent are girls. Later this year it will unveil changes to its 18-25 age group, aiming to establish many more groups on university campuses. It will offer adventure activities, such as climbing or canoeing, and international trips and projects through scouting’s worldwide network as well as links with scout troops near universities. This age group of scouts will have a new uniform, featuring polo shirts, sweat shirts or hoodies, and be a national membership organisation.
Thanks to Tony Ransley for the link.