The Chief Scout Commissioner emphasises informal learning in questioning the extended school day


Wayne Bulpitt


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.


  1. Tony Ransley is having problems posting his response so I’m acting as an intermediary.

    He ponders:

    Shouldn’t people consider whether Wayne’s omission of the professional youth workers may have been a result of their marginalisation of organisations such as the scouts since the Albemarle Report?

    and asks of me:

    What exactly are your concerns about the use of the words Volunteer, Voluntary and Volunteering when used by someone in one of the largest voluntary youth organisations in the country ?

  2. Thanks Tony and if my luck with computers is running true to form this post will now appear without any trouble at all

  3. I HATE MY COMPUTER honestly I have been getting ‘you are posting to quickly ‘messages for the last three days.must be just me.

  4. Tony’s questions require a proper response and I’ve been struggling for the time to answer appropriately.

    1. I think Tony’s charge that the voluntary sector has been marginalised since Albemarle is a mite exaggerated. It is true that the Report reflected a feeling that the traditional youth organisations were failing to meet the needs of many in the post-war generation of young people. However when I came into youth work in Lancashire in the early 70’s the voluntary sector remained a powerful force. Indeed in Wigan the Education Committee’s Youth Advisory Committee was dominated by such as the Scouts and Guides. I accept that in the 80’s, especially in the municipal-socialist councils, the voluntary sector came to be mistrusted. In fact in Derbyshire, where I was a District Community Education officer we were instructed to hold back grant aids from the Scouts as it was a para-military organisation! Back in Wigan in the 90’s we put much energy into creating a Council for Voluntary Youth Service in an effort to revive a genuine partnership between the ‘professional and voluntary sectors. Coming up-to-date the so-called statutory sector has been smashed, whilst, as an example, the Scouts are offered significant funding to develop groups in inner city areas. At the very least I think these examples indicate a more complicated relationship than crude marginalisation.

    2. As for ‘voluntary’, ‘volunteers etc I’m taking exception to the Commissioner’s one-sided proposal that ‘grit, leadership and service to others were best learnt informally with volunteers.’ Again I don’t think it’s either/or. I agree with the Commissioner about the significance of the informal process. However in my experience trained paid part-time and full-time workers have excelled too in catalysing a critical relationship with young people focused on their awareness of both self and society.

    Hope you’ve sorted the computer


    Tony T

  5. Hi Tony

    Could we examine what you call significant funding, last year The Scout Association nationally received £532k to develop its work with 6-25 year olds in ‘gold’ and ‘platinum’ areas of deprivation.

    Compared with £100k per year a youth service close to me spends on one of its clubs for 13-19 year olds.
    The £100k per year given to Eaton Public School for its Cadet Force.

    Now I do not know how these figures stack up nationally, what was your budget when you were in Derbyshire ?

  6. Tony

    I take your point about comparative levels of funding. As for the budget for a district of Derbyshire in the late 80’s it’s a bit complicated as the budget was for Community Education. This it covered youth work, community work and adult education. I’ll try to dig out some figures, but I may have thrown the papers out.

  7. Whilst Tony is digging out his figures perhaps others in LEA youth services could help by providing up to date figures.

    What is this years budget for their service if it is run by a County council ?

    What is this years budget for their service if it is run by a Borough ?

    What is this years budget for their project ?

    Please do not forget to add transport costs into the figures if you do not pay commercial hire rates for mini buses etc.

  8. From the lack of response can we take it that £532k for a national organisation providing for 6-25 year olds is not regarded as significant even by today’s much reduced youth services ?

  9. As I said before I accept that £532k is hardly a fortune. I haven’t got any up-to-date figures to hand on re today’s budgets and was hoping folk might help out on this matter. However I think to focus on my sloppy formulation of ‘significant’ misses my general point that the relationship between the voluntary and statutory sectors, their differing influence at different times, is not that straightforward.

  10. Hi Tony

    I used significant as opposed to ‘significant’ because I wanted to address other peoples silence rather than have a pop at your contribution which incidently I do not regard as sloppy in any way.

    I am asking robust questions of anyone connected with the present youth services partly because I want to see if they can mount a robust defence, so far with the notable exception of you no one seems that keen on putting their head above the parapet.

    I have already stated that I do not know how £532k stacks up against Borough or County youth service budgets but have noticed it seems to be resented by the political left and has resulted in propaganda attacks on our development work by their BBC (The revolution will be televised).

    Now whilst not rejecting £532k towards work in highly deprived communities as insignificant I think it should be closer to the £15 million a year given to the Public school cadet forces.

    How would £15 million compare to youth service budgets ?

  11. Tony

    £15 million for the Cadet Forces is certainly significant! I’ve been upside down the last few weeks because of serious family illness, but I would like to get a better sense of present day budgets. Certainly a key problem is the fragmentation of what we used to call the Youth Service. Many youth workers, who have kept their jobs are now doing youth social work or in youth offending teams, the latter called in Wigan – Restorative Solutions! In many areas the Youth Service has all but disappeared with what’s left of its funding in Targeted, Early Intervention type programmes.

    As to the political left criticising the Scouts via the BBC can you point me to the article/story/programme. I’m genuinely interested as I experience the BBC as a mouthpiece for the status quo. This said I’m out of step with the Left on many issues – so much so that I don’t describe myself as ‘on the Left’ anymore.

  12. Hi Tony

    Just to be clear the £15 million is not for the cadet forces, it is solely for the Public School Cadet Forces. Harrow, Eaton and the like based on Public Schools making up 75% of the Combined Cadet Forces CCF.

    Mr Gove has tried to extend CCF units into state schools and was allocating funds from the education budget to purchase their child friendly rifles ect.

    Total expenditure on ALL the Military Cadet Movements is £105 million at my last count.

    Plus the Cadet Extension Fund

    Plus The recent Libor grants.

    Hence my assertion that Government Youth Funding is a shambles and all funding should be frozen for five years until a fair and effective system is worked out.

  13. With regard to the BBC goggle The Revolution will be Televised, ‘scouts visit a nightclub’ broadcast on BBC3 their ‘youth’ channel.

    I would be interested in peoples opinion on if that is not only negativity stereotyping Scouting but also dismissing out of hand the possibility that some young people in deprived areas might want activities outside what the BBC has decided they are interested in.

  14. Tony

    Being less than an avid TV watcher I didn’t realise ‘The Revolution will be Televised’ is the title of a satirical programme. Unfortunately the episode in question is not available on BBC iPlayer.

    Anybody out there seen it?

  15. Tony goggle is your friend.

    goggle The revolution will be televised, scouts visit night club. its a youtube clip.

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