With more than an eye on the forthcoming election the New Visions for Education Group launched its book, ‘What’s Next for Education?’this very week.
“WHAT’S NEXT FOR EDUCATION?” A National Forum – Speakers Included • DAVID BELL. • MELISSA BENN • TIM BRIGHOUSE • OWEN JONES • HELENA KENNEDY • ESTELLE MORRIS • TONI PEARCE • DAVID PUTTNAM • JENNY THOMPSON
Thanks to his efforts behind the scenes the book contains a welcome chapter entitled ‘How to Revive Youth Services’ by Tom Wylie, former chief executive of the National Youth Agency from 1996 – 2007 and a critical supporter of IDYW.
These are hard times for the young. Many individuals continue to flourish but the gulf is widening, in financial, human and social capital, between those who are doing well and those left behind. Employment in secure jobs for young people and young adults has fallen sharply, often offering only minimum wages in a casualised labour force. Social mobility has stalled; the constraining contours of wealth and privilege are evident. The recession of 2008-14 was particularly brutal for people without qualifications in those regions which had already suffered long term economic decline; reduced social security benefits (with added sanctions) have helped drive many deeper into poverty and despair. Unequal societies make the more vulnerable young prey to extremism or tempt them into acquisitive crime or alcohol or drug misuse. Personal debt and family poverty leave limited opportunities for imaginative cultural experiences outside the neighbourhood. Anxiety about educational achievement and precarious future employment mean that, for many young people, this is not a good time to grow up. For some, their natural exuberance and aspiration may morph into sullen depression; for others, their peer loyalties can imprison them in anti-social gang cultures.
Youth services cannot remedy all these social ills but, over the last 75 years, they have provided support and development opportunities for young people in diverse settings: neighbourhood youth clubs; streetbased youth workers engaging with young people in public spaces where they gather, sometimes in gangs; specialist projects for young adults who are homeless or unemployed or attending A&E as a result of alcohol or drugs overdoses; information and counselling centres; a whole array of national voluntary organisations, including the deeply rooted Scouts and Guides as well as those which are locally created, sometimes by faith communities.
Action for the next government
– Require the Secretary of State for Education to promote and
secure sufficient youth services focused on the personal and
social development of young people.
– Build on this core national duty by placing explicit
responsibilities on local authorities, setting national standards
for local provision and using powers of intervention where
Ofsted reports that these standards are not met.
– Provide adequate investment, for example by diverting the
money currently spent on the short-term, age-limited scheme of
‘National Citizen Service’ into year-round funding.
– Secure a skilled professional workforce which should focus
particularly on the needs of the disadvantaged young and on
– Encourage the development of local and national processes for
young people’s engagement in decision-making.
Read in full – How to revive Youth Services
Meanwhile Fin Cullen draws our attention to the BERA manifesto, Fair and Equal Education, which contains the following references, which are not as strong as we might like and somewhat ambiguous, but nevertheless recognise the educational significance of youth work:
We need to recognise that children and young people’s entitlement to good quality education extends beyond school to include early childhood, further education, higher education, work-based and vocational learning, informal learning and out-of school activities.
Values youth and community workers as allies in developing informal learning in schools and beyond schools.