Standards for Youth Workers : Far too instrumental and behavioural? Have your say.

Personally, I read these ‘standards’ with a heavy heart – the underlying instrumental character of the whole exercise, the very telling and problematic use of the notion of ‘behaviours’ throughout and the absence of a feel for an improvised conversational youth work practice that is not programmed or activity-based. And it might be water under the bridge, but the title of ‘Youth Support Worker’ still gets my goat. These folk are youth workers. However, I probably protest too much. Certainly, I hope people might find the time and energy to respond.


NYA’s ETS committee has been supporting the Youth Work Trailblazer to develop apprenticeship standards for Youth Workers, Support Youth Workers and Assistant Youth Support Workers.

Each apprenticeship standard has to be expressed as the knowledge, skills and behaviours required for an occupation.

Standards for the three apprenticeships are attached, and the NYA have launched an open invitation for interested parties to complete a short survey for whichever is the most appropriate standard for your context:
Additionally, you are invited to forward the standards and survey link to your contacts so that we can reach the widest contribution to the content of these draft standards.

The assessment plan for each of these standards is due to be circulated in the not too distant future, so your input into the development of the content of each standard is requested before 25th December.

In the meantime, if there you have any queries or additional comments, please contact Veena Chauhan via:


Standard for Assistant youth support worker Dec 2017

Standard for youth support worker Dec 2017

Standard for youth worker Dec 2017


  1. My comments on the Standard for youth workers:

    1) Youth work is about the “spiritural development” of young people. Amazed that in this debased age people can still blandly talk about “spiritual” development. Incidentally – how do you think this will be measured?

    2) Naturally “safeguarding” (notice how Safeguarding has become so entrenched that the former capital ‘S’ has become a small ‘s’ marking the creation of a new verb in English) appears in the first paragraph.

    3) Perhaps an accident but in the long list of “duties and responsibilities” of the role, building relationships with young people comes in last.

    4) I’m onto page 2 and s/Safeguarding has now been mentioned 3 times. The claim that all applicants will be “subject to an enhanced DBS check” because the role will “involve working with children/young people” is factually incorrect. In fact enhanced checks can only be made when someone works regularly with young people. In practice that will be the case for youth workers but this lack of accuracy in regards to the law is characteristic of s/Safeguarding.

    5) You have to have done 100 hours of voluntary work before applying. Voluntary work is a good idea but making in mandatory makes it sound like some kind of unpaid internship scheme…

    6) Knowledge, skills and behaviours apparently has its own code ‘KSBs’. Behaviours is a dispiriting corporate invention – linking the expectations for docile/compliant behaviour which schools impose on their subjects to work-place behaviour. It is turning adults into children (who have already been docilised). It is double-docilisation.

    7) Some of it sounds like Youth Work: e.g.: “Start where young people are at in relation to their own vision and values while seeking opportunities to widen their horizons and increase their active participation”. But how will this play out with all the talk about ‘behaviours’? (‘Behaviours’ relates to staff but one imagines that if the authors of this document expect staff to have certain ‘behaviours’ then this influences their idea of what Youth Work is about in general). I think I know which will win.

    8) Ah. Yes. It turns out that the youth worker will, in fact, be “driving activities”. (Not leading which at least implies that they have to inspire people to follow them, but ‘driving’ – a word straight out of the lexicon of local authority management consultant speak; a vocabulary in which Workers are driven to perform better). Cattle are ‘driven’ to market.

    9) This sounds good: “Encourage young to think critically within a safe environment in which everyone supports their feelings, values, beliefs and issues”. However, is it a Freudian slip that they missed out “people” in this sentence? So, they have in fact not made any commitment to helping young people to develop critical thinking. Here we can also see how the values of “supporting everyone’s issues” and doing so in a “safe environment” are already being lined up to neutralise any critical thinking which gets too out of hand.

    10) Inevitably therapeutic education makes an appearance: “Promoting good mental and emotional health”. This is basically Circle Time in schools. (In fact ‘good mental health’ is the natural state – why does it need to be promoted/taught?) Eccleston and Hayes have analysed the emotional agenda in education very well in their book ‘The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education’ 2008. Routledge.

    11) The standard of English in this document is terrible. Lots of sentences do not obey normal grammatical rules and barely make sense. This sloppiness in relation to grammar is characteristic of a certain kind of police document. When people say things like:

    Understanding, developing and managing their professional role covering a wide range of skills such as: substantial autonomy in planning, delivery and evaluation of educational programmes across range of settings, ability to maintain professional boundaries, make informed judgements of complex ethical and professional issues, operate as reflective practitioners, critically reflect on continuing personal and professional development and evolution of own practice

    one wonders if they in fact mean anything at all. For example it is: “a range of settings” – you need the article. If they can’t concentrate on how they are saying it do they care about what they are saying?

    All in all this document is a kaleidoscopic mix of about 4 different strands.

    a) Corporate behaviours
    b) The critical, emancipatatory, tradition in youth work
    c) Emotional education / infantalising young people in the name of being concerned about their ’emotional well-being’.
    d) Safeguarding

    Power has been duly satisfied. One would assume that in practice it is the youth worker who possesses the requisite “behaviours” and who knows how to “drive activities” that the apprenticeship will be aimed at forging, not the one who “starts where young people are at”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.