Educating for good? Preventing the bad? Join the debate, March 17

It’s not long to the IDYW national conference on Friday, March 17 in Birmingham. I always get anxious, worrying that nobody will turn up so forgive me encouraging you to think seriously about being with us. It’s always stimulating. Hope to see you there.

Belatedly there’s now an event post on Facebook – see this link below

https://www.facebook.com/events/424051277928371/

PS A few folk have commented that perhaps it’s a long way to come for half a day. In the past we’ve gone for an 11.00 kick off, but never started on time due to travel dilemmas. Hence we’re experimenting with this later starting time and no lunch break. Cheers.

 

Department of Media, Sport and Culture to offer a new narrative, within which young people are passionate, happy and valued………. Suspend your disbelief and have your say?

dcms

Back in November 2016, at the Ambition conference, Rob Wilson, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, closed his self-congratulatory speech with the following announcement.

” There is so much to look forward to in this sector. Indeed, I’m delighted to announce that over the coming months we’ll be developing a new youth policy statement. This statement will bring together a clear narrative and vision for how we best help our young people.

It will highlight the opportunities that come with our move to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport – how we can use our new position to give young people a greater engagement with our sporting and cultural heritage.

We want to benefit from your insights and wisdom. This new statement should draw on your experiences and celebrate the innovative work that is already happening.

I’m keen for it to act as a road map until at least 2020 and to show where this Government is heading with youth policy so you can see where to work with us along the way.

More than anything I want the statement to be a commitment to every young person. That we will help them pursue their passions, lead happy, independent lives and feel an active, engaged and valued part of their communities.”

For the moment we will leave to one side the gulf between the rhetoric of the last paragraph and the precarious reality facing so many young people and report our limited understanding of what’s going on re yet another ‘new’ policy statement. The best I can glean goes as follows:

According to Ambition, alongside sector colleagues, they have been working with the Youth Policy team at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to ensure a wide range of organisations and partners feed into the call for evidence to help inform the youth policy statement.

  1. As is often the case a degree of mystery surrounds the identity of the youth organisations ushered into the corridors of power at the DCMS. Clarification would be welcomed.
  2. As far as the consultation goes the DCMS are holding several regional workshops ‘aiming to engage groups of stakeholders that are representative of organisations involved in designing, delivering and funding youth provision’. One snag might be being recognised as a stakeholder. The events are invitation only.
  3. There is to be an online call for evidence from folk not holding big enough a stake, who can run their own workshops, armed with a facilitator’s brief from the DCMS.
  4. The ‘eagerly awaited’ policy statement will target six themes: a shared understanding of young people’s personal and social development; evidencing the impact of work with young people; developing a coherent local youth offer; making youth social action a habit for life; involving young people in decision-making; and securing an independent and sustainable youth sector.
  5. There’ll be no additional dosh as the state-subsidised, less than independent National Citizen Service has to pay for its adverts and mailshots, whilst missing its targets.

More informed and knowledgeable comments welcomed. And I was going to have an alcohol-free day.

Doug Nicholls on reviving trade union and popular education

We have pleasure in posting Doug’s thoughts on trade union education as a guest blog, accompanied by an advert for an enticing job opportunity with the General Federation of Trade Unions [GFTU] as an Education Officer and the Education for Action programme.

gftu

eors-job-advert-education-officer-pdf – the advertisement

jd-education-officer – the job description

gftu-education-in-action-bklt-8-32629 – the programme

Doug Nicholls

TRADE UNION EDUCATION FOR SOCIAL CHANGE – join the discussion
Doug Nicholls, General Secretary of the General Federation of Trade Union, believes that trade union education urgently needs a revitalised content and a new method of delivery.
In an article in the Morning Star Dr John Fisher reminded us of the effect of years of state funding for trade union education. He who pays the piper calls the tune. A generation of trade union learners have had the political content stripped from their learning. I argue also that the form of training delivery has mirrored the neutralised content and helped to teach ignorance and obedience.
The Establishment teach their children to rule from an early age, prep school to public school to Oxbridge. At heart they learn the arrogant and confident mannerisms of rulers, an ability to talk about anything as if they know something about it.
They learn some concepts and history; this is why they focus on politics, philosophy and economics (PPE).
Once upon a time the best unions would engage workers in these subjects too. Courses would commence with discussions about the world we wanted to live in and the laws that underpin capitalist economics and a socialist alternative. This was done to develop understandings and convictions that would build our organisations and provide the motivation for learning the skills necessary to win for our members and transform the political scene.
This tradition was then turned on its head. Trade union training got locked into considerations of a very narrow range of technical and vocational areas, tutors became purveyors of information and facts, classes looked more like school rooms than workers discussion circles, qualification replaced empowerment, learners were told what to learn instead of encouraged to learn from their experience, rigid curricula stifled debate. As state-funded adult education disappeared, so elements of trade union training became a poor substitute, signposting learners to dwindling vocational opportunities while the market let rip.

 

 

It was all very interesting knowing the detail of redundancy and health and safety legislation, but all very irrelevant if the workplace was closing down as if because of forces of nature or fate. Education proved a thin shield as the post-war social democratic consensus and manufacturing based economy were being transformed into today’s neoliberal nightmare.
While most people feel that austerity is wrong, very few can articulate why it has come about and the political and economic alternative to it. In reality the popular consensus has bought into the whacky idea that the debt and deficit are the cause of our problems.
When bankers say they create wealth, few union reps seem able these days to counter this joke with an assertion of the labour theory of value and remind them that everything in their marble vaults comes from us. The effect of falling rate of profit has been forgotten and our problems attributed superficially to ‘greedy bankers.’
Worse still workers are being decapitated from the body of knowledge of our history of struggle as a Movement. We have to re-construct a living appreciation of our past to accelerate a better future.
There is clearly a desperate need to revive political, philosophical, historical and economic inquiry as the basis for trade union education.
Equally there is a need to modernise the methods of learning delivery to make it inspirational and life changing. A very peculiar thing has happened in Britain in this regard. The progressive debate on how workers learn best and what techniques really inspire them has almost completely bypassed trade union education circles and has been advanced instead in youth and community work, adult education and some school based traditions or radical pedagogy.
This is not the case in many other Labour Movements. They have embraced radical learning theories and methods that enhance the development of progressive politics and solid organisation. At the GFTU we have been looking at some of their work in Latin America, but look too at a book called Education for Changing Unions about the Canadian experience. Consider the work of Paulo Freire or Antonio Gramsci.
The way learning is delivered is as important as what is delivered, sometimes more so. Progressive learning techniques are linked to democratic practice and social change and have a long tradition in Britain going back to the Medieval ‘conventicles’ which argued that the Bible should be translated in English so that ‘the merest ploughboy could read the word of God’. Ultimately their work led to the collapse of the authority of the dominant Latin speaking Catholic Church and the aristocracy it propped up.
It continued through the dissenting churches whose ideas very much aided the birth of the unions, many Sunday schools were in fact very socialist. It flourished in Britain when many women trade unionists developed theories of youth engagement and community work to involve workers outside the workplace in the struggle for reforms. The richness of this tradition around the world can be explored on the fantastic website http://www.infed.org.uk.
The new priesthood of neoliberal pundits and politicians and the crowds of dilettante ‘economists’ who seek ultimately to persuade us that we are too stupid to run society in the interests of the majority, should be replaced by a new generation of deeply educated union activists able to see through the myths and compel us in another direction.
At the GFTU we have opened a forum on our website for all those interested in a progressive future for trade union education to swap notes, share details of good resources and examples and sharpen our minds. Please join the debate there http://www.gftu.org.uk. We are also looking for new partners and tutors to join our work delivering the highest quality independent working class education. Let’s change the content and form of trade union education and base it on participative, collective learning to demonstrate another world is possible with a new kind of PPE student in control of our country.

 

POSTSCRIPT

Ironically on the day we post Doug’s piece, there’s a long Guardian read, PPE: the Oxford degree that runs Britain

 

Brighton Campaign Protect Youth Services video

As the campaign nears its climax a measured video narrated by Adam Muirhead, which steers clear of simply using the preventative argument. Adam will be contributing to our national conference on March 17.

FEB 23 PYS Protest – Budget Council Meeting 

Hove Town Hall
Norton Road, BN3 2 Hove – 16:00–18:00

Brighton and Hove Council make their final decision about the cuts to the youth service budget at this meeting. This is our final bid to fight for young people’s services – let’s make it a big event. Please join us, share the event and spread the word. Bring your banners and voices – Protect Youth Services!

Facebook thread on Cadets, Militarisation, NCS and Youth Work

There is little doubt that our Facebook page followed by 2,877 people is the liveliest forum of ongoing debate about youth work in the UK. However, not everyone is a Facebook devotee or user. It is though possible to share at least some of the sparkiest conversations by providing a link via this website.

cadet-units

As a starter, have a look at this thread, which starting from exchanges about further funding for cadet units spills into discussion about youth services, NCS, part-time workers and much more.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/90307668820/permalink/10154586347368821/

Credit to Natalie Ward-Toynton for kicking things off with this comment.

Over the last few daysI feel saddened by some of the responses around the additional cadet squadrons that are being opened up. I feel saddened because it seems to be compared with NCS scheme and that you all believe it’s a downfall of YW. Where actually the new sqns were part of the 2020 plan brought  into cadets in 2012. The cadets are funded by the MOD and these new sqns some additional money. It is also not a short term scheme like the NCS, young people from 12-19 are involved and it is youth work maybe unconventional youth work but it is.
Cadets doesn’t prepare you to join any armed forces it is about giving opportunities to young people with interests in aviation, leadership, adventure training, the list goes on.
Yes it’s sad youth work is always being cut, I am doing a youth work degree so I know  the lack of jobs in our field etc but please don’t hate on something that you may not fully understand the workings of.

Guest Blog : Raising Youth Work’s Profile in Warwickshire

Many thanks to Alisdair McCarrick, Youth Worker at the Warwickshire Association of Youth Clubs for these thoughts on how practitioners in the county have sought to raise awareness of youth work’s worth. 

yw-stories

Warwickshire Youth Services – Raising Our Profile

Context
Like so many youth services across the country Warwickshire has seen its provision in the statutory sector stripped away with a reduced workforce and fewer purpose-built centres in which to offer support to young people. Those staff members who have managed to survive the annual cuts, rounds of redundancies and changes to their job roles continue to operate with a level of passion and commitment that the youth work fraternity will no doubt be familiar with.

Rallying Cry
It was against this backdrop of budget cuts with further such cuts expected that Warwickshire County Council youth workers decided that now was the time to highlight the immense worth of youth work and its unique ability to build and maintain relationships with vulnerable and often emotionally complex young people in order to give them the guidance and support that would improve their prospects of a better future. Local authority youth workers decided to reach out to colleagues across sectors asking them to provide case studies highlighting how the ‘youth work approach’ has helped the lives of individual young people in ways that no other agency or professional is capable of.

Process
Colleagues from WCC, WAYC, Wellesbourne Youth Club and WCYP came together to share their stories in the hope that this would help to motivate us a workforce in order to continue supporting children, young people and families in what has become an increasingly challenging working environment. Bernard Davies from the In Defence of Youth Work campaign helped to facilitate discussions and promote the impact of the ‘youth work approach’ to working with children and young people.

Once shared our anecdotes were then typed up and printed into a booklet called ‘Youth Work Stories’ which was circulated within our professional networks and handed out at a full cabinet meeting at Warwickshire Council during which elected members were discussing the next round of public spending cuts. This was an ideal opportunity to raise awareness about the value of youth work to young people, their families and wider society.

Follow Up
Going forward we now have a regular mailshot that goes to a variety of stakeholders including councillors updating them on new youth work success stories and we have also booked to speak at the full cabinet meeting later this year in order to encourage members to consider how the value of our work.

Perspective
There is no doubt that those of us who trained in youth and community work are practising very differently to the ways we are used to and that we would be most comfortable with but despite this our values and commitment to young people continue to ensure that, against all odds, we are uniquely positioned to build relationships with young people that have an immensely positive impact on their lives.

The booklet – Youth Work Stories – Warwick District

Interestingly too Alisdair’s blog touches implicitly in his observation that “there is no doubt that those of us who trained in youth and community work are practising very differently to the ways we are used to and that we would be most comfortable with” upon the issues at the heart of the forthcoming IDYW national conference on Friday, March 17 in Birmingham – YOUTH WORK: EDUCATING FOR GOOD OR PREVENTING THE BAD? 

We hope very much to see both Alasdair and your good selves at this opportunity to kick around together the dilemmas.

Building Bridges Not Walls – Events from London via Teeside to Chania

At a time when we need dialogue and solidarity across borders, the following events/conferences hold out hope.

NCIA logo

One year on – ‘witness seminar’
Friday 10th March 1-5pm, London Welsh Centre,
157-163 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8UE

NCIA has closed! But long live the spirit of NCIA present! As promised we are having a ‘one year on’ witness seminar to see where the issues we have been fighting so hard for have now got to. It’s on Friday 10th March 2017, 1.00 – 5pm at the London Welsh Centre in London. The event is free at the point of delivery! As usual we will have a bit of social time afterwards.

If you, colleagues or collaborators would like to come to the event, put the date in your diary now and drop an email here ausgesucht@yahoo.co.uk – saying ‘yes I am coming’ with your name, organisation/group’. We’ll send you a full programme in the middle of February.

Also if you would like to contribute (a) short slot (5 minutes) on your perspective on independent voluntary action’ in March 2017 – also drop a line to the above email address. If you want a longer slot and you haven’t already been in contact, let me know a title and three sentences. We’ll have an opportunity to swap ideas like this on the day.

 

swan
‘DEFENDING WELFARE, WELCOMING REFUGEES: ANOTHER SOCIAL WORK IS POSSIBLE’

The SWAN conference is the largest annual radical and critical Social Work conference in Europe with over a decade of bringing together educators, service users, practitioners and all those concerned with social work and social justice. The conference will be held at the School of Health and Social Care at Teesside University, Middlesborough, April 8/9, 2017.

We welcome presentations (20 mins) or more interactive workshops (60 mins) from ALL, including practitioners, service user and social justice organisations, students, educators and trade unionists. Please send proposals of no more than 300 words to swanconference2017@gmail.com. All proposals will be responded to by 12 March 2017 or sooner. See you in Teeside!

Full details at SWAN 2017 Conference

 

harbour-mosque-thomson

Interdisciplinary Conference
Building Bridges in a Complex World

CHANIA, CRETE, GREECE | 6-8 July 2017

A Radically Different Kind of Conference

We are a network of academics and practitioners motivated by our work experiences inside and outside of Europe. With this being the first conference, we are hoping to turn this into an annual gathering to build bridges on three different levels: between theorists and practitioners, between people from different disciplines and between people from different parts of the world.

Our personal experiences in education and the general job market are that job insecurity, isolation and competitiveness –through constant evaluations, satisfaction surveys, pressure to secure funding and ultimately generate income– create a culture that encourages cut-throat encounters. On a political and professional level, it leads to a lack of collaboration and solidarity between groups and professions. On a personal level, it makes us feel alienated, which obviously affects our life satisfaction and mental health.

This is an interdisciplinary, inquiry-driven gathering with the main focus on bringing people together to share ideas in a convivial environment. We hope to explore what kind of alternative questions, concepts, methods and practices are necessary to address these complex challenges of our time.

It is in this spirit that we invite contributions from practitioners and researchers to share your insights, practices and experiences relating to programmes, policies and studies that address issues of social (in)justice and (in)equality locally and internationally.

For more information, see Building Bridges