Albemarle pioneer and Principal of the National College, Peter Duke RIP

We have to register with great sadness the news that Peter Duke, a pioneer of post-Albemarle youth work, died recently.



Peter Duke in the NCTYL days


As a result of the Albemarle Report’s 1960 recommendations to expand youth provision and the need for an increase in the youth service’s full-time staffing an ’emergency’ college offering a one year course was set up. Peter Duke became the Vice-Principal of the National College for the Training of Youth Leaders (NCYTL), welcoming 90 students as its first intake at the adapted civil defence premises in Leicester. He took over as Principal when Ted Sidebottom left in 1964. When the college was closed in 1970 he moved to become the Course Leader of the Leicester Polytechnic Youth & Community course, which was housed on the Scraptoft campus. We are not sure of the date of Peter’s retirement from this pivotal post.

Sue Atkins, still going strong and a student at the NCYTL, remembers Peter.

Without Peter Duke, I wouldn’t be doing the job I do, or have done the jobs I’ve done as a Youth Worker for the last fifty years

I first met Peter when I got involved with Oxford House, through my sister who with friends from University were community service volunteers there and among other things took groups of kids on a regular Summer Camp to Goudhurst in Kent. I spent two weeks at that camp when I was 16. Two years later when I got a job in London I volunteered to run some activities with the youth club; and would go once a week when we chatted and did some ‘Drama’. 

Peter, was ‘The Man Upstairs’ at Oxford House; the group I worked with was all boys and we had a very ‘interesting’ version of the Workman’s play from Midsummer Nights Dream that we adapted and brought up to date with our very own ‘Duke’. It never got to full production though but I remember we had a great time making it up, ‘rewriting’ or reimagIning Shakespeare. I wish I’d kept the ‘script’, such as it was.

At the time I recall Peter as being an overall benign presence in the House who was suitably impressed and amused by being ‘The Duke’ of our Play, and probably quite relieved we didn’t get to the performance . By the way, working with this group I learnt a valuable lesson; it is not all about The Play and performing it, but chatting, improvising and just playing with it was great too. (Another by the way, this all took place in Bethnal Green and Whitechapel at the time of ‘Call the Midwife’, making me realise that my life experience is other people’s history!)

For the next ten years I continued on my path of ( what I later found out was ) chronic job changing. Basically I auditioned for Theatre School, ( got places and didn’t take them) worked in Bookshops , wandered through dole offices, delivered the post, and soap coupons etc. ………all the while working with a Youth Theatre Group in Hillingdon and teaching drama in a dancing school.

Ten years later I took the plunge and applied to and was accepted at the National College for Training Youth Leaders.was placed in the tutorial group of  a certain Bernard Davies  (who left after my first term choosing that year to go to the United States). Of course, I renewed my acquaintance with Peter who was the Principal and once again I saw how he brought his ‘presence’ to that enterprise on Humberstone Drive

There were 148 students at Leicester that year, and if I recall only 17 were women . There was a disproportionate fall out rate of the women students and I was nearly one of them.

You didn’t ‘Fail’ at Leicester. It was ‘put to you’ that you might like to consider your position, you reflected with your tutor on the feedback, and came to the ‘right’ decision and withdrew. I had lasted to the end of the second fieldwork practice in Huddersfield.  The Club Leader I worked for, decided I wasn’t suitable so with my tutor ( NOT Bernard who was still in the US)  put this decision to me, pointing out all the negative feedback from other tutors, including my ‘scores’ on the ‘tends To X tends to Y questionnaire, which apparently were extremely unbalanced, not forgetting the fact that I wore blue woollen stockings! So I was invited to consider my position over the weekend . . . .

If I drank, that would have been the night I drowned my sorrows and got very drunk ~ but fortunately I didn’t drink ~ so after a long weekend wallowing in despair and feeling sorry for myself, feeling angry and conned by said Youth Leader/Supervisor, ranting about those bloody men, whilst drinking copious cups of tea and coffee and yes crying a lot ~got to OK I’ve considered my position and I don’t want to go , so I am going to stay.  If ‘they’ disagree then ‘they’ will have to change their policy and ‘Fail or Sack me’. That’s what I told my tutor, who then asked Peter to come and talk to me, presumably to sort me out. Peter came. He didn’t ‘talk’ to me, he asked questions, he listened, he asked more questions, and listened some more and the upshot was he agreed with me that I should stay.

So Thank you, Peter Duke, you really were the Instrument of my completion of the Course (albeit by the skin of teeth) at NCTYL . A wee while back I found my certificate, a copy of which I’ve pinned on the wall behind my desk at Youth Association South Yorkshire, where I still lend a hand. It is, of course, signed by Peter Duke and so as ever I have his backing , his presence as ever inspiring, caring and believing the best in people always.

We’ll leave the final word to Malcolm Ball, a Scraptoft student in the mid-1980’s, a member of the IDYW steering group and Adviser to Lewisham’s Young Mayor.

Indeed Peter was a lovely man. It seems to me he was the epitome of what is to be defended in the Albermarle legacy, a belief in the values of the enlightenment and a commitment to holistic, liberal education. He warned against the dangers ‘of doing irreparable good’ in the name of ideology and warned always of the dangers of working on rather than with young people – a measure of his deep knowledge and subtlety.

Young Mayor of Lewisham – the candidates’ manifestos

Thanks to Malcolm Ball for this insight into the process underpinning the election of the Young Mayor of Lewisham.

young mayor



For further background, analysis and critique of the Young Mayor’s Project see – ‘Extending democracy to young people: is it time for youth suffrage?’ by
Kalbir Shukra in Youth&Policy 116

A Collective Chance to be Self-Critical – see you in Brum on the 30th





FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30 from 11.15 – 4.30


Back in April we postponed our national conference as a number of other broad initiatives were on the go. We said at the time we hoped our rearranged conference would keep the debate about the future alive and ongoing. Our themes, ‘Blurring the Boundaries?’ and ‘Re-Imagining Youth Work?’ raise questions for In Defence of Youth Work. and the youth sector as a whole.



11.15 Where is IDYW up to? What is its role?

11.30 Challenging IDYW’s perspective, ‘Thinking the Unthinkable’ – Annette Coburn [University of West Scotland] and Sinead Gormally [University of Hull] with a response from Tania de St Croix [IDYW] followed by open discussion.

12.40 Paul Fenton will share the major themes arising from the Shaping the Future events held by the Professional Association of Lecturers in YCW followed by open discussion.

1.30 Lunch – bring your own snap as per tradition or there are local shops.

2.15 Where are people working? How is youth work surviving? Kirsty Lowrie  [Aspire Arts] and Malcolm Ball [IDYW] will lead off a dialogue in small groups about the state of play on the ground.

3.45 Where do we go from here? Dependent on how the day unfolds we will have a Q&A panel session or break into local/regional groups.

Tea, coffee etc will be available.

Conference fee is a minimum of £10 waged, £5 students/unwaged.

To book a place contact

Please circulate the flyers

idywsept30 – Word flyer

idywsept30 – pdf flyer

Innovation in Youth Work : Creating Spaces for Radical Youth Work?

innovation inyw

The third chapter in the book sees In Defence’s Malcolm Ball, Tania de St Croix and Louise Doherty reflecting on the workshop they ran as part of the Innovation in Youth Work project.

Market values and authoritarianism have become the norm for many working in community and youth roles. This piece encourages you to explore what counts as ‘radical youth work’ in this context.

In Defence of Youth Work (IDYW) is a campaigning organisation that came together in 2009 to defend grassroots traditions of youth work against imposed relationships, targeted outcomes, and the closure of and cuts to open-access and anti-oppressive youth projects. As a group of practitioners, we call for the defence of democratic and emancipatory youth work, based on the following cornerstones: • voluntary relationships between young people and youth workers; • a commitment to critical dialogue; • a focus on anti-oppressive practice; • the valuing of young people’s ‘here and now’ as well as their futures; and • tipping the balance of power in favour of young people.

Reflecting on these cornerstones in the context of radical youth work throws up certain questions, such as: • Do these cornerstones describe youth work today, or would this form of practice be seen as radical in today’s policy climate? • If these cornerstones portray an ‘ideal-type’ of youth work, is this an ideal that is inspiring, affirming, or alienating? • Is it possible to be a youth worker who isn’t doing youth work – or a radical youth worker who isn’t able to practice radically? 

To read in full, hover your cursor on This is Youth Work : The Book  in the brown header at the top of this page and click on Innovation in Youth Work : Thinking in Practice. This will take you to a designated page, where the full pdf of the book can be viewed. The chapter is contained within pages 22 – 25. As ever responses welcomed.

The piece finishes:

Final thought:
Whether it is called being radical, being positive about youth work, being creative or being a ‘troublemaker’, in the words of one of the workshop participants:

What is Radical Youth Work in 2014? Thoughts from an IDYW Workshop

Maxine Green opening the Innovations conference

Maxine Green opening the Innovations conference

Three of our supporters, Malcolm Ball, Tania de St Croix and Louise Doherty, ran a workshop on ‘Radical Youth Work?’ at the Innovation in Youth Work: Creative Practice in Challenging Times conference held on 13th May 2014 at YMCA George Williams.  To give you a feel of a challenging and wide-ranging discussion, involving over 30 participants, here are some of the comments and questions raised.


  • Open access youth work has been nibbled away at.
  • Church worker: ‘if I told them I’d come to this workshop they might cry!’ – not necessarily much more freedom or opportunity for being radical in faith based youth work.
  • What is being radical? Creating personal relationships with young people and youth workers – this should not need to be radical, but this is how quickly youth work changes – what is radical changes as the context changes. Need to be creative.
  • What is being radical? Is it being different? Challenging the status quo? So what radical is changes as the status quo moves more to the right.
  • What is being radical? Participatory and child centred, putting the time in to listen to the voices of children – again, this is not radical, it’s youth work! What has changed in the core essence of youth work that things that are just youth work are now seen as radical in some way, we have to fight to do them?
  • How helpful is it to use / claim the word radical? If the word radical is seen by others as a dirty word it won’t take us very far.
  • Words that allow / enable us to change: radical, resistance, struggle – how useful are these?
  • We are moving towards a world where problems are seen as individual not social / societal.
  • How can me and my colleagues radicalise ourselves?
  • Can we challenge ourselves and others to make tick boxes more relevant – so that they have come from us, rather than being imposed on us from elsewhere?
  • Is part of being radical at the moment to make our work not radical, to make it normal?
  • What is it I want to change? How can I change the system? (Youth workers / young people)
  • Is there more scope in the statutory or voluntary sector to be radical, or can these sectors be so neatly divided now?
  • Now is the moment to be brave as youth workers.
  • One of the biggest challenges is funding for core costs (in voluntary sector) – we need funding but we dislike tick boxes – sometimes we spend too much time navel gazing about tick boxes when we should find innovative ways of playing the game of impact measurement and accreditation.
  • Let’s not focus on what we’re against, let’s be positive – being able to say we (youth workers) are amazing and why we are amazing!
  • Being radical in the statutory sector involves resistance against abysmal cuts – fighting from within.
  • Voluntary organisations – becoming more like businesses – being a trouble maker within this? Thinking about how we do things differently, if we still have space to do things differently at all.
  • Think about what we do to challenge, what language we use, moments when the funders / the managers are not there, challenge the right to manage.

Thanks to Tania for the notes.