Queer Politics and the contribution of Youth Work – remembering Clause 28

Fifty years on from the decriminalisation of homosexuality the papers today are carrying a range of articles covering its significance – see, for instance, Queer politics has been a force for change; celebrate how far we’ve come by Jeanette Winterson. Within her piece, she remembers the infamous Clause 28.

In 1988 the Thatcher regime passed into law clause 28 of the Local Government Act, making it an offence to “promote” homosexuality in schools. Nobody really knew what this meant, with its malign claims of “pretend” family relationships; all teachers knew was that they couldn’t be positive about any sexual identity other than straight. For me, also 28 at the time, it felt like legalised hatred.

clause 28

Led by lesbian youth workers, in particular, many of us refused to abide by this deeply prejudiced legislation. Ironically, I’ve just been trawling the Youth & Policy archive, now online in its entirety, and there you can find evidence of this resistance in two articles from the time –  Mike Heathfield’s ‘The Youth Work response to lesbian and gay youth’ in Youth and Policy 23, Winter 1987/88  and Peter Kent-Baguley’s fierce polemic,’One Too Many’ in Youth & Policy 24, Spring 1988.

This is a bit rushed. Other folk of the time might have links to other materials.

But for a living example of where the struggle is up to in 2017 and the strides made, see, for example,  the Proud Trust – home of LGBT+ youth

proud trust

Celebrating Youth & Policy 4 – Positive for Youth: Is policy meeting practice? Pat Kielty explores.


In the last of the first four pieces on the revamped Y&P website, with a new youth policy evidently in the offing, Pat Kielty subjects the past Coalition’s ‘Positive for Youth’ rhetoric to critical scrutiny.

posfor youth


As we await the release of a new youth policy, this article considers Positive for Youth and explores how political rhetoric relates to practice. This is done by considering three key policy concepts; respect, empowerment and belonging. These notions are complex, contested and clearly not restricted to the field of youth work. As such, a complete analysis is beyond the scope of the piece but there will be a commitment to view them from the paradigm of youth work and young people.

All quotes within this article are taken directly from current youth policy or from young people. Focus group research was conducted with members of the Thurrock Youth Cabinet (TYC) and Riverside Youth Club (RYC) in Tilbury. Research participants were asked to consider the identified notions in the context of their lives and the youth work provision they attend.


This article aims to give some critical consideration to a selection of values contained within youth policy. It was suggested earlier, there is a discourse in Positive for Youth around the young person undergoing individual transformation. As such, they are to become ‘empowered’, to develop and receive ‘respect’ and obtain a ‘sense of belonging’. The fundamental concern here is the lack of attention given to these complex notions. Policy does also not take account of the wider political and social factors, the environment of the young person and the understated role of association.

From a practical perspective, I would support the view that respect, empowerment and belonging do have relevance to youth work. However, I believe these need careful deliberation, exploration and application both from the worker and the young person. Claims without dialogue and rhetoric based on assumption need to be avoided. Freire (1972) states that dialogue involves respect. It should not involve one person acting on another, but rather people working with each other. Youth policy appears to place a number of requests on young people, but perhaps policy makers should reflect on a simple but powerful message:

They should listen to us more. (Member RYC)

Celebrating a new look Youth & Policy 1 – Tom Wylie on the Election


Welcome news! After a hiatus, Youth & Policy returns in a new format to prompt us into reflection and to challenge what often appears to be our aversion to critical analysis.

The editorial group write:

Dear friends,

We are writing to announce the launch of the ‘new format’ Youth and Policy at http://www.youthandpolicy.org/

The new Youth and Policy will continue to be free, open access and online, yet rather than having ‘issues’ we will now publish individual articles, which can be published as soon as they have been prepared. Most of these articles will be much shorter – around 2000 words in length. This enables us to be more responsive to events as they occur, and provides an opportunity for researchers and practitioners to share work in a timely manner and concise format with an international audience. Back issues will remain available free on the website.

Since 1982, Youth and Policy has published articles which provide a critical analysis of policy issues as they affect young people. We have been free, open access and online since 2010. Our new, more responsive format is launched today in response to changes in the fields of youth work, youth research and publishing, and we hope it will continue to contribute for many years to come.
We will be publishing new articles throughout the summer and beyond; subscribe on our website (‘newsletter sign-up’) to be informed of new articles as they appear, and/or follow us on Twitter @youthandpolicy, or on Facebook.

Call for papers:
We are seeking original and concise articles that provide a critical analysis of policy issues affecting young people. We are keen to publish papers on a wide range of themes in relation to young people and policy: youth work, youth services, education, employment, justice, health, identity, equality, media, campaigning, leisure and more. We welcome articles by researchers, lecturers, practitioners and policy makers. See our guidelines for submission on the website for more details.


Paula Connaughton, Tania de St Croix, Tony Jeffs, Tina Salter, Naomi Thompson (The editorial group)

During this week we will draw your attention to each of the four new pieces now available.

Given our latest post on the post-Election implication for ourselves, Awakening from the deep slumber of decided opinion,  it’s good to get Tom Wylie’s sense of affairs in his The (young) people have spoken: reflections on the general election.


Tom Wylie

Tom Wylie


‘And so it came to pass in the dawn’s early light on June 9th that not only had a hubristic May lost her majority but the ideology of neoliberal economics, with added austerity, was badly shaken if not toppled. The result holds out the possibility – nothing stronger – that the years ahead may see some repairs to the institutions which support young people; that there could be an end to the hollowing out of public services; that inequality would cease to rise so remorselessly; that Brexit may unfold more benignly.’

Youth & Policy is taking a deep breath and Jean Spence is bidding farewell


Thanks to Marcia Furman

We’ve received the following note from the Editorial Group of Youth & Policy, the pioneering and long-standing academic journal.

Dear All,
Please note that Youth and Policy journal is not currently accepting submissions of new articles whilst we take some time to review our purpose and model. We will publish issue 116 in the current format and will decide on and adopt a new model from the Autumn this year.
Thanks for all your support,
Youth and Policy editorial group.

It’s worth remembering the following:

Youth & Policy Journal was founded in 1982 to offer a critical space for the discussion of youth policy and youth work theory and practice.

The editorial group have subsequently expanded activities to include the organisation of related conferences, research and book publication. Regular activities include the biannual ‘History of Community and Youth Work’ and the ‘Thinking Seriously’ conferences.

The Youth & Policy editorial group works in partnership with a range of local and national voluntary and statutory organisations who have complementary purposes. These have included UK Youth, YMCA, Muslim Youth Council and Durham University.

All members of the Youth & Policy editorial group are involved in education, professional practice and research in the field of informal education, community work and youth work.

The journal is run on a not-for-profit basis. Editors and Associate Editors all work in a voluntary and unpaid capacity.

Jean Spence

Jean at her farewell with Tom Wylie looking on

The incredible passion and devotion that has kept the journal alive for 35 years is exemplified in the person of Jean Spence, who is retiring from the editorial group. Across this period Jean has selflessly edited an endless supply of scripts, coaxing and cajoling their writers into improvements they’d never even thought of. Throughout her career she has challenged youth work’s tendency to be anti-theoretical and anti-intellectual with her own feet always planted firmly and emotionally in an affective practice. This commitment is captured in this eloquent piece from 2008 published in Youth Studies Ireland, What Do Youth Workers Do? Try to find time to read it. It retains all its relevance. Thanks Jean for your inspiration and bloody hard graft across the decades.


Thanks to Adam Muirhead for this  immediate and enlightening report on the recent celebratory event held at YMCA George Williams College. You must read it in full on his blog. My snippets will surely whet your appetite.

Mark Smith


He begins:

I recently attended the ‘100 Years of Youth and Community Work Education’ event hosted by the YMCA George Williams College and supported by Youth & Policy, UKYouth and TAG/PALYCW. The event came about off the back of Tony Jeffs recognising that on the 8th October 100 years ago, what he (and others) recognise as the first proper youth & community training programme came into being. For someone like me who enjoys a bit of Youth Work celebrity spotting this was a star-studded event! The great and the good of our profession and people I’ve been reading and quoting for years were present and ready to divulge their experience.

As well as Tony amongst the great and good contributing were such notables as Alan Gibson Tom Wylie, Marg Mayo and Mark Smith, the latter proclaiming evidently the death of youth work.

According to Adam, Mark went as far as to say that the key texts he developed for the profession under the umbrella of ‘Youth Work’ had been the equivalent of flogging a dead horse. So you can see why some people felt peeved.

Unbowed Adam ends by drinking a toast to the next 100 years of Youth and Community Work Education!

Youth Work and Faith – debates, delights and dilemmas – Bradford, November 11

YW and Faith

Youth Work and Faith: debates, delights and dilemmas

Wednesday 11th November 2015
10am – 4pm
Bradford College
£29 (£15 student-rate)

This one day event will explore the current context for the faith-based youth work sector and its relationship with the wider youth work field – as well as that between different faith traditions. Contributors include Bernard Davies and a range of other thinkers and practice experts.
The day will celebrate the contribution that faith-based youth work makes to individuals, communities and to achieving social justice – whilst also addressing some of the sticky issues that emerge in faith-motivated youth work.

The event is aimed at practitioners, students, academics and anyone else with an interest in youth work and faith – and will be an interactive day that encourages discussion and reflection.

The event is hosted by the Youth and Community Development team at Bradford College and Youth and Policy journal. Bradford offers an ideal location for the event as the city is host to a range of faith organisations with an active role in civil society. All those attending will receive a copy of Youth Work and Faith – a new book edited by the Youth and Policy editorial group.

To book your place, please click https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/youth-work-and-faith-debates…
(Please note Eventbrite adds a small booking fee to the costs stated above)

Youth Work and Faith – pdf poster to print out for circulation

Youth & Policy Manifesto for Youth Work Launch and In Defence of Youth Work Practitioner: Seminar, April 21

Bernard Davies and Tony Taylor peruse the Manifesto

Bernard Davies and Tony Taylor peruse the Manifesto

Youth & Policy Manifesto for Youth Work Launch and In Defence of Youth Work Practitioner Seminar

Tuesday 21st April 2015 at the School of Education, University of Birmingham

An event hosted by the University of Birmingham

This event brings together the two most prominent debates in the youth sector over the last decade regarding: • the defining features and processes of youth work practice; and • the need (or not) for statutory funding of youth services.

Ten years ago, Bernard Davies published Youth Work: A Manifesto for our times as an attempt to define and reaffirm commitment to voluntary, open access, and democratic youth work practice in the midst of increasingly individualised, authoritarian and targeted responses to young people. This text, among others, played an important role in stimulating and supporting efforts over the subsequent decade to sustain these approaches to practice despite hostile organisational and funding environments. This event sees the launch of a new manifesto, ten years on from the influential original piece to stimulate this debate anew. Since the financial crisis, and particularly following the Coalition Government’s first spending review, youth services have suffered rapid cuts to government spending. Throughout this period, there have been active campaigns including Choose Youth and those led by the NUS that have pointed out the damaging effects of cuts to services and to young people, and argued for a new, enforceable statutory duty to fund youth services.

The two goals of a restoration of statutory funding for youth services and of democratic forms of youth work are often assumed to be twin goals within the sector. Yet, there are good reasons to question whether these are mutually supportive aims. Historically, they have often diverged from one another. After all, it was in the financial context of annual above inflation increases in spending on youth work that the original Youth Work Manifesto was published, and in which the In Defence of Youth Work campaign was established.

This event creates a space for youth workers to explore this tension, and to debate the implications for future campaigning: • How should the core values and practices of youth work be promoted today? • What are the implications of a restoration of statutory funding for youth work? • Can statutory funding for youth services promote youth work? It will include the launch of Bernard Davies’ new manifesto for youth work, published by Youth & Policy. It will also include presentations from research evidence about statutory funding and its effects on practice, and provide space for discussion and debate.

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