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Chief Commissioner's Blog | Thinking differently

Why Scouting in schools is worth the effort…


Trying something new isn’t always easy. It takes us out of our comfort zone. But then this is something we ask our young people to do every week in Scouting. We know that trying new activities and different ways of doing things often bring rewards. It’s also how we develop and grow as people. Scouting in Schools is one of these new ways of working.

A combined approach

Some of us might be uncomfortable with the idea of blurring the lines between formal and non-formal education. But a new Demos report commissioned by The Scout Association suggests that a combined approach is precisely what is needed; it can help bring the benefits of Scouting to thousands more young people.

According to the report, one in four students said that schools did not provide enough opportunities to take part in outdoor activities like hiking, camping or Duke of Edinburgh. 

As volunteers we know the power of Scouting to improve children’s lives. However, it can sometimes be frustrating knowing that those who would benefit most don’t get to access our life-changing adventure. 

New opportunities

This assertion is backed up by the Demos report, which confirms that students on Free School Meals (FSM) are less likely than their non-FSM peers to take part in outdoor or community activities. It also found that students at state schools currently feel they have less access to volunteering and outdoor activities than those at fee-paying schools. A year ago we signed up to a commitment that promised Scouting for All. Helping these young people access our programme helps turn that plan into action.

If we are serious about growing the movement and reaching 500,000 young people by 2018, we need to look at new and different ways to deliver Scouting. Thanks to huge efforts by our volunteers at local level, we are almost at capacity with our traditional delivery methods. If we want a step change in growth, then we have to look seriously about working in partnership. We need to be willing to move on from some of the tried and trusted ways we have used in the past. 

Support from volunteers

The good news is that the majority of Scout volunteers (over 53%) support the idea of partnering with schools. Those consulted saw such partnerships as mutually beneficial and particularly important for students who are not engaged with the education system. Volunteers who were also teachers also felt that their Scout experience was helpful to them.

Preserving our Fundamentals

But here’s the important thing. While schools can be a route reaching more young people, we have to do this without compromising our Fundamentals. Scouting in schools (or hospitals or prisons for that matter) should not be watered down Scouting. Young people should still want to do it, rather than being frog marched into a neckerchief.

The report tells us that volunteers want Scouting in schools to remain voluntary and that there shouldn’t be a one size fits all approach. When a young person makes their Promise – whether it is on a school playing field or in a Scout meeting place, they still need to believe in our values of integrity, respect, care, belief and co-operation and making a positive contribution to their community.

How it’s working on the ground

The big question is what does Scouting in schools look like on the ground? The answer is: different every time. For example at St Edmund and Mendham primary schools in East Anglia, the pupils and teachers are encouraged to attend the local Scout group run by the head teacher. But the key is that nobody is forced to do so. As the head teacher observed: ‘Everyone should be able to try a bit of Scouting in school without it being compulsory.’ 

Meanwhile, at the Rose Bridge Academy, a new Scout group is based in the school itself. One-hour activity taster sessions were offered for a limited period of time at the end of the school day. As a result of these sessions, 15 pupils are now regularly involved in weekly sessions.

Getting results

The key point is that this new kind of provision is paying dividends. We are growing Scouting and reaching new young people. The confidence and character skills that young people develop in Scouting not only making them happier, it is improving their academic performance and life chances too. That’s got to be worth the effort.    


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