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A role for 'OfScout'

Wayne explores the challenges of quality assurance within Scouting and looks at how we could develop a scheme to be of benefit to all.

Setting hares racing

The very mention that I met Tony Gallagher, HMI Youth Services, this week at Ofsted, sent one of my team into a mild panic, prompting suspicions of a possible 'Ofscout' and all that would entail locally.  This is probably the reaction of many of you as you read this, but pause before you reach for the keyboard and let's explore this a bit further.

Getting the right help to the right places

If we are honest with each other, we know that there are a small number of Groups and sections we would ideally not refer prospective members to. There will be a number of issues behind that, but what if we had a more structured approach to benchmarking the local Scouting experience and identifying the support required by leaders in ensuring all young people have the same great experience. Hard to disagree with isn’t it?

Nothing new

We already have versions of this, the most obvious being the RN Recognition Scheme where, as part of the process of being 'recognised' by the RN, the 105 ';approved' Sea Scout Groups must meet certain criteria and attain them annually.  This is achieved through an annual return and biannual inspection from a RN Staff Officer. 

A similar scheme exists for Air Scouts through the RAF.  On a wider basis, we have been developing 'RAGs' over the past few years (the 'RAG' being reference to the traffic light system of marking a wide range of objectives within the process).  The latter is purely used to identify support required and to ensure its provision at each level.

The right environment is key

Clearly for any form of quality assurance to be effective for us, we must ensure that it is positive about supporting and not penalising, and is empowering and not demotivating.

I'd love to hear what you think and how we could achieve this.

The rest of the week

In addition to a very enjoyable lunch with the man from Ofsted, I spent half a day with Matt Hyde and Alan Craft discussing the usual wide variety of strategic, as well as mundane, issues.

I also met up with Hamish Stout, CC Berkshire, who has kindly agreed to share some of the County's stardust by chairing a national working group looking at 'Keys to Growth' and in particular how we use our financial and staff resources to support local development most effectively.

Look out for the open call for further information and a chance to help too.





By Jo-Ann Bramston
on 15/05/2013 18:29

Have you any idea how many hours leaders give up before a Royal Navy inspection ?

Yes, not sure it's a problem from my experience?

By Ewan Scott
on 15/05/2013 20:54

Wayne, I so actually agree with the sentiment, however, we are in many, many places incapable of delivering much support at all.

There is little to be gained in benchmarking and therebye demotivating those who fall short, if we do not have the basic ability to siupport people in the first place.

Lets, for goodness sake get what we are doing in order, we have been trying for over 100 years now and it is still very much a curate's egg.

By Rik Sellwood
on 16/05/2013 10:09

Like the idea in principle however I would prefer to spend my limited scouting hours on organising fun, safe activities for kids. If the idea is implemented why not extend this to the support functions at district and county level. If we are seriously considering this idea then we need to carefully balance time against that which leaders should be doing, leading activities for kids.

By Ash Wilson
on 16/05/2013 12:20

Like the idea no need to be a full on grading system like Ofsted but a more black and white are we doing what we should be or not.

By Ian Stewart
on 16/05/2013 20:44

Bench marking is for widgets, not people. Speaking as a business professional it is a discredited system.
We are all individuals and, within the rules, have our own unique gifts and ways of doing things.
The simplest way to increase numbers is to reduce the waiting lists and that simply requires more leaders.
Start benchmarking them and they will leave, exacerbating the problem.

By Matt Donnelly
on 16/05/2013 21:15

Perhaps the best target for monitoring performance is in the higher-level support functions at District and County which are responsible for supporting the leaders? Ensuring robust volunteer support would be a good step toward improving what happens in Groups and ESUs.

By Robin Beeson
on 17/05/2013 18:51

I think the Idea of setting a good and outstanding criteria for Scout Groups is a brilliant idea and it can give leaders something to work towards. But I am very unsure about the idea of "inspections"

By Tony Kilburn
on 17/05/2013 22:23

Hang on a minute don't we already have a set of Minimum Standards?

By Richard Hunt
on 19/05/2013 20:53

RN's are hard work for leaders, but there can be a real pride in demonstrating what you as a group can do. But I do think a lot of the value comes from the self assessment.

I think though there is a danger around putting off volunteers. The Sea Cadets seem to have an inspection heavy system which detracts from activity and discourages people.

Not an easy area - can't help feeling that the roles of the DC and GSL are key.

By Steve Altria
on 20/05/2013 00:20

Every young person should be entitled to a quality Scouting experience.At present its a lottery;facing perhaps no provision, a waiting list or possibly joining a group that does little.

Producing a statement of what is "in need of improvement/sound/good/very good/excellent" looks like so self assessment can be undertaken would be helpful.

It should of course be usable by Explorer Units managed by Districts and Network provision managed by Counties as well as Groups.

We do need to be aiming to ensure

By Rena Savage
on 20/05/2013 09:47

I personally am involved very heavily in 'Ofsted'. My question is 'what will it look like' and 'what will it feel like' to volunteers at both County, District level and Group level. I have no issue with bench marking what my District does, but I have real concerns, with communicating an 'Ofsted' ideal to my District management team. How will scouting bench mark what is an 'area for improvement', a 'norm', a 'good', and an 'outstanding' and how will this be communicated to volunteers. I appreciate it would be good to implement a Quality 'kite mark' system for Scouting but I also believe it needs to handled very carefully.

By Roger Woods
on 20/05/2013 10:39

In principle its a good idea but I doubt if the present structure can put this into practice without upsetting and loading leaders.
Perhaps we should point our resources into getting the facilities and support for ledears in A1 condition and also ensuring that the is affordable facilities 9indoors0 for the smaller sections which can only enhance the
experience of scouts of all ages in the developing / small sections.

By Tony Ransley
on 21/05/2013 14:15

Wayne the Local Authority Youth Services are have been drowning under quality assurance measures for the last ten years all it has done is divert ever more time money and resources away from working with young people and into passing the quality assurance measures. I am constantly told that the advantage of not having government funding is that we can work with young people without 'strings attached' lets not tie down our volunteers with these totally discredited management rituals, you have commissioners , you have leaders, they are adults treat them like adults and trust them.

By Dave Barclay
on 21/05/2013 20:45

Whatever we do must feel like support not inspection.

By The Chief Elf - Jamie Hughes
on 24/05/2013 14:51

I realize the amount of time people give up, but as an avid follower of all things UKCC, I also agree in principal, but are we not following good practise anyway? So no extra work should be needed to tick the boxes, if your doing it right then their is nothing to fear.
Since taking over with 4 Beavers and 6 Cubs to the Group I have activly promoted the 'RAG' system, that and putting in some good busines sense, the feared ''treating the Group like a business'' But sometimes its needed.
Now although huge amounts of time and effort have been put in by my leaders, and of course that is what makes us a success undoubtedly. But that said with the good guidance of the 'RAG' system and also a lesser known resource ''Are you a 5 Star District / Pack or Troop'', I adapted this for the Group, I can say a combination of good practice and amazing adult volunteers who feel supported and working to goals has achieved our growth.
We returned 107 Young People on the census this year, enjoying the Adventure and we are still Growing both adult and youth membership, infact our largest growth area was in Adults this last year.
My Group Chair coined a phrase ''professionalism attracts professionals''.
I think in a nut shell, if your doing it right and somebody ''checks'' your doing it right, dont fear it embrace it, and if your are doing it right you'll pass with flying colours.

Keep up the amazing work Wayne, food for thought as always.

Jamie GSL, 15th South Shields (St.Peters)
A.K.A: The Cheif Elf - @chiefelftowers

By Chris Suant
on 25/05/2013 00:50

The idea is sound if you treat Scouting as a business.
I believe you are between a 'rock and a hard place' if this is implemented. The comments before me bear this out.
Its a little unfair of you to say that 'there are a small number of Groups and sections we would ideally not refer prospective members to". Those adults in those groups are still giving up their time and either their training wasn't adequate or they have become demotivated for any number of reasons. Hence the need for GSL/district intervention, an Ofscout inpsection will issue an improvemnt notice or worse close it. Is this really the road we go down?
It is a GSL role combined with the exec looking at what each section does i.e. are they doing the progressive programme? Do young people have the opportunity of a residential experience? If the leadership of a particular section(s) were not delivering then members will leave (you can be assured of that)that should send bells ringing to the group exec/GSL to look at what is going on. Not everyone excels, sometimes leaders don't make the right decisions and sometimes they need to be motivated by 'friends'. Having a regimented system of assurance is ideal but I fear may be the undoing of childhoods. I look at when I was ascout and the things we were allowed to do compared to what is allowed now and I sometimes get a little disappointed that we are not stretching young people to become independant. The groups/districts that do really well have large closeknit leadership teams perhaps a review of District/area structure is needed. The RN groups have a financial incentive for their inspections as much as the 'pride' element is espoused, it is an incentive and possibly worthy of the hours that those leaders put in as it is an incredably exacting inspection.
I believe there is no easy answer or package that can please all, but a review is needed of training and is it meeting the need.

By Stuart H
on 26/05/2013 09:38

Agree with the concept. We are good at making excuses why things can't be done. But isn't this exactly what the role of an ADC & ACC should be. Observe, evaluate then coach!

By Keith Gower
on 28/05/2013 10:33

Not sure about Quality Assurance in Scouting. If you're rubbish at what you serve up, quality assurance may only help you to be consistently rubbish and you'll have endless forms and records to prove it. If it gets out of hand, Leaders will leave and they may be some of the best.

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