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Thread: Scouts in schools - I am a long way from convinced.

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    Scouts in schools - I am a long way from convinced.

    Over the last couple of weeks there have been a series of stories in the papers about the success of a new scout group attached to a state school in Bristol. While normally pleased to see the scout movement developing and growing I remain quite sceptical about this and remain to be convinced. Iím not dismissing it out of hand but I do have some question marks over it. I put these comments briefly on a couple of threads in various facebook groups but to mixed reaction. So I thought I'd flesh them out a bit here.

    The Scout movement was started and still exists for informal education, mostly using the outdoors as its classroom. It is there quite specifically to take kids out of the formal, academic setting and let them develop and spread their wings in a more relaxed environment where it is more about being practical and about character than it is what they know. Now in theory that ethos can be used in a school setting but how successful will it be when it is up against a more formal culture?
    For some kids scouts is an escape from school. Iíve had many scouts over the years who have struggled with school. Either academically or with how they behave there. And yet they come to scouts and they fit in, and it works for them. Will they really want to be part of it if it is part of somewhere where they struggle?

    Similarly scouts is about youth leadership. I was once told by another leader who is older and wiser than me that my job as a scout leader was to make myself redundant, to develop the young people to the point where they run the show as much as possible. And that is something I try to do. To the point where my scouts sometimes run their own camps on a Nights Away Passport, without any adults present and with a 14 or 13 year old left in charge. Itís a bit scary doing that, for me and them. The scouts that have done that tell me their teachers are shocked that that ever happens, or that theyíve been let loose with fire or axes or knives. Similarly some have been on school trips to sites that they have already been to as scouts and found that they arenít given even a fraction of the freedom they are used to having. So again I have big concerns that putting scouts into schools will only see all those things run down.

    Oftsed. Put scouts in schools and you get ofsted/government interference. No. No way. Thank you, the end and good night.

    Relationships. I am pretty convinced that one of the reasons behind the global success of the scout movement is the relationship between adult volunteers and the youth members. We are not (for the most part) their parents. We are not teachers. Or police, or social workers or anyone else that has any kind of legal authority. We are quite simply volunteers who choose to do what we do. That relationship is different. It is built 100% on trust. Put that into schools and will it be the same? Again I have my doubts. That isnít to say that kids donít have good relationships with their teachers or the relationship isnít trusting. Of course they do and of course it is. Yet it is still different.

    Iíve lost count of the number of times one of my scouts has wanted to talk to me about difficult subjects. Itís included mental health, bullying, coming out, relationship with their parents. The list goes on. Again Iím not convinced by how those conversations get improved by moving it into a school environment.

    And there's relationships with each other too. Currently I have scouts who go to 8 different schools. State and private. Faith and secular. And we provide a melting pot for kids from all those places to come together. Move a troop into one school and again you risk damaging that.

    Finally there is pressure.

    Kids now are under far more pressure to study and achieve academically than they were when I was their age or even compared to 10 years ago. When I was first a cub leader in the mid 90s the idea that a 9 year old would miss cubs because they had too much or homework or had exams would have been laughed at. Now itís become a regular thing. And as they get older that pressure becomes worse and worse. There is a serious mental health problem among kids today and I am pretty convinced that the pressure they are under at school is part of that. So why take something that helps them escape from that and put it in that pressure cooker? It doesnít make sense to me.

    So there we are. Schools are great. Education is a wonderful thing. Iím not anti schools or anti teachers or anything like that. I seriously considered teaching at one time myself.

    I just think schools and scouting should stay separated for the good of everyone.

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    An interesting debate ...

    It is interesting to note that Scouting in schools is not a new thing. When I was reading up on the history of Scouting in my adopted City I discovered that the very first scout troop in our city was started in the city's boarding school. This was before BP had even started formally registering troops with what was to become TSA. That first troop eventually merged with one of the non-school linked groups that opened many years later.

    I think you always have to consider what is worse; a less than perfect provision that is enabled through a school's extra-ciriculare programme or no provision at all. I agree with many of your concerns about scouting as a 'enrichment' activity within the context of a school environment, but I do not think that it a threat to the 'traditional' model of scouting. Where there are thriving local Scout Groups they will, I think, always provide a better quality of experience.

    But, if you are faced with trying to spark an interest in Scouting in communities where it has lagely faded away, the Schools might provide an infrastructure and focus to get things started again. Once there there is some scouting going on, it is more likely that non-school groups might get off the ground in the future.

    But then, I am a 'glass half full' kind of person.

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    GSL/ESL(YL)/TA Mark W's Avatar
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    I don't see the problem. What you seem to infer is that teaching staff will make poor section leaders, incapable of running a quality scouting programme if it takes place using a school as a venue. I don't think that's true nor do I think you believe that to be the case. Using a school as a venue works for us, good indoors, outdoors and IT facilities. Can teachers deliver Scouting? yes, even if you occasionally need to release them from LEA constraints and push excitement without danger, adventure without hazard. Is the programme any different in schools? Eh, no, just use the quality programme checker, it's just Scouting after all. Does it matter if the scouts don't go home and have a distinct break from finishing lessons before starting scouting? Don't believe so, but I have no evidence. Does it matter that all the scouts come from the same school? Perhaps that's an issue, but they are drawn from across several age ranges, across years that don't mix routinely for lessons, so you get a mingling. How many schools does a section draw from normally, perhaps 2-3. Is OFSTED an issue? Get real, no. Scouting is not part of the educational syllabus. OFSTED is irrelevant.
    I see no difficulties, in practice, with running Scouting in day schools or boarding schools.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark W View Post
    I don't see the problem. What you seem to infer is that teaching staff will make poor section leaders, incapable of running a quality scouting programme if it takes place using a school as a venue. .
    Hmmm...

    I didn't take that from the OP's post at all, what I understood was - the constraints within schools might make the tone of the scouting offered slightly different - about which, I'd probably agree.

    School is statutory, Scouts isn't - so it is different. That said, I don't really see a problem with it, it'll just be slightly different, maybe.

    To be honest, there's already so much variety in terms tone and ethos in existing scout groups, adding a school-based troop into the mix probably won't be that out there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CambridgeSkip View Post

    Relationships. I am pretty convinced that one of the reasons behind the global success of the scout movement is the relationship between adult volunteers and the youth members. We are not (for the most part) their parents. We are not teachers. Or police, or social workers or anyone else that has any kind of legal authority. We are quite simply volunteers who choose to do what we do. That relationship is different. It is built 100% on trust. Put that into schools and will it be the same? Again I have my doubts. That isn’t to say that kids don’t have good relationships with their teachers or the relationship isn’t trusting. Of course they do and of course it is. Yet it is still different.

    I’ve lost count of the number of times one of my scouts has wanted to talk to me about difficult subjects. It’s included mental health, bullying, coming out, relationship with their parents. The list goes on. Again I’m not convinced by how those conversations get improved by moving it into a school environment.
    I think that is a very good point. I spent five years in a school Troop and I had a great time.

    My Scout Leader was a senior member of staff. Twenty five years or so later I met up with him at a County function and we spent a fair amount of the evening chatting. I think it was the first time that I was able to regard him as a peer and not as my teacher!

    The relationships are different. I remember having to see the headmaster because my father had sent a letter saying that he did not want me to attend the annual church parade because of an important family event.

    Although I really enjoyed my time in the Troop I often wonder if I should have stayed in my original Group - where I had been a Wolf Cub - and to which I eventually rejoined. I would have had a second set of friends etc.

    At the same time I realise that we have school Scouting where it has been difficult to establish "ordinary Scouting" and I think that this is a different situation.

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    Senior Member CambridgeSkip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pa_broon74 View Post
    Hmmm...

    I didn't take that from the OP's post at all, what I understood was - the constraints within schools might make the tone of the scouting offered slightly different - about which, I'd probably agree.
    Thank you, that paraphrases things well. Albeit I would replace "slightly" with "very".

    As it happens I know several very good scouters who are also teachers but they all make the point of working and volunteering in different catchment areas.

    I would also re emphasise that it is not the venue itself that is the problem in my eyes. I know of several groups that meet at schools. The issue is young people viewing scouts as part of school, once that mental jump is made I see it as potentially damaging.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark W View Post
    I don't see the problem. What you seem to infer is that teaching staff will make poor section leaders, incapable of running a quality scouting programme if it takes place using a school as a venue. I don't think that's true nor do I think you believe that to be the case. Using a school as a venue works for us, good indoors, outdoors and IT facilities. Can teachers deliver Scouting? yes, even if you occasionally need to release them from LEA constraints and push excitement without danger, adventure without hazard. Is the programme any different in schools? Eh, no, just use the quality programme checker, it's just Scouting after all. Does it matter if the scouts don't go home and have a distinct break from finishing lessons before starting scouting? Don't believe so, but I have no evidence. Does it matter that all the scouts come from the same school? Perhaps that's an issue, but they are drawn from across several age ranges, across years that don't mix routinely for lessons, so you get a mingling. How many schools does a section draw from normally, perhaps 2-3. Is OFSTED an issue? Get real, no. Scouting is not part of the educational syllabus. OFSTED is irrelevant.
    I see no difficulties, in practice, with running Scouting in day schools or boarding schools.
    As pe rmy reply to Pa Broon that is not what I am saying.

    My point is not that teachers can't make good scouters. My point is that once you link scouts with being part of school in the minds of young people then you risk it inherently changes something in the mind set of those young people, and not for the better.

    And then when it comes to the practicalities schools are far more risk averse than scout groups are. I reckon you can forget nights away passports, unaccompanied expeditions, pocket knives etc.

    And as for Ofsted, just watch. As soon as scouting is anyway suported by the funds or resources of the education system they will start getting involved, because that is how government works. For better or worse public sector spending has to be justified and a little way down the line we'll suddenly find school run (as opposed to based) scout groups will have to justify everything they do and will be marked accordingly.

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    Like SteveF I also spent several years in a school Troop; in my case in an east London grammar school in the 1970s - so this is nothing new.
    The two Leaders I remember were not teachers at the School - we had access to some great facilities (outdoor swimming pool, onsite equipment storage, small onsite woodland) and the leaders ran adventurous greenfield summer camps (and this was the main reason I became a Leader when my oldest boys joined Cubs). However they got little encouragement from the Headteacher at the time and it folded two years after I left school.
    So any school Pack or Troop will continue to need a level of encouragement & support from senior school staff - I doubt this will always be forthcoming.
    That said I wish the new group every success.
    ďA week of camp life is worth six months of theoretical teaching in the meeting room.Ē Baden-Powell

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    Quote Originally Posted by CambridgeSkip View Post

    I just think schools and scouting should stay separated for the good of everyone.
    This.
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    Quote Originally Posted by pa_broon74 View Post
    Hmmm...

    School is statutory, Scouts isn't - so it is different. .
    Schools are not statutory, education is - I had several home schooled and school excluded cubs in my pack over the years. A school based scout group would never pick these kids up.

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    IMHO:

    Scout Groups based in schools = fine.

    Scout Groups as part of a school = not fine.
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    I saw a video clip of this somewhere, and yes, they definitely need to loosen up on their risk assessment. That and they've gone overboard on the skills for life stuff, I mean, I know, that's what they were doing when they filmed it, and the next week they might be doing something else, but ironing button sewing and boiling an egg*? And there's the small matter that they meet straight after school and the kids are all in their school uniform still. Can't see capture the flag in the local woods v smart school uniform being popular with the parents.

    * This was where I had a real issue, the film showed the teacher lowering an egg into the pan, with one of those pasta serving spoons, wearing protective latex gloves, and possibly protective goggles, like its some rare science experiment. Now, on that facebook, this was mentioned, and the GSL or leader replied saying that's what their risk assessment decided, and anyway, all the kids did it after, but my pertinent question is did the kids wear goggles and gloves? I mean, if so, that's definitely in my mind an over the top risk assessment.

    But fair play, that's another 100 scouts, or something, and is that really a bad thing? Truth be told, looking at the group, it's giving something for the good kids to do for a bit one day after school, but again, is that really a bad thing?
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    Quote Originally Posted by ASLChris View Post
    IMHO:

    Scout Groups based in schools = fine.

    Scout Groups as part of a school = not fine.
    Local experience. A scout group set up in a school, supported by it, half the leaders are teachers, half parents, meetings running after lessons finished. Absolutely fine. Programme compares with the best in district, numbers good, ethos and atmosphere good. So have no issue.

    I think there's a snobbery in Scout leaders that they are somehow different because they are not in the compulsory education system. In fact many leaders have it very easy in comparison to teachers, not having the same educational and training requirements and dealing with children who (generally but not always) want to be there from the easiest and most supported. So I think the best teachers have an experience and capability way ahead of most leaders and are well capable of having a relationship with children which can drive and engage to educate (which is what we're about is it not?) as well as turning that off to be friendly when required. Those who have been on school vocational trips can see that in spades.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bernwood View Post
    Schools are not statutory, education is - I had several home schooled and school excluded cubs in my pack over the years. A school based scout group would never pick these kids up.
    Ummm... That's what I meant. School also means to educate, ergo education is statutory.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RisingStar View Post
    Local experience. A scout group set up in a school, supported by it, half the leaders are teachers, half parents, meetings running after lessons finished. Absolutely fine. Programme compares with the best in district, numbers good, ethos and atmosphere good. So have no issue.

    I think there's a snobbery in Scout leaders that they are somehow different because they are not in the compulsory education system. In fact many leaders have it very easy in comparison to teachers, not having the same educational and training requirements and dealing with children who (generally but not always) want to be there from the easiest and most supported. So I think the best teachers have an experience and capability way ahead of most leaders and are well capable of having a relationship with children which can drive and engage to educate (which is what we're about is it not?) as well as turning that off to be friendly when required. Those who have been on school vocational trips can see that in spades.
    But your teacher is your teacher. You cannot have a different relationship in Scouts than in school.

    Teachers obviously have a great deal of experince dealing with YP, but in a very different context. There are different skills involved in being a Scout Leader and beign a teacher; clearly transferable, but a good teacher is not necessarily a good scout lead, and vice versa!
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    Quote Originally Posted by ASLChris View Post
    But your teacher is your teacher. You cannot have a different relationship in Scouts than in school.
    ........
    Of course you can. The SL is called "Sir" in lessons and "Geoff" outside and quite a different relationship. Several (4 at least), of our district's leaders are teachers in working life and lead the same children in the evening and at weekends that they teach during the day, in the school group they just happen to be at the same location. I wouldn't dream of suggesting those leaders who happen to be teachers are any worse for it - quite the opposite in fact.

    I agree about a good SL not necessarily being a good teacher or vice versa - however I think the training, experience and breadth of children that a teacher will experience probably makes them much better equipped to understand YP and on average will tip the balance their way. ps - I am not a teacher, not do I have any in my family, however I have the greatest admiration for them.

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