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Thread: Is Scouting risk-averse?

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    Is Scouting risk-averse?

    In broad terms, we're supposed to be an organisation that offers adventurous activities - but are we at an intrinsic level, risk-averse - or, are we just reacting to societal trends?

    Are those trends healthy and/or reasonable? And are they good for society as a whole given the kids growing up in it will be the adults creating society going forward?

    Discuss.


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    Senior Member big chris's Avatar
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    I find that leaders who are new to the movement are more risk averse than those of us who came through the youth sections.

    To be fair, it takes a lot of confidence to give a 10 year old an axe, access to a fire, the freedom to cook their own food without direct supervision, go off on a hike without an adult etc etc.

    Compare a scout trip to the seaside to a primary school trip. We set 10 year olds off with a tenner in their pocket, instructions to stay in their groups and to be back in 2 hours. Then we stroll the promenade, eat ice cream, keep a general eye out but wow it is different to a school trip. It is hard to teach that to new leaders if the culture of freedom and trust is not already there.

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    I think there are things I wouldn't do now that I recall doing as a Scout (firing flaming arrows off the top of Little Solsbury being one!) but I don't think there's a lot. On the other hand I hope we do a lot more inventive exciting stuff and maybe less routine knots etc that seemed disconnected from a purpose. We do teach knots but more in a "here's a knot, learn to tie it, now use it to do X", similarly with maps - learn how to read this map because we're going out and using it next week.

    Part of it is about creating an expectation - if parents within a group expect their kids to be off getting dirty, coming home with grazes etc then they'll be fine with it. If they expect the kids to be sat around doing worksheets, then they probably will startle at the prospect of them lighting their own fires etc. That expectation will come from the kids going home and saying (as hopefully my cubs did last night) "We were outside and cooking pizzas on the fire" which will prompt more curiosity about how you cook a pizza on an open fire than how we stopped them getting burned etc. You also then get a herd mentality - parent 1 is a bit nervous about something their kid has come home and said we're doing next week, mentions this to parent 2 who's been around a bit longer and gets "Yeah they do lots of stuff like that - no-one ever seems to get hurt and the kids love it".
    Does anyone know what's going on?

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    ESL and DESC ianw's Avatar
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    Yeah, much less risk adverse than the general public, you tell them you took 20 teenagers camping weekend, or 40 away for the week, or host 400 or so, and they look pretty aghast as the possibilities whirl through their head.

    Give 'em some free time in town, see what they get pierced. That's what I say.
    Ian Wilkins
    Farnham District Explorer Scout Commissioner

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    GSL & AESL shiftypete's Avatar
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    I agree with Chris and its one of the reasons that in our Group we aren't all that keen on having parents as Leaders espeically at Scout age and above. We are lucky that we have a lot of Leaders in the Group that came through Scouting either in our Group or others so they get what Scouting is about and have the expectation that Scouting should be offering some (managed) risk and that Scouts shoould be doing stuff with fires, sharp things and without too much adult supervision. Our Scouts regulalry get given free time in local villages and towns whilst on our camps with minial adult supervision, I can only think of a couple of times when this has caused us any issue and they were all minor just Scouts getting slightly lost and/or being late.

    Even saying that though we still don't manage to give the Scouts as much freedom as some Troops, we have never done a passported camp for Scouts for example (when I was in the Troop there were the odd Patrol camps run by PLs but that was in that day of 15 year old PLs)

    Peter Andrews ESL of Headingley Pirates ESU, Group Scout Leader & Webmaster of Falkoner Scout Group
    www.falkonerscouts.org.uk

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    Please note all views expressed are my own and not those of any organisation I'm associated with

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    When I started the thread, I had in my head the notion that we were quite risk averse - but the comments above have changed my mind somewhat about that. I think perhaps I wasn't putting what we do in context with the rest of what goes on.

    I'd also agree with Mang, there are things I did as a scout, and as a leader from fifteen or twenty years ago that I wouldn't do now. But, to put that in some perspective, our accident rate/trips to A&E haven't changed - in which regard, while I think we have become more cautious, where we are, it may have lowered the risks, but it's no less safe than it ever was... I think that might be right? Or wrong?

    (We have a bit of paper - I think from a Beaver Section fact sheet about risk versus hazard. It puts the difference between the two quite elegantly, but I can't remember how it goes exactly. Something about teaching kids to measure risk so they can avoid hazard. Does how we regard risk, match the hazards that exist?)

    To widen it out, do the protectionist rules* we have now, mean we are able to do less than we used to? And do they actually put us at more risk due to their very existence given the constraints we have as a voluntary organisation?


    * That might be emotive language, it's not meant to be. But over the past few years the rules have changed (and totally rightly so in places). Given the rarity of what those rules are meant to address, I thought I'd ask what people thought about the balance in that area.

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    GSL & AESL shiftypete's Avatar
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    I do mentally have to stop myself from stopping the Scouts doing exactly the same kind of stuff I used to do as a Scout.

    Peter Andrews ESL of Headingley Pirates ESU, Group Scout Leader & Webmaster of Falkoner Scout Group
    www.falkonerscouts.org.uk

    Previous Scouting Roles
    2003 - 2013 ABSL
    2017-2018 AGSL

    Wike, North Leeds District Campsite - www.wikecampsite.org.uk
    www.leeds-solar.co.uk
    Please note all views expressed are my own and not those of any organisation I'm associated with

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    Senior Member Shaun's Avatar
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    I would say, from my experience, that "we take less risks" but we are no more "risk-averse".

    Obviously the age changes have made a difference to Scouts since the days that I was a yoof. Taking that into account, I do not think that the activities we provide are any less adventurous.

    However, I do recall my leaders at the time just not thinking about the risks that they were running. Things like building rope bridges without any real thought about the state of the ropes etc. as well as the entire leadership team on Scout camp routinely being pissed by midnight. Not to mention the lethal vehicles that we were transported in.

    We now have a culture of assessing risk before we take it. Sometimes that can lead to us deciding not to do something that our predecessors would have pressed on with because they had not stopped to think about it. And sometimes it leads to those that have a lower threshold of acceptable risk not doing things that others would think are acceptable.


    I have no idea what the overal stats would tell us about accident rates for the 6 - 19 year olds during time spent in Scouting over the past 30 years - it would be very interesting to know. What you can look at is the injury rates in industry over time, which is at least a proxy measure as industry has followed the same sort of path in terms of risk assessment http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/history/index.htm. These show a clear downward trend in accidents and injuries. I am not say that this justifies the 'risk-management' approach, but it is the only data point I have been able to find in my 10 minute Google.

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    To be fair the main reason I wouldn't fire flaming arrows off the top of Little Solsbury now is not because of the risks to the Scouts but because I'm not sure that its acceptable to fire flaming projectiles towards possibly unsuspecting wildlife, and that if we did and got spotted, the risk of loads of paperwork is enough to put me off the idea. (Plus water rockets weren't a thing back then and are far more fun/portable etc).

    It can be quite interesting at times - we were doing some Christmas decorations back in December which involved painting a design on a wood disc, drilling a hole and threading some string through to make a Christmas tree hanger. I figured a big power drill would be hard for the Cubs to handle so I took my mini drill (think Dremel but not that brand) along. Nearly all the Cubs were very wary of doing the drilling even under close supervision - some just wouldn't do it and had a leader do it instead. It sort of makes you wonder what perceptions they've built up over their 9 years to make them so sure that even a tiny drill is too dangerous for them to use. Maybe though its my perceptions that are warped in letting my kids do stuff - my 13 year old used the very same drill to make hundreds of holes in a design for his school project. I wasn't even in the room for a fair bit of that!
    Does anyone know what's going on?

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    Senior Member Bushfella's Avatar
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    I find that there is a risk averseness, and often it is misplaced through lack of understanding.

    Let's take firespinning - basic contact staff with fire. Scares the bejessus out of a lot of people when they see kids playing with firestaff. But,how dangerous is it really?

    Risk of severe burns - wearn non flammable clothing, or very little clothing(!). Spin off excess fuel (parafin) before lighting. Don't dick about ( which applies to all fires).

    Holding the staff ni the centre and operating it properly, the balls of fire come nowhere near the individual - in the event of a momentary contact, it does not burn - note, I wrote momentary.

    Why do it? It is cool. It teaches motor skills. It develops concentration. It helps overcome fear.

    I had kids asking for campfires. We ran a campfire, they scavenged sticks and put them in the fire. They had a fantastic time. The following week, we lost four kids because we exposed them to an unreasonable risk.

    We run a number of activities where the RA starts off with risk of fatality or serious injury, which we mitigate by procedure and protection. Does that make us risk averse? I don't think so. But, and this goes back to THAT thread, if we bend or break the rules and something goe wrong, then we can expect to pay the price. So, YOU guys without permits cannot do a lot of stuff, but there is no law that says a voluntary youth Leader cannot take a group of 7 year olds up Kinder Scout without a qualification. I know, because one group proposed this, I questioned it and the AALA gave a difinitve answer - no qualifications required, but a duty of care is expected.

    I like the idea of flaming projectiles, but my exec banned me from doing it...
    Ewan Scott

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    Every summer a couple of us do a day of Scouting-type stuff for a group of kids from a local special school. After archery in the morning, then chopping wood and whittling feather sticks for kindling for the fires one of the kids said, "I don't know what my mum will say when I tell her I've been trusted with a bow and arrow, and an axe, and a knife, and matches." I didn't get to hear what mum said but the school has asked if we can take some groups again this summer.

    Oh and kids up from Beavers sometimes tell us that they're not allowed to play with matches. But they're reassured when we explain that we're not 'playing' we're practicing with matches.
    John Russell
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    The unpaid help ASLChris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bushfella View Post

    I like the idea of flaming projectiles, but my exec banned me from doing it...
    Surely that's a Scouting and not an Exec decision though...
    Chris Hawes, District Media Manager, Watford North Scout District and Watford Scouts; Group Treasurer and Webmaster, 9th North Watford Scout Group.
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    Senior Member Bushfella's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ASLChris View Post
    Surely that's a Scouting and not an Exec decision though...
    Oh don't...

    To be fair, the only member of the Exec who didn't help at the time was the Treasurer, the rest were all leaders or helpers... so, essentialy a Leadership decision. No point in biting the hand...
    Ewan Scott

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    Yes, I've got the T-shirt Sparkgap's Avatar
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    Last night we had pioneering practice and ended up with 15 scouts balanced on a tripod! I won't say we're risk averse but I take the view that I wouldn't let them do something I wouldn't do myself*, hence myself and another leader** swinging on the thing with several scouts beforehand just to check the lashings were right

    * unless it involves heights
    ** we are NOT small people!!!
    Andy
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