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Cambridgeskip

Scouts in schools in the UK

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Over the last couple of weeks over here in the UK 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.  So this means a scout group run as part of the school as opposed to a scout troop that rents space in the evening. While normally pleased to see the scout movement developing and growing I remain quite sceptical about this and remain to be convinced. I’m 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. While I know you folks are in the states I was curious about how you would view this and what similarities or differences you see.

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. I’ve 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. It’s 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 they’ve 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 aren’t 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 (the branch of government here that inspects standards in state schools). 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 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.

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.

I don't know what it's like your side of the Atlantic but here 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 homework or had exams would have been laughed at. Now it’s 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 doesn’t make sense to me.

So there we are. Schools are great. Education is a wonderful thing. I’m 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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We used to have a program that sounds very similar to what you are talking about.  It was called In-School Scouting.  There were designated In-School units. My troop started out as an In-School Boy Scout Troop, but morphed into a traditional troop when BSA dropped the In-School program.

As with Lone Scouting, the In-School Scouting program got little support from the execs who didn't like the program.

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7 hours ago, Cambridgeskip said:

 

Finally there is pressure.


I don't know what it's like your side of the Atlantic but here 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 homework or had exams would have been laughed at. Now it’s 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 doesn’t make sense to me.
 

Perhaps this is true if you grew up with the lax standards of the 80's or 90's. Not so if you grew up in the 60's or earlier. We had a more rigorous curriculum and much stricter behavior expectations. So did Scouting.

In order to have any less pressure put on them, my students would have to be sound asleep.

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8 hours ago, Cambridgeskip said:

 

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.

 

BSA prohibits many of these conversations. 

This is where an In-School unit had an advantage over the traditional unit. I am a Health teacher. Since it was part of the school curriculum, I was allowed to discuss any Health class topic with my In-School scouts. 

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9 hours ago, Cambridgeskip said:


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. 

 

That is what In-School Scouting was all about. It wasn't about bringing scouting indoors. It was about taking education outside. 

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'Skip, now that I think of it, when I was rooming with Brits in the 80's, they didn't seem to have many recollections of school teachers. Not sure if that's changed, but from your description, it sounds like it hasn't much.

On the other hand, here many of us Yanks feel very tight bonds with several of our school teachers. One or two of my teachers were merit badge counselors, so scouting interactions after school increased those bonds. Another teacher inspired me to get more into backpacking. Scouts often invite teachers to speak at their Eagle courts of honor. So, even in the face of restrictions in our public schools, there has been a fairly strong synergy between scouts and schools.

That said, I share your concerns that centering a troop around a school might not provide the change-of-pace that some youth need.

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Seems like a reasonable lists of concerns to me.  Then again, my default answer to the question "Should the government...." is a resounding NO.  

Are the leaders of the new Scout group also employees of the school?  Are they being reimbursed, or receiving some other benefit, for their work with the group?  What will happen when there is a clash between the culture of the state and the culture of scouting?  I think I'd remain very skeptical.

I am glad to hear Scouts UK can still camp on their own without adult supervision.

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As usual, it probably depends more on the adults running it. If they read what you wrote and say "huh?" you've got a problem. If they say "we were scouts and we loved it and we're hoping to apply youth led to learning history and science" then I'd say give it a try. Who knows, maybe they'll come up with a fun way of learning way too many centuries of history. My teachers could take fascinating history and turn it into a bore because all they cared about was how much material they covered how efficiently.

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