The Young Leader scheme was introduced in 2002 as part of the UK Scout Association Programme Review.
Graham Haddock, National Explorer Scout Leader tells us.
"Since then '2002',
The YL scheme has been an unparalleled success",
Yet does the scheme live up to it's plaudits?
Lets have your say!
What is a Young Leader ?
A Young Leader 'YL' is an Explorer Scout (aged 14 to 18 years old) who helps with one of the younger sections such as Beavers, Cubs or Scouts. The scheme is similar to 'Girl Guiding UK' Young Leader scheme. The key difference is that an Explorer YL is encouraged to take part in any activities organised by their Group/Unit as well as work with one or other of the sections within a different Group. Where as a Guide Young Leader no longer participates as a Guide within her Group.
As a Young leader the program enables Explorers to complete the Community service part of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme, which is a mainstay within the Association.
What is the Young Leader Training ?
The YL scheme has two conditions: before starting with another section, they should have completed the training.
1. 'Module A- Prepare for Takeoff'
2. work with another Scout Group not their own.
The compulsory 'Module A' dealing with Method and Purpose of Scouting, Child Protection, and an introduction to Policy, Organisation and Rules, is little more than common sense, combined with form-filling.
The YL Training Scheme has 10 modules ranging from 'Module A - Prepare for Take off' - 'Module I - What did they say', plus a 'First Aid module'.
Yet several modules are essentially patronising such as 'Module E - Game on', which is all about the various games you can play and 'Module I - Learn how to communicate'. With some of the training activities, like role playing as a Beaver that can be rather a disenchanting prospect for any Explorer.
These conditions seem to make things impractical for many Explorers :
A reluctance to leave their Home Scout Group. (Youngsters often find it difficult to go where they don't know anyone).
The prospect of sometimes having to travel long distances. (Especially in rural / country side areas)
The idea of a youngster being out of the family home for sometimes up two, three nights a week would have some parents complaining. (especially in the Summer when many activities cover weekends as well as week nights)
Not to discount, (Those youngsters who are not willing to move from their groups)
Would they want to give this time? (To give that amount of time in the first place)
The possibility that the Explorer, (Will over ride the responsibility and respect of the Patrol Leader, thus marginalised them and the patrol Leader may drift away from the Troop and Scouting as a whole)
An experienced Explorer treated the same as someone who has just joined the Association. (The Training scheme is fundamentally flawed in that it doesn't recognise prior achievement, training or indeed any knowledge of the Scout Association)
Younger scouts are going to look up to an older role model, this has been implicitly acknowledged by the Scout Association, in the Nights Away file it comments that 'Scouts find talking to a Young Leader, as a person nearer their age-group, easier than talking to an adult leader'.
Whereas for Scout leaders there is an inevitable temptation to let YL's take full responsibility for the Scouts.
All YL's need to have clearly-defined roles that do not impact on the Patrol leader's responsibilities and cannot put them in the position of taking on to expansive a role as a leader in the Troop or Group..
Ironically just 20 years ago, the Scout Association warned about the temptation for Scout leaders, to let Venture Scout helpers become 'overgrown Patrol Leaders & Assistant Scout Leaders'. With Scout leaders (Especially badly trained ones) there is an inevitable temptation to let YL's organise and run the Scout Troop
Having young leaders is great, however
Whilst having a Young Leader around would be helpful in the Beaver section, if not the Cub section, the lose of a young leader form the Troop, has serious implications for the Scout section. Patrol Leaders are likely to disappear as they will move on to become Explorers, where the Explorer from another Group comes into a new Troop,
The young Patrol Leader is likely to be marginalised by the host Explorer/Young Leader.
Only if a YL has a clearly-defined role that doesn't impact on the Patrol leader's responsibilities - e.g. Assistant, Quartermaster or indeed a roll specific to the tasks at hand, will it avoid distortion of, if not the destruction of the Patrol System.
Training for all
The rather artificial distinction between the YL scheme and the rest of the Explorer programme should be changed.
All Explorer scouts, rather than a select few, should be encouraged to develop leadership skills.
It should be recognised that learning is an ongoing process, rather than the product of a few modules.
Many Explorer Scouts are keen to help with other sections, as and when necessary; e.g. Erecting the tents for a Cub Camp, Setting up events for the District and local events for the public, yet may not want to turn up every week.
Some Explorers prefer to work as part of a service crew, yet this is not acknowledged within the YL scheme.
Whilst the ideas within the scheme are fine, it's actual method of delivery could be changed. Elements of the scheme which Leaders might not feel they know enough about, such as Special Needs, differing Cultures etc. could be incorporated into an Explorer handbook.
Could the scheme be Trimmed?
It would seem that the scheme could easily be trimmed back to four modules, covering the basics for new Explorers. Whilst those who have moved up from Scouts might find just the Program-planning, First Aid and form filling procedure aspects relevant.
Role behind Leadership Traini
Whilst the idea behind the Young Leader scheme is wholly admirable- enabling Explorers to develop Leadership skills and hopefully stay on as adult leaders.
The actual scheme has potentially far reaching and damaging consequences for Scout Troops in the future.
It also shows some inconsistencies, whilst Explorers are supposed to help create programs for other sections, under the 'Programme Review' it is up to Explorer Scout leaders to design a programme for the unit.
Enabling Explorer Scouts to run their own units, rather like Venture scouts did, this could be a way forward.
The YL scheme is merely part of a general trend within society, 'The qualification syndrome'. Increasingly it seems that for anything to be worthwhile it must be formally examined.
Under these circumstances, it's fortunate that a written test wasn't included in the YL scheme
Girl Guiding UK policy on Young Leadership
In contrast the Girl Guiding UK policy on Young Leaders is far more flexible, it is optional as to whether Young Leaders have to do any formal training.
The Guide training scheme 'Making it Count!' is much simpler consisting of just three sections-
'Me as a Leader'
'Leadership in Guiding'.
Within these sections there are various challenges
Five challenges may be covered from the 'Me' section
Six from the 'Me as a Leader' section
Nine from the 'Leadership in guiding section'.
Then progress onto the Leadership qualification of Girl guiding UK. This approach is more appropriate, allowing training to be incorporated within the unit programme, rather than a separate activity. It also enables a smooth progression from being a Young Leader to an adult leader, whereas the Scout Association policy is still unclear.
At present approximately a fifth of Explorer Scouts are Young Leaders, i.e. around 5000; whereas there are 13,501 Guide Young Leaders.
Considering there are approximately 8000 Scout groups in the UK, most Scout Groups will have probably had at least one young leader as part of the Leadership team.
The Training Scheme seems more like an opportunity to indoctrinate Explorers into the Gilwell/Headquarters - approved method of Scouting, rather than helping Explorers develop leadership skills
Girl Guiding UK Annual Review 2003 http://www.girlguiding.org.uk
Scouting Magazine, Explorer Scout Supplement April/May 2005