Blog | Changing lives through Scouting in schools
Scouting should work more closely with formal education, says Kate Crawford.
As the Head Teacher of Horizon Primary Academy in Kent, I have seen issues such as poor mental health, caring responsibilities and financial struggles affect many of the students at my school and their families, and there are often few positive models for young people to look up to. Outside of school, I’ve seen that young people often have few opportunities to learn and socialise - plugging themselves into an Xbox or iPad as soon as they get home and shutting themselves off from the rest of the world.
Our school has taken steps to address some of these struggles facing young people face in today’s society by offering Scouting during the school day.
Resilience and character skills
I’ve begun to feel that the education system isn’t set up to encourage resilience and character skills anymore: testing and league tables dominate teachers’ time and learners’ experiences. Several years ago, when we were thinking about setting up Scouting in our school, I became frustrated with the lack of character skills in our students. Very few engaged in non-formal education of any kind – in fact, only three children in whole school participated in Beavers or Cubs.
I am an outdoor person and have seen the incredible impact that just getting outside and participating in challenging activities can have on older students. As Baden-Powell said: ‘A week of camp life is worth six months of theoretical teaching in the meeting room.’ I wanted to give the young people at my school the chance to learn the character skills that come about through challenging yourself.
Scouting at school
I am now the very proud Group Scout Leader of 4th Swanley Horizon Scout Group. The whole school is involved, and we have 170 Beavers and Cubs taking part in Scouting every Friday afternoon.
It has been transformational for the school and the children for a number of reasons. Hard-to-reach students have been engaged by the activities, which are different to what they would normally do at school. Attendance is up over all, detentions and behaviour incidents are down, and our academic results have been well above the national average since we started Scouting.
Scouting is now embedded into the school’s ethos and values, and, as such, the students feel they are really buying into the values and membership of both the school and the wider Scouting community.
We’ve also seen the confidence and self-esteem of the students increase, and this positive change has transferred into the classroom and beyond – possibly even into their own, sometimes difficult and troubled, lives at home. Collaboration and teamwork is better now, and pupils and teachers see each other in a completely different light – as part of the same team, working towards a common goal.
Getting outdoors is such an important element of Scouting, and over the last two years, our students have participated in five camps - some on our own, and others with the support of the District and County.
I am absolutely confident that Scouting has the ability to change the lives of even the most disadvantaged children in our society, because I have seen it happen first-hand in my school. But to make sure it happens, we must reach out and offer it up. Young people don’t know what they’re missing out on until they’ve tried it, so giving them that first opportunity is vital.
I believe that the formal education system and Scouting can benefit from a partnership that will move us forward together into the 21st century. Then, we will truly be able to say that there is ‘Scouting for All’.
The Scout Association (TSA) is now planning Scouting’s future beyond 2018, thinking about priorities, the work we wish to continue and any new areas where we can make a difference, all to answer the question: how can we improve the life chances of young people and better support our volunteers?
This piece is part of a series of contributions intended to stimulate discussion and debate as we create a new strategic plan for Scouting between 2018-2023. In early August, we will release a toolkit to support consultation on a District and Group level, with views being fed back nationally. Make sure you’ve made time at a County or District level to take part in September or October.