New year, new funding, and how our Skills for Life strategy will support both young people and adult volunteers
By Tim Kidd, UK Chief Commissioner
As we step into the new year, I already know what my resolution will be: to see that the exciting ideas we set out in our strategy become a reality. It’s about keeping our promises and being as focused as possible when it comes to delivering the plan.
Seven months on since we launched Skills for Life, our strategy to 2023, and time has sped by. So much good work has happened since, both locally and nationally. I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the concerted efforts that have taken place in such a short space of time and as you will see, how close we are to seeing the benefits.
To me, there’s a feeling of momentum in our movement as strong as anything I can remember. Our new strategy, brand and identity have given us an urgency and renewed sense of purpose. All of us are working towards that single inspiring goal of preparing more young people with skills for life. At the same time, we’re dedicated as a team to making Scouts easier and more enjoyable for us all to deliver.
New funding; real benefits
As we enter 2019, we’ve received another significant boost. The government has announced £1.4million of funding to accelerate the delivery of three key parts of our plan: extending our reach, programme planning, and piloting Scouts for four and five-year-olds. These announcements will result in real benefits.
Bringing our plan to life
Thanks to new YUF (Youth United Foundation) funding announced this week, we’ll be delivering the Scouts Programme to more young people in deprived areas. Within a year, we’ll also see better support that will make planning easier and take less time. You’ll remember that in November 2018 we announced that we would also begin pilots to discover how we can support younger people (aged four and five) at this important and formative stage of their lives.
In just a short period of time, the initiatives we talked about are really taking shape. As we move from planning to delivery, we can ask ourselves, ‘What will these benefits look like?’
Expanding our reach
We made significant progress expanding our reach during the delivery of our previous plan, Scouting for All. We’ll continue this over the next five years and hope to see Scouts in 500 more areas of deprivation, providing skills and life-changing opportunities to the young people who need them most.
The new YUF funding announced this week is a huge step forward, and means we’ll be able to start even more new provision. We’ll be building on our work with disadvantaged young people by opening new sections in the top 35% IMD (Index of Multiple Deprivation) areas and areas of child income deprivation. The aim is to provide Scouts within easy walking distance of these areas and where there are good local transport links – easy access is everything. We know that a positive experience of Scouts can increase wellbeing, engagement and achievement in school, as well as reduce anxiety and loneliness.
This also means we can extend our reach further into underrepresented areas, especially black and minority ethnic communities, helping us better reflect our communities. With our experience and successful track record, Scouts has a huge role to play in creating a fairer society with opportunities for all. There could not be more important work for us.
Easier programme planning
By summer 2019, Cub Scout leaders will have high quality, off the shelf programme material. We’ll be taking all the learning from this and providing similar support for Beavers next, then Scouts.
We’re also developing an online digital planning tool (I’ve seen the plans and they’re really good!) that will make programme planning much easier. This will make it easier to share activities and resources. This will particularly support new volunteers but also reduce planning time for those who are more experienced, with the key aim of helping young people achieve their top award.
When we start trialling this new resource, we’ll be taking it one step at a time and at each step, will take your feedback on board before adding more functionality. Your input will be vital for making this as good as it can possibly be.
This development is moving at pace, and we’ve now got the people in place to accelerate this work. If you have some brilliant programme ideas for Cubs, please don’t hold back - submit them using this form.
Piloting Scouts for younger children
The announcement of a pilot scheme to trial Scouts for four and five-year-olds is equally exciting. This was made possible by funding from the Department for Education and is the start of a journey of discovery for us as a movement as much as for the young people who take part in the scheme. This money covers only England, but we are working hard to find sources of funding to enable us to carry out pilots in the nations too.
The science suggests that working with children at this highly formative stage can have a hugely positive impact in later life. It’s when key skills form. As a movement with over a hundred years’ experience of non-formal education, therefore we believe we could be well placed to make an even greater impact in young people’s lives – especially in the areas of deprivation where we’ll focus the pilots. However let’s not run before we can walk. Any long term decision will be subject to careful assessment of the evidence gathered during the course of the pilots.
One crucial point is around volunteering. When we announced this I know some of our volunteers had legitimate concerns that we won’t be able to attract enough volunteers to support younger children if early years Scouts extends beyond the pilots. The encouraging news is that similar schemes in other countries have seen adults new to Scouts join the movement. More significantly, the evidence suggests they will stay. In the US’ Lions scheme, for example, three-quarters of new parents went on to become volunteers.
Just to be clear, this isn’t a section launch and this is a genuine pilot – nothing is set in stone or guaranteed to move ahead. The most important thing for us is to listen carefully and keep an open mind throughout. Naturally, we’ll be watching the pilots closely and sharing the outcomes with you. Read more about the pilot scheme in this excellent blog from Kester Sharpe, Deputy UK Chief Commissioner.
This is a time of change in the Scouts and of course, that brings challenges. It’s vital, therefore, that everything we do supports you, our volunteers. That’s why we’re accelerating the parts of our plan that will make life easier – such as programme planning.
I’ve found the funding announcements and the phenomenal progress we’re making hugely encouraging. It’s about delivering on our promises and genuinely improving life for young people and wider society.
Of course, I know that all our work depends on the goodwill, support and dedication of our volunteers. I’m committed to delivering the benefits we talked about in our plan. While the world can sometimes feel a challenging place, your commitment is a constant source of inspiration. I wish you a positive and productive year ahead and thank you for everything you do.