Youth workers – part of the team in schools?

I could only get along to the evening reception for the National Youth Work Summit, organised by YouthLink Scotland

Chief Executive Jim Sweeney summarised the day. He said something which I’m sure is a common phrase for youth workers but hearing it fresh sounded like a great challenge for schools to bear in mind when designing their senior phase curriculum:

“We need to engage with young people on their own territory and on their own terms” (or at least that what it sounded like to me)

Easier said than done!

3 thoughts on “Youth workers – part of the team in schools?

  1. Hi Don

    I was at the conference too. You may be interested to know that earlier in the day the delegates shared some of their frustrations at many schools operating as closed shops. There is a real desire from most youth workers I meet to work in (genuine) partnership with schools, sharing information, learning programmes and ‘experiences and outcomes’. However, a lot of the youth workers I meet from around the country describe similar problems with schools – the school’s lack of faith, insufficient support, tokenistic attitudes…

    Now, this isn’t the case everywhere – there are some terrific examples of youth work and schools partnerships around Scotland. South Ayrshire’s peer education programme in the Senior Phase springs to mind.

    What excites many youth workers is that the ethos of Curriculum for Excellence is very closely aligned to the Statement on the Nature and Purpose of Youth Work (link here). As CfE becomes a more established reference tool in the youth work sector we will be signing from the same hymn sheet more than ever. The comments in Building the Curriculum 3 about youth work’s role to play and the need for effective partnerships offer further encouragement to a genuine joined-up approach.

    In my role at Youth Scotland I’m keen to hear the thoughts of those in formal education on how these partnerships are best encouraged – what’s expected from youth work, what they perceive as the obstacles to partnership and where in the curriculum they think youth work can deliver. Should you be able, I’m really keen to hear what you and your readers think.

  2. Colin

    If I was still a headteacher I’d be looking at employing a youth worker in my school as part of a mixed staffing model, which extended well beyond teachers. It would include family support workers, youth workers, mental health workers, and others with alternative skill sets.

    The however the main limitation which counters such intentions relate to the expectation that teacher/student ratios must remain the same. The effect of this will be to prevent Headteachers from coming up with innovative staffing models – particularly for the senior phase.


  3. Hi there, I thought I’d add my tuppence worth!

    I wasn’t at the mentioned conference but have worked for Youthlink and L/A as a youth worker. I am currently studying at moray house for my Ba(hons) in Community Education but have taken the same courses as teachers for my outside course choices, and may possibly be higher ‘qualified’ than some teaching staff when I finish the course due to it being a compulsory honors course.

    I have done this as i feel there is a crucial role for youth workers in working in and along side formal educational establishments as primarily the focus of youth work involves informal principles, i believe we have a huge amount of ‘resources’ to offer.

    In the past i have experienced conflict between the two practices of education mostly in part due to teaching staff seeing our work as a nuisance to the normal class day or due to them not having a full understanding of our profession, that said outside agencies such as the Bridge Centre Motorcycle project have made huge headways in engaging with schools in the east lothian (and further) areas, which I know your familiar with as one of the ‘educational support groups’ invited you to join them to see what it is they were doing (and the project) Evaluations show high level of success for pupils who have engaged in all aspects of their lives.
    I appreciate that there isn’t the budgets for schools to employ youth workers directly ( I worked in a school as class room assistant, £4.20 less an hour than the L/A specialised youth worker hourly rate, which the school “couldn’t justify” paying me) and this should surely be looked in to.
    If curriculum for Excellence is to do its job, i believe part of this is to widen the professions available to children within the formal school environment. A proper multiagency, multidisciplinary approach is required and as Colin mentioned, not one that’s tokenistic.

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