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Title Education & Youth Work
Author Jaiwanda Patel
Key Concepts Informal Education, Values, Anti-oppressive Practice, Definitions, History of Youth Work



Discussing the importance of education, taking on the meanings of this definition and considering history; this paper examines the importance of the development of education in youth work.

This paper discusses the development of youth work, how it originally started and how certain sectors of the community were oppressed, also about how all of this affects the way in which I practice youth work.  However, before discussing the importance of education in the development of youth work, let us establish what education is and what youth work is. 

Education is categorised as being formal, informal and non formal.  It is a process of understanding the world, and of acquiring the confidence to explore its workings.  Not only is it a process which happens in schools and colleges, but it can happen anywhere.

Today, there are many perceptions as to what exactly youth work is.  Formed either by individuals working with young people, or by individuals who are associated with services providing for the development of young people.  As a youth worker I would say in relation to education, that youth work is education for life.  It works by building relationships with young people, and offering them programmes of activities using an informal educational approach. Which is a crucial addition to the education offered in schools and colleges.  Informal education being:

‘a special set of processes which involves’ ‘broad ways of thinking and acting so that people can engage with what is going on’. (Jeffs and Smith, 1990:3).

Youth work also involves both non formal and informal education, because it is necessary to provide young people with a variety of experiences.  Non-formal education being an ‘organised educational activity outside formal systems’. (Jeffs and Smith,1996:71).  That will inturn help them ‘pursue their rights and responsibilities as individuals and as members of groups and communities’. (NYA, 1999).

It is extremely important to provide a facility for young people to grow and flourish academically, but also encourage them to participate in and challenge the circumstances that are ahead of them.

As a youth worker working within a multi cultural society.  I feel it is not only a responsibility to encourage personal development, but also help them adapt to living in a multi cultural society, respecting others and other cultures.  Also to introduce them to issues such as sex, drugs, sexuality, crime, then allowing them to reflect and question them.  However serious issues are not always welcomed in youth clubs, because they are seen as a form of formal education.  Therefore how it is delivered to the young person is extremely important.

Crime and disorder was one issue the centre where I work tried to deliver, however not only to the young people who attend the youth clubs, but to the also young people who live around the area.  The event had to be well advertised, and to draw the young people in, the centre laid on food and drinks.  There was a good turn out.  Initially there was little response from the young people, when mentioning acts such as anti social behavior, parenting orders, child curfews and truancy.  Neither of these acts had been operated in the area therefore they did not recognise the importance of them, hence showed little interests.  However there was greater participation when the murder of Steven Lawrence was mentioned.  In general there were strong negative feelings towards the Police and the British Justice System.  It made us realise that the young people were concerned about social and political issues and how the Police treats them.  My colleagues and I took this opportunity to encourage the young people to question these issues and then equip them with the relevant information required by them to understand what is happening to the world around them.  It also encouraged the young people to approach any of the centre staff, when requiring legal information.

With the dawning of a new millennium and technology moving forward at the rate it is.  I feel that as a youth worker education is a two way process.  It is not only young people who need educating, I too have alot to keep up with In order to keep up with the constant ‘changing social and political agenda’, (Young, 1999:7).  Compared to education in youth work today, the implication of education in the development of youth work in the early days was similar but not quite as complicated.

It was as far back as 1780 when due to the work of Robert Raikes, a Gloucester newspaper proprietor.  Who pioneered the setting up of charitable provisions in the form of Sunday schools, because he felt that some form of learning was necessary for young people.(Patel, Handout, 1999)

During the early nineteenth century, it was not compulsory to attend school.  It was the education act passed in 1880 made it compulsory for all young people under the age of ten to attend school. (Patel, Handout, 1999).  Therefore many young people during the early nineteenth century were expected to do exactly what the adults were doing.  That was going out to work in the factories or workhouses and working for 12-15 hours a day to feed their families and themselves.  If they were not in employment then they were out on the streets begging or stealing and generally being a nuisance to the adult community.  With the factories act in 1833, barring all young people under the age nine from textile factories, and limiting the hours of the older ones. (Patel, Handout, 1999).  This meant more younger people on the streets with nothing to do.  It was quite apparent that more was needed to be done for the development of young people.

Therefore, initially work with young people was founded by a few ‘charismatic’ ‘idiosyncratic individuals’.  Many of whom ‘were openly appalled at how young people were being treated by its usually ruthless economic systems’.  These individuals ‘as upper and middle class philanthropists’  ‘sought to offer some at least ameliorating experiences and opportunities’. (Davis,1999:8).  The early youth work pioneers were mainly involved in the child saving movements:

‘by vigorously intervening on behalf of the poor exploited children who were the fallout of Britain’s exploding industrial society’. (Davis,1999:8).  

Trying very hard to keep the young society off the streets and trying to divert young people from crime, quite similar to what happens today.  Also greater concentration was given to the personal and developmental needs of the young people.  This was done by ‘filling up gaps’ during their leisure time.  Generally providing them with whatever was ‘lacking in their everyday life’, and ‘broadening their lives’, which still happens today. (Davis,1999:8).

With the establishment of the Young Mens Christian Association (YMCA) in 1844, an organisation that was ‘concerned for the spiritual welfare of the young boys’. (Patel, Handout, 1999).  Where the boys who were part the organisation were encouraged to take an interest in the bible .  Later in 1853 the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) was formed.  This was an amalgamation of the many girls organisations which had previously been in existence.  Many of these organisations also encouraged learning from the bible.  However, Lily Montagu one of the early youth work pioneers gave specific attention to the young women, given that the women’s suffrage movement was beginning to form around the 1860’s.  Who were a group of women fighting for women’s rights, and who to be recognised as individuals.  Lily Montagu taking this into account tried to prepare the young girls for such a society, however when doing so she like many others was faced with ‘fierce male hostility’.  Men believing that they are the patriarchs. (Davis,1999:8).

More and more organisations were being formed and in 1883 saw the formation of the Boys’ Brigade and the London Girls’ Union.  Many of these single sex organisations were ‘determined to win and hold’ ‘young people to a religious faith’. (Davis,1999:9).  In the early twentieth century those running the St Christopher Working Boys’ Club, were clear that their aim was to teach them religion and to help them learn about the Service of God.  With the founder of the Boys’ Brigade ensuring that the boys grew into ‘true Christian Manliness’. (Davis,1999:9).  Maud Stanley also made it clear that clubs catering for the working girl were made aware of their responsibilities to both ‘God and man’.(Davis,1999:9).  This being quite different today where young women are encouraged to be their own person and that they are equal to men.

Religion was used to pave a pathway to what was right and wrong, helping young people to exhibit ‘the qualities of obedience, discipline and punctuality’. (Young,1999:12).  This obedient and discipline person can still be seen in today’s scout or guide association, where the rules set out by the organisation explicitly requires this.

In 1939, the Youth Service was set up by the Ministry of Youth.  Which issued a circular 1486 called The Service of Youth, in which the Board of Education undertook ‘a direct responsibility for youth welfare’.  Working closely with the local education authorities and voluntary bodies to reach a ‘common enterprise’, (HMSO,1960,Para:4) school leaving age at that time was 14. 

The McNair Report (1944) suggested that proper training was needed for individuals wanting to take up youth leadership as a profession.  The Albemarle Report (1960) also proposed further recognition be made on behalf of youth leaders for the qualifications, salaries and conditions of service. It suggested a ten year development programme making recommendations for training to boost the numbers of full time youth leaders.  The report also suggested that in order to house the Youth Service it should consider looking for appropriate premises.  Lastly it suggested that local government increase its expenditure  on the Youth Service and offer grants for experimental work. (DES,1969,Para:20).  The Albemarle Report made no reference to the Black young people or to the young immigrants beginning to settle there.  However it recognised that:

‘fewer girls than boys are members of youth organisations, and much more thought will need to be given to ways of their specific needs’. (HMSO,1960,Para:57).

In the wake of the Albemarle Report, the National College at Leicester was set up.  Training youth leaders, qualifications, salaries and conditions of service were re-negotiated.  Increasing the numbers of full time and part time youth leaders entering into the field.  Also expenditure on the Youth Service was increased substantially by the local education authorities. (DES, 1969).

The Hunt Report (1967) called Immigration and the Youth Service was questioning whether separate provisions should be provided for the minority groups beginning to settle in Britain.  They opted against this because they felt that by integrating them with the rest of the ‘indigenous population’, it would help them fit in better. (The Youth Service by the Commission for Racial Equality in Cheetham,1980:198).  However, not really taking the time to carry out any research as to whether the young immigrant community would be made to feel welcomed by the others.  The white adult community showed extreme resentment towards black people where:

‘more than two thirds of Britains white population, in fact, held a low opinion of black or disapproved of them.  They saw them as heathens who practised’ ‘black magic’ and ‘inherently inferior to Europeans’. (Fryer,1984:374)

Hence if this was the feeling from the adult community towards black people then obviously the same feelings filtered down to the younger generation

However the Milson-Fairburn report, Youth and Community Work in the 70’s, realised that:

‘the Youth Service has not proved to be conspicuously successful since Albemarle in meeting the needs of girls and preparing them for their changed role in society’. (DES,1969,Para:82).  

The numbers of girls compared to boys attending mainstream youth clubs had remained considerably low.  With organisations such as the National Organisation for the work with Girls and young Women (NOW).  Who won DES funding tried to provide:

 ‘information and resources, support and training for work with girls and to help develop more women only residentials and other facilities’. (Davis,Vol 2,1999:99).

Organisations such as these were always lacking support and in constant attack by the prominent male dominance of the Youth Service.  With separate facilities for girls attacked in the Thompson Report (1982) where it was suggested that the ‘service’s mainstream provisions must remain mixed’. (Davis,Vol 2,1999:99).

As a youth worker, I personally feel that in order for some young girls to develop separate provisions are needed.  Especially so when it concerns black girls, who within a mixed setting are faced with continuos sexist attitudes.  They are seen as ‘layabouts and made to feel uncomfortable’. (Chauhan,1989:32).  Many young men see them as objects and not as equal fellow beings.  Many young girls stay away from mixed clubs for this reason.  Therefore it is important for the present youth service to recognise the problem faced by the black young girls and act appropriately.

The majority of paid work I do is centre based, and I try to incorporate educational issues with fun activities.  Apart from the basic facilities provided by the centre, which are the pool table, board games, sporting facilities and the use of the mini-bus for outdoor trips.  I try to encourage the girls to recognise issues that concern them personally and socially.  Issues such as personal hygiene, hair and beauty, drugs, racism, sex, boys, the list is endless.  During the summer term programme the girls had expressed an interest in a demonstration for hair and beauty, so I tried to empower the girls to approach several individuals and arrange it themselves.  Not everyone was comformable doing this and therefore took a back seat.  The girls that were interested rang up a few places, however many beauticians would not talk over the phone.  Therefore they arranged to visit them at their premises.  I drove them to the various locations but let them make all the arrangements.  This made them feel confident, and I thought would possibly prepare them when approaching other adults, when applying for a job or elsewhere in a formal setting.  The evening was a success, with the girls inquiring about personal issues such as spots, greasy hair and scalp problems.  At the end of the evening the girls walked away feeling proud and confident, also feeling that they have learnt something.  I then arranged further sessions around the topic of personal hygiene, and which brought me closer to the girls.  They are confiding a great deal more in me, and made it a great deal easier for me to talk about drugs, sex and boys.  Which I feel are topics, not being covered by parents and teachers and therefore youth workers like myself need to introduce them.

In conclusion I feel that the Youth Service has done a great deal to cater for the development of young boys and for the young people who attend centre-based provisions.  Whereas I feel that there are a great deal of young people out there, especially black young girls that need facilitating, and as a service for the youth it is up to them to do so.  They also need to gain greater knowledge about the various new settlers and cultures that are now beginning to develop, rather than wait till its too late.

© Jaiwanda Patel & Student Youth Work Online 2001

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