We all know that belonging to one of our groups is a lot of fun, but we wanted to better understand how they also develop the kind of soft skills that can help young people to reach their full potential.
To find out, we recruited schools across Tees Valley, Lancashire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester to open new groups for 13 and 14 year olds as part of a new research project. The study, which was conducted by Durham University, examined non-academic outcomes such as teamwork and self-esteem and whether developing these skills had an impact on academic outcomes.
From the 71 schools recruited, 38 opened a new group and the remaining 33 acted as a control group for the academic year 2014/15. The four Youth United organisations delivering new units as part of the project were the Scouts, St John Ambulance, Sea Cadets and the Fire Cadets. The project was co-funded by The Cabinet Office Centre for Social Action and the Education Endowment Foundation, a grant making charity which aims to break the link between family background and educational achievement.
The research was published in July 2016 and the full report can be read here.
Expeditions, first aid, sailing, parascending, volunteering and campaigning... Just some of the opportunities open to Year 9 pupils in an after school group run by Scouts, Sea Cadets, St John Ambulance or Fire Cadets.
Wood Church High School
Year 9 pupil’s from Wood Church High School learnt some new skills by getting involved in the YUF Explorer Scouting School Project in their school. Members learnt how to navigate and use maps and took part in an expedition. They also developed their first aid skills.
The Wood Church High School Group met at least once a month. Session were planned into the school timetable run for two hours on a Tuesday morning. Each session was organised and supported by teaching staff and volunteers from Birkenhead District Scouts. The Explorer Unit not only enabled pupils to participate in scouting, but also enabled the school to deliver the Duke of Edinburgh scheme to those young people attending the sessions.
For some pupils this was the first time they had been faced with pitching a tent or cooking food on a hiking stove so training sessions were planned to help them master the skills of living and working together in an expedition environment. Pupils took part in practical sessions to learn how to read a map and a compass. Through preparing for their Duke of Edinburgh expedition, these new young Scouts are also prepared for their journey in life.
St John Ambulance Cadets enables young people to learn important life skills in a fun and safe environment, but with challenge and excitement appropriate to their age. Cadets can put their first aid and other communication skills into practice by providing first aid to the public at events or teaching other young people and adults.
Westhoughton High School
Westhoughton High School had 38 Cadets that attended every week without fail! The unit leader from Westhoughton High School stood out. Lee is ex-military and was eager to run the sessions in the school each week. He is well-organised and had the confidence to often lead sessions by himself without the lesson plans and support.
Because Lee pushed the Cadets to their full potential the Cadets completed their First Aid Training early and went on to do their Youth First Aider Assessment. As this unit was so far ahead with their First Aid training, we organised for the Cadets to attend an SJA Youth First Aider Residential Weekend. This gave the Cadets from this unit the opportunity to meet other SJA Cadets from the North West region.
Whether at sea or on land, the Sea Cadets offers young people across the UK amazing opportunities for personal development. They offer an environment where young people find new confidence and inspiration, challenging themselves and developing new skills, like sailing, boating and rock climbing.
Prestwich Arts College and Kingsway Park High School
Two cadets from Prestwich Arts College and four cadets from Kingsway Park High School attended Stockport Sea Cadet Unit and were put through their paces in March during a residential adventure.
On Friday night, the Sergeant and Corporal from Stockport Royal Marines Cadets Detachment took the cadets out in to the field to practice 'Cams and Concealment' and stalking.
Saturday morning they were woken over the tannoy by the Hawaii Five-0 theme tune at 7am!! They then spent the day doing a variety of activities, including; physical training), drill, shelter building, capture the flag, and a mixture of games.
The best quote that day was from Zeesham: “Is it afternoon yet?” / Me: “No it’s only 10am” / Zeesham: “I’ve never done so much in 3 hours before!”
Sunday they were woken by ‘In the Navy’ by The Village People and then the National Anthem at 7am. We then had them in the swimming pool by 9am for an hour. After which they tidied the unit, packed their stuff and watched Frozen (complete with singing!). They were a pleasure to work with and were a credit to their schools.
Fire Cadets is run in partnership with the local Fire Service and is a way for young people to develop life skills while taking part in community events and working towards BTEC qualifications that can improve their future employability.
Suzy Tosi, a development worker for the Merseyside Fire Service, shares her thoughts on how the new units progressed at two of her schools.
Formby High School
The students at Formby High school were very excited to join the Fire Cadets and learn new skills. It took them a couple of weeks to settle into the discipline required to be a cadet but they have now adapted well and have become very efficient and disciplined. They are a very chatty group, but are very inquisitive and keen on learning.
On receiving their uniform in the New Year, they are extremely proud to be wearing it along with the fire kit and the difference in their manner has increased dramatically.
They are a pleasant and well-behaved group of young people, who are eager to challenge themselves with more activities during the second term.
Archbishop Blanch School
Archbishop Blanch School is an all-girls school in Liverpool. To begin with the students were painfully shy, and at the beginning of the course very difficult to initially engage with.
However, as time has gone on they have developed a good relationship with the instructors and are a very kind, thoughtful and extremely pleasant group of young people who are a credit to their school. This group is a real please to instruct and work with.
They have learnt a lot in such a short space of time and did extremely well in the end of term test. The feedback from their end of term evaluation has been excellent.