Commission to examine youth work and school partnerships

By Gabriella Jozwiak

| 22 March 2013

Youth work's educational role is to be assessed by an independent commission formed by the National Youth Agency (NYA).

The commission wants schools to work more closely with youth work organisations. Image: Guzelian

The group of youth work and education leaders will investigate how schools can work more closely with youth work organisations to improve young people’s social and personal development.

Former children’s minister Tim Loughton has been appointed chair of the commission, which also includes NYA chief executive Fiona Blacke, Labour’s former children minister Baroness Beverley Hughes, and British Youth Council chair Rosina St James.

Blacke said too few schools were partnering with youth work organisations to give young people more opportunities to develop their character and skills.

“Youth workers make a vital difference to young people’s lives, and particularly to the lives of the most disadvantaged, providing learning experiences and opportunities for personal development in imaginative contexts,” she said. 

“We believe that the best performing schools use youth work to ensure that all young people are able to achieve and attain their full potential – but this is not happening across the board.”

The commission will assess the number of partnerships between schools and youth clubs, their impact, and suggest areas for improvement.

Loughton said the commission represented “an important first step towards promoting the obvious benefits of more consistent collaboration between youth work and formal education”.

“Anyone with any experience of youth work knows that engaging with young people positively in the community prepares them better for school and for achieving more from their education,” he said.

“This should be a seamless exercise with schools and young people benefitting mutually, but at a time when youth work is in danger of being sidelined, this is too often the exception rather than the norm.”

The announcement follows concerns raised by youth sector leaders that the Department for Education (DfE) misunderstands the educational value of youth work.

These concerns followed suggestions made by Education Secretary Michael Gove that the DfE is considering transferring responsibility for youth work to another government department – most likely the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Mark Carriline, director of children’s services at Bury Council, and Damian Allen, director of the children and young people division at the Children’s Society, are also members of the commission.

It will present its findings to policymakers in autumn this year.

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