In the past there has been a tendency for people to pitch youth work and schooling against each other in an attempt to say one is better than the other, a way of thinking that quite frankly infuriates me.
One of the main reasons people can’t ever see the two getting along is because youth work is all about the voluntary relationships whereas schools are compulsory and curriculum driven and in reality the two styles of working are worlds apart, well actually Mark Smith points out that “youth work has been wrapped up with schooling since it was first articulated as a form of social and educational intervention”.
So why now, can’t these two get along, well over time the two have drifted apart in many ways and nowadays when you ask youth workers what they think about schooling you are met with an almost hostile retort about how schools are everything that is wrong with the world and this is reciprocated by teachers who see youth work as a bunch of yobbos playing table tennis and pool all day.
The National Youth Agency (NYA) have identified a lack of understanding of youth work and what youth work offers as one of the reasons this kind of work isn’t as widespread as it ought to be, however I personally believe the same criticism can be levied against us youth workers, although we know what happens within schools we appear to have lost a sense of the importance of formal education.
I know many will say formal education isn’t everything to a person’s life and I would not argue with that however surely as people who work with and care for young people we should encourage young people to re-engage with formal education when they become disillusioned with the endless lessons. At the end of the day not everybody is destined to become a professor in their chosen field however every young person who gains the necessary academic skills from school have a much better chance of going on to get a job which can support their lives and maybe even families at some point.
Academic skills paired with the social and emotional skills brought about through youth work lead to a well-rounded young person and having the services of a youth worker available within a school would surely bolster the overall service provided to young people by the organisations.
I should say I am not suggesting we do away with the traditional youth club; there will always be a place for those, however in our ever changing environment it is important we change our deliverance to best suit the current climate and provide the best services to young people.
Working within schools can provide a variety of opportunities many of us would just not encounter in our youth centre or out on detached, we are in a position to really help young people succeed in all areas of their lives.
There will always be differences between youth workers and teachers, but we owe it to our young people to set aside this foolish sense of pride we hold about being separate from the formal education system and instead embrace it like a brother, we don’t always get on with our brothers but they will always be there and if we work to increase peoples understanding of what we can bring to the table we stand a better chance of surviving and thriving in this ever changing landscape and we can provide the best services possible for our young people.