Youth Work in Schools, is it the way forward?

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.

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13 Responses to Youth Work in Schools, is it the way forward?

  1. I do believe the formal educational system can learn a lot from the youth work profession including how young people learn best and how they are taught which is often through a experiential, hands on, active, inter-active, engaging, fun, creative approach and method towards teaching and learning and the emphasis on the personal growth and development of young people, including taking into account the whole paradigm of the young person as well as their varied learning styles.

    • Mike Power says:

      for some teachers without a doubt, although there are many good teachers out there who do understand these things. some young people really do prefer to just sit, read about something then talk about it… there is no one perfect way to work with young people… My belief is that bringing the services together will allow for a more wholesome experience for young people, at the end of the day regardless of how we do things we all want the best for young people (including teachers and their ridiculous times tables).

    • kokkieh says:

      I trained as a youth worker. Then I became a teacher. Teachers know these things. In fact, most care about them deeply. But they have to adhere to a curriculum (written by people who don’t). They have to prepare for up to ten lessons on one day. In different subjects. For different age groups. They have the government and school boards breathing down their necks. They must deliver results or it’s their jobs. Added to this, parents nowadays seem to think it’s the job of teachers to raise their kids. And they must do this without the right to discipline kids who break the rules, kids who even threaten them with physical violence. (Oh, and most teachers sit with their own kids they have to raise as well, in between preparing for class, grading papers and doing extra-curricular activities, laundry and grocery-shopping.)

      We as youth workers should first of all respect them, because most of them are much more experienced in working with kids than we are and they care just as much.

      Then we should go to them and find out how WE can help THEM. Because they need help and they know it. But they’re not going to accept it from someone who barely graduated from being a teenager him/herself and waltzes in trying to tell them how to do the job they’ve been doing for years.

      Youth work in schools are necessary, but we need to pick up the slack where teachers can’t manage. Only together can we give kids the holistic education they need.

      • Mike Power says:

        Hi kokkieh,
        I totally get what you’re saying at the beginning… I work very closely with teaching staff, and it is very clear we are all working in the best interests of the young people.

        I would however argue that:
        We have to adhere to local authority targets (written by people who don’t). They have to prepare for sessions. looking at different issues(there’s no curriculum to follow because it is responsive to young peoples needs). For different age groups. They have the government and school boards breathing down their neck (PS. i’m a school governor… i know all to well). They must deliver results or it’s their jobs. Added to this, parents nowadays seem to think it’s the job of youth workers and teachers to raise their kids. And they must do this without the right to discipline kids who break the rules, kids who even threaten them with physical violence. (Oh, and most youth workers sit with their own kids they have to raise as well, in between preparing for class, grading papers and doing extra-curricular activities, laundry and grocery-shopping.)

        I in no way want this to appear like an attack on teaching however it is time people realise that we will get nowhere arguing over who has it harder… so what! that’s not what is important here, what’s important is the young people and by working together we can achieve so much more than we can if we sit on opposite sides of a table shouting because we have harder targets to meet this year whilst the council cuts another £1m from our budget.

        We should go to them and find out how WE can help THEM just as much as THEY should find out how THEY can help US. Because we need help and we know it.

        One comment i totally disagree with thou was “they’re not going to accept it from someone who barely graduated from being a teenager him/herself and waltzes in trying to tell them how to do the job they’ve been doing for years” youth workers don’t simply cease to exist when they reach a certain age.

        I work with some amazing teachers who understand what i do and i understand what they do, we in no way think we are superior to each other, we are simply two professionals in different fields but aiming towards the same goal of providing high quality services for young people.

        WE ARE ALL equally as experienced, WE ARE ALL facing similar pressures, WE ARE ALL working for the benefit of the young people
        and suggesting otherwise is simply uninformed and damaging to any collaborative work between schools and youth workers.

      • kokkieh says:

        Clearly where you are youth work works differently than over here. I’m now 32 and can therefore forget about getting another youth work position (ads for youth work positions actually say only applicants under 30), which is why I’m now qualifying myself in a different field so I can at least still make a living from doing what I love – working with kids.

        And over here most youth workers are still kids (and the majority not even trained) who think they can tell parents how they should raise their kids and teachers how they should teach.

        Which is probably why the previous comment touched a nerve. Sorry if I gave offence.

      • Mike Power says:

        My apologies for the over reaction, It would appear so, most youth workers in the UK undergo degree level training. in my limited time in the field I have worked with many workers most who are over 30 and all have taught me allot.
        Unfortunately as professionals we are faced with many of the same funding cuts and targets set by the government and councils so we are all in the same position regardless of title (youth worker or teacher)
        I personally have learned to work very closely with other professionals and my main aim is always to provide the best services for the young people.

        Again, I am sorry for over reacting to your comment, however i spend allot of time working with teachers and youth workers… many who at some time or another have held similar view points of one profession being more valued than another.

      • kokkieh says:

        over-reaction leads to over-reaction, or something like that 😉

        Point is, as you say, it’s about the kids. If all stakeholders can only get it into their heads that it’s not about status, or politics, or finances.

  2. Kingdom says:

    Youth work should be done coherently with school work because the development of a young one is conducted in educational facilities. Unfortunately government authorities have tied up the process with regulations, understandably for the safety of students as satanist and other demonic activities have enter premises under the name of development.

    So indeed we need to hold each others hands as organizations and government, schools and all stakeholders as you mention in your status and make youth development our priority.

  3. Mike Power says:

    Couldn’t agree more… there is allot of regulatory nonsense which I’m currently looking through and showing how youth work can fit within or making it more palatable for those of us who are less policy adept.
    The safety of students will always be of paramount importance for schools just as it is with youth centres, although I personally have never experienced and Satanist or other demonic activities entering a school I’m sure there are some people who will try and this is why the system is as robust as possible. it makes getting into schools harder but its for the right reasons and as long as we are open, transparent and honest with what our work is and what we hope to achieve there should be no problems.

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