Last Thursday I met with the lovely Diane Evans, National Programme Manager at the National Youth Agency (NYA). Diane had kindly responded to my critical blog post on an Institute for Youth Work, and we met up to discuss where this idea had got to and what it might mean for youth workers.
A bit of background
Children & Young People Now hadÂ reported on a consortium of youth organisations exploring the creation of an independent body to provide youth workers with a voice and set of standards across the sector with the provisional title of the Institute for Youth Work. I blogged my thoughts on it here, which prompted a number of responses in the comments on that post.
As I understand it, the idea for an institute arose a few years ago and was broached in some research by the NYA (which I commented onÂ here). Certainly the idea of an independent national body for youth work has been floating around for some time with support from a number of people within the field.
It is probably fair to say that this time around, the Institute idea got some bad feedback from those of us critical of the agenda, and the way the story broke didn’t help matters.Â Apparently Children & Young People Now ran the story before details of the grant had been finalised with the DfE, so the NYA and partners were unable to officially comment on what was actually happening.
In our discussion Diane explained that ‘Catalyst’, the consortium who received Â£2.6 from the Department for Education as strategic partner for young people, had three strands to their grant. Of those strands, one is around ‘Workforce Development’ and a small element of that is to explore the feasibility of some kind of youth work institute. From the NCVYS Workforce Development Snippet – April ’11:
As part of the Catalystâ€™s workforce development strand, there will be an opportunity to explore the possibilities for developing an Institute for Youth Work. This opportunity has been discussed in the sector for a number of years and would be intended to provide a strong voice for the sector and those individuals within it. Early discussions between the Catalyst consortium and the sector have concluded that the plan for an Institute would require it to work in harmony with existing structures and bodies, and serve to secure a coherent framework for a wide range of practitioners, enabling them to contribute to the setting of standards for the sector. The establishment of an Institute for Youth Work would develop much needed infrastructure at a time when other structures and environment are rapidly changing or being dismantled.
Diane was keen to point out that none of the grant is to actually create or start that institute, but simply to explore what it could become. That is important if the body is to be independent and not supported by the government. The other part of the story in CYPNow that concerned me was the talk of paid voluntary registration for youth workers to affiliate with the Institute. Diane explained that this has been proposed as a possibility; a way for workers to self identify with the values and standards that could be promoted by the institute, and a way of making it financially viable. The income from registration could sustain the institute and work to maintain it as an independent body. However this has not yet been decided and will be part of the consultation.
So where does that leave us? Is this all going ahead?
Basically, yes! It’s very likely that some organisation will be formed from all this and that it will work around and with existing standards and organisations (such as the JNC framework and the unions) trying to tie it all together. There is a strong desire from many in the sector, and with a grant to research how it would can work, something will happen.Â The plan now is that Catalyst will do a wide-ranging consultation among practitioners, managers and agencies to find out what people think of the Institute idea and how it could be viable. I’m told this consultation will include digital and social media methods, so look out for news on that and be ready to have your say about what you think the Institute should be or do. The consultation will serve to inform a panel of individuals and agencies who represent all aspects of the youth sector to how they might move things forward.
Overall, I would say I’m cautiously optimistic. I can see the value an Institute might hold for workers, however the devil is in the details and I’m wary of creating something that just gives workers an ego boost (however much that might be tempting). Whatever happens must ultimately be driven by the needs of young people. I’m looking forward to the consultation and feeding into what is a very important and timely discussion. It is a unique opportunity to positively affect national youth work practice that we might not get again, so for that reason, I would encourage everyone to engage in the debate.
I also need to thank Diane for her gracious and helpful discussion. 🙂