Archives For Free Resources

A range of resources for working with young people that can be used and adapted for free

The Young Foundation, part of the Catalyst consortium has published the final draft of their ‘Outcomes Framework for Young People’s Services‘ and are looking for feedback. Could this be a useful tool for your work with young people?

The last 10 years of government policy has pushed towards targeted outcomes in work with young people, but measuring the right outcomes has been problematic simply because it’s hard to capture the personal ‘soft’ changes that occur in young people as a result of our work. It was the focus of my undergraduate dissertation and last year the youth sector was criticised by the education select committee for not being able to show evidence of the difference we make. As a result of Department for Education funding, the Catalyst consortium (a partnership of the National Youth Agency, National Council for Voluntary Youth Services, the Social Enterprise Coalition and the Young Foundation) have now created the Outcomes Framework for Young People’s Services.

Essentially, it is a comprehensive document (based on strong evidence from a range of research and literature) that helps understand and measure the connections between intrinsic personal and social development outcomes and longer-term extrinsic outcomes. It uses this relationship to create the outcomes model below (click to enlarge):

Workers can use the framework to identify the sort of outcomes they should be measuring in their work, and then use the matrix of tools to find the best way to actually measure it. The matrix is basically a catalogue of third party tools and resources designed to capture evidence on personal and social development. Many of the tools are well known (such as Soul Record or Outcomes Stars) while some are more obscure, but they have all been assessed and compared with key criteria so you can identify the ones that best fit your work.

The full framework process is shown in the diagram below (click to enlarge), and explained in detail within the document.

The framework as a whole may be too in-depth for most practitioners doing face to face work, but it should be a very useful tool for managers and organisations that need to show the difference they make. And that is the point. I imagine as a result of this work that we will start seeing more funders looking for useful evidence of social development in young people to justify the money they invest in organisations and projects.

The version available on The Young Foundation site is a final draft and they are looking for feedback to shape the final document (due in April). The writers are particularly interested to hear responses to the following questions:

  • Do the key messages of the Framework resonate with you?
  • Who do you feel would be the key audience for the framework? (Commissioners, providers, managers?) Who would you recommend reads it?
  • How do you think the framework might be used?
  • Does the approach set out in the Framework represent a significant change to your current way of working? In what way?
  • What do you feel are the main opportunities and challenges of such an approach?
  • Do you feel clear about the practical steps in taking forward the approach set out in the Framework?
  • Do you feel that you or your service would benefit from (additional) support around impact and outcomes? What types(s) of support is/are needed?
  • What else is needed to make the Framework ‘useful’, going forward?

View and download the Outcomes Framework for Young People’s Services here. You should email any feedback to Bethia McNeil by March 31st 2012.

What are your thoughts on this? Do we need to prove what we do or is it a waste of time?

Safe Network

6 January 2012 — 5 Comments

The Safe Network is an excellent website and series of resources for community and voluntary sector organisations around best practice in keeping children and young people safe.

Jointly managed by the NSPCC, Children England and Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT), Safe Network was created as a result of the Government’s Staying Safe action plan and is fast becoming one of my “go-to” resources. The site is pretty comprehensive with hundreds of downloadable policy templates around child protection, bullying, online guidance, recruitment, etc. They also offer free online child protection training to not-for-profit organisations, and the Are they safe? Pack.

Impressively, they are working closely with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), and the Childrens Workforce Development Council  (CWDC) among others to try and build common safeguarding standards for voluntary and community organisations. This is reflected in the way they offer specific advice and policies for various demographics such as faith groups, sport groups and supporting LGBT young people.

I’ve been working through the Self-assessment tool which helps organisations check if they meet the Safe Network Standards, a set of national core standards designed to help non-statutory organisations put in place clear safeguarding arrangements for children and young people. You have to register on the site, but can then work through each standard as a checklist to see if it is implemented in your organisation, and there are downloads and templates to use if you need help.

So there you go. Visit the site and bookmark. You will find it very useful if:

  • you work in an organisation, whether small, medium or large, local or national, and your activities are primarily aimed at children.
  • you provide activities for children and young people in a local voluntary and community organisation.
  • you have contact with children and young people but your work is not primarily or solely child care (eg faith groupblack, minority and ethnic grouphobby clubunaffiliated sport , cultural or leisure activity).
  • you’re a trustee or a funder of an organisation that involves or includes children in any of its activities.
  • you’re a parent or carer who needs advice on keeping children safe.


Jargon Busters

19 December 2011 — 2 Comments

Are you confused between your Outputs & Outcomes? What’s the difference between your Vision, Purpose, Aims and Mission? is a new website designed at cutting through the confusing terms and definitions in the charitable and voluntary sector to enable organisations to be clearer in their language. It’s been put together by a group of funders, government departments, regulatory bodies and voluntary sector organisations who form the Jargonbuster Group.

Having checked out the site, it’s actually very useful. As the site explains:

Funders and support agencies use concepts and terms from the language of planning, project management and performance improvement in different ways. This lack of agreed definitions has led to widespread confusion about what particular terms mean and how to use them most appropriately

The Jargonbusters site is designed with three aims:

First, it will define some of the different terms charities and community groups, evaluators and funders use, tell you when you might hear them, and what they mean in different situations.

Secondly, it will bring out some of the ideas behind the jargon.

Thirdly, it will help funders be clearer about the words they use and use them more consistently.

So add it to your bookmarks and now there’s no excuse for using the wrong terms in your communications! 😉

The following is an assembly plan that I wrote for and was published in Youthwork Magazine in the August 2010 Issue.

Study Table by shho

Back To School Assembly

The following set of activities are adaptable ideas for use in an assembly at the beginning of the new school year. The overall theme is on having a positive attitude towards life and making the most of opportunities in the year ahead.

Good to be back?

Everyone has an opinion on school, and a lot of young people aren’t shy on sharing what they think! As a light-hearted introduction to your assembly, welcome everyone and ask them to show whether they are happy or unhappy about being back in school by giving a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”. Try and get any teachers to join in with this too – you might get some interesting results!

Regardless of the outcome to the exercise, make a comment saying that whether people are happy or unhappy about being back at school, this year will have some great opportunities. You might like to mention some of the particular things that will occur this year (although try and keep it positive):

  • Year 7 students will be settling into a new school
  • Year 9 students will be choosing their GCSE subjects
  • Year 11, 12 & 13 students will be sitting exams
  • You could also refer to any planned school events or trips

Explain that the beginning of the school year is a good time to look ahead and think about the positive opportunities that you have.

Snakes & Ladders

This activity involves the whole assembly playing a condensed version of the classic Snakes and Ladders board game. It will take some preparation in advance, so make sure you carefully think through how it will work in your school. You will need:

  • A large foam dice or alternative way of randomly selecting numbers between 1 and 6. Having numbers on ping-pong balls in a bag is a good option.
  • A custom Snakes and Ladders game board. To enable the game to move quickly, create a board that is only 4×4 squares wide with a maximum of 3 ladders and 3 snakes on it. Ideally the board should be visible to everyone so you could use a PowerPoint slide, or an overhead projector and acetate to project it onto the wall. For smaller groups, a physical board could be marked out on the floor using props for the snakes and ladders. You can download an image of the board from the website here.
  • 2 playing pieces and a way of moving them across your board. This could be by sticking objects to a screen (or simply pointing to the relevant square), placing items on the overhead projector, or asking students to physically walk it out on the floor.

Split the assembly into two teams by dividing the two halves of the room where they are sitting, and explain that they will be playing against each other in the game. The playing pieces start at the bottom left hand side of the board and the first team to reach the 16th square (top left) wins the game.

Get each team to takes turns rolling the dice (or other method you are using) by choosing a different volunteer for each round. Move the counter across the board for the number of squares that they rolled. Obviously, if they land on a snake’s head they move down to the tail, and if they land on the bottom of a ladder they move up to the top of the ladder. Keep the game moving quickly and congratulate the team that wins.

At the end of the game explain that a new school year can bring with it many opportunities and challenges. Sometimes things will be frustrating and difficult like sliding down a snake, but there will also be some great, exciting times that are like climbing a ladder. Explain that how we respond to these challenges and opportunities is really important! Wouldn’t it be good to make the most of every opportunity that comes our way?

Video Clip: Yes Man

Many of the young people will have seen the Jim Carrey movie Yes Man, where the lead character Carl decides to say “yes” to every opportunity presented to him. Show the official movie trailer (available on YouTube), which outlines the exciting changes that happen to Carl as a result of him being open to new things. Alternatively if you do not have facilities for showing video, consider using an excerpt from the original book ‘Yes Man’ by Danny Wallace.

In the movie, Carl learns a lot and changes his life for the better by being willing to give things a go. In a similar way, the Bible tells us to make good use of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:16). We don’t need to say “yes” to everything like Carl did, but making the most of an opportunity can have a dramatic effect!


Briefly tell the story from Luke 19:1-10 about the lonely, miserable tax collector who ripped everyone off by stealing from them. We can guess that his life wasn’t going too well!

When Jesus came to the town, Zacchaeus knew that it was too good an opportunity to pass up so did everything he could to see Jesus, even climbing a nearby tree! When Jesus stopped, looked up and invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house, Zacch made the most of it. As a result of meeting Jesus that day, Zacchaeus turned his life around giving back four times the money he had stolen and deciding to give away half his stuff to the poor!


To end the assembly, ask the students to quietly take a moment to think about the following questions:

  • What opportunities might you have this school year?
  • How are you going to respond to the opportunities that you are given? Will you let them go, or make the most of them like Carl and Zacchaeus did?

As you begin this new school year, be positive and take the opportunities that come your way.

A number of weeks ago, a conversation started between youth workers on twitter about finding funding to help support the work they do. I was able to share a few links to websites that I have used in the past, and I thought these links might be of use to others too.

As a caveat I’ve not used all of them myself, but I have had success with a couple. Take a look and share in the comments any other resources you’ve used to secure funding for your work.

  • – a very useful free service where you can create and save a profile, then search and filter results in a variety of ways. It also send you regular emails with updates on grants and funding, training, events and news.
  • – a charity providing some free resources and a paid search facility (from £5.50 for 24 hours access)
  • – news, information and guides for funding, plus access to their directory. You get a free 7 day trial then a 12 month subscription for £50. I’ve not tried this one!
  • The Directory of Social Changehave a family of useful websites. Although you have to pay for access to use them, the small cost would easily be worth it if you secured funding through its service:
  • Open4fundingis a funding search portal hired by various councils around the UK. Where available, it’s a very useful tool for searching and filtering funding available in your area. I’ve not seen the list of which councils use this service, but it is certainly active for the following:


As additional advice for finding funding, I highly recommend going to ‘boring’ meetings and networking with other agencies and partners (as I mentioned here). There are often people with money in budgets to spend!

What are your top tips for finding funding?

Something I’ve been struggling with for a while, especially since taking on more responsibility and oversight for a number of different areas in my job, is about managing my time better. Generally I have a good sense of what is important, and usually manage to achieve what is needed in the right timeframe, however I know that I’m not always methodical or organised in my approach and often waste time by doing too many things simultaneously.

From my limited experience, I think this is an issue for many youth workers. Because (generally speaking) we are practical, hands-on, relational people; the admin, planning and organisation don’t always come at the top of our list (or maybe approached in a reluctant battle-focused manner)! Recently I’ve been working through my own systems and challenging myself to work smarter. Here’s a couple of things I’ve learnt:

Switch off push email

Owning a smart phone is great for many reasons, but I’ve found having my phone buzz and beep every time a new email arrives is very distracting. I would often catch myself opening the email and replying to it immediately, in spite of what I was currently doing. I would end up flitting from one thing to another without properly focusing or finishing each. It also had the added issue that people were starting to think that I was available to them at any time as I would respond instantly. A few weeks back, I turned off the push notification. I can still get email instantly whenever I need it, I just have to tap the button to open the app. It’s been hard to resist temptation, but I’m now starting to limit how often I access my email. Ideally I want to only check and respond once or twice a day.

Structure my calendar better

I’ve been sharing online calendars with my family and work colleagues for years, so people are able to see what I’m doing or when I’m available. The thing is, if there is no particular meeting or event the day looks empty and I end up doing whatever is most urgent on my task list, and not always being too productive. Recently I’ve been experimenting with blocking out times for certain tasks each day or week and putting my focus into that. For example, Monday mornings are staff team and church leadership meetings. Because I’m in the office, I’ve started blocking out the rest of Monday to stay in the office working alongside the team and hitting the general admin like reading the post, responding to emails, etc. I know it’s a little thing, but structuring the day and setting aside that time has really helped my productivity.

There’s been some good blog posts on this subject from well-known leaders recently that caught my attention. Michael Hyatt posted about How to Better Control Your Time by Designing Your Ideal Week, and Doug Fields recently did a 3-part series outlining 5 Steps toward the death of “to-do” lists. A big part of it is about structuring his calendar:

  • He defines his main roles within his work.
  • He then lists all the most important tasks for the upcoming week under those role headings
  • He estimates a time frame for each task
  • Then he blocks out any meetings & events on the calendar
  • and works out a time slot around the meetings for each task.

It’s essentially prioritising the most important things and then ensuring there’s a set time to get it done.

Talking of important things, the Urgent Vs Important dilemma is very relevant to youth work. I learnt about this a number of years ago, but Michael Hyatt does a good job of explaining why you need to focus on important and ignore the urgent. Check out  Is That Task Important or Merely Urgent?

So what about you? How do you manage the many demands for your time? What tips can you share?

After posting our Social Media Policy the other week, I’ve found a great additional resource that may be of interest to those that found it helpful. Jon Coombs is a youth pastor at Canterbury Baptist Church in Canterbury, Australia. He has written up and published on his blog a far more comprehensive document titled ‘Electronic Communication Guidelines‘. It includes information on using Email, SMS Messaging, Social Media, Photos, Gaming, and Blogs. From the introduction:

This document seeks to outline guidelines and good practice for youth influencers in using electronic communication tools in a safe and encouraging way for those under the church’s care…

Youth leaders are not the only people who deal with young people in the church community. While they perhaps come into contact with young people on a more regular basis than others, through the programs and gatherings of the church, there are a wider sphere of people who also need to communicate with young people. The term ‘youth influencers’, therefore, includes, but is not limited to, those who interact on a regular basis with young people (under eighteen) through youth group, small groups, one-on-one discipleship, music teams, services, and any other interactions that may take place under the umbrella of one’s church.

I’m sure the document can be adaptable for use in other settings, and it’s great to see a working example of someone who’s thinking through the opportunities and risks involved with engaging young people digitally.

Visit Jon’s website to download the Electronic Communication Guidelines.

'Jeesy Creesy, What On Earth Is That?' by peasap on Flickr

The following is an Easter assembly for use in secondary schools that has a focus on the cross as a symbol of hope.


To explain that Easter is more than chocolate eggs, and to explore the idea that bad things (like a torture implement) can be used for good.


Introduce yourself and the theme of the assembly. Explain that Easter is just around the corner, so you are going to be looking at the symbols of the season!

Game: Match the egg

In advance, find out the favourite chocolate egg of three teachers in the school (make sure they are different ones). Buy two of each of those eggs and bring them to the assembly. Ask the three teachers to come up the front and allow students to guess which egg is the favourite of each teacher. When someone guesses correctly, they can have one of those eggs and the teacher may keep the other.

As the last teacher/egg will be very obvious, you may want to include an extra “red herring” egg to make the game more challenging!


Eggs, rabbits and even lambs are symbols of Easter because they represent new life. Christians use these symbols because it helps them to remember Jesus being raised from the dead and having New Life. However the most powerful symbol associated with Easter is actually a piece of torture equipment!

The Cross:

Briefly explain about the use of the cross as a public humiliation and torture for criminals. There is a good explanation on here. Take care to assess the level of your audience and not go into too much detail. The following is an edited version from the website:

Crucifixion sometimes began with a scourging or flogging of the victim’s back. The Romans used a whip called a flagrum, which consisted of small pieces of bone and metal attached to a number of leather strands. After the flogging, the victim was often forced to carry his own crossbar, or patibulum, to the execution site.

Once the victim arrived at the execution site, the patibulum was put on the ground and the victim was forced to lie upon it and spikes about 7 inches long were driven into the wrists. The patibulum was then lifted on to the upright post, or stipes, and the victim’s body was awkwardly turned on the seat so that the feet could be nailed to the stipes.  The position of the nailed body held the victim’s rib cage in a fixed position, which made it extremely difficult to exhale, and impossible to take a full breath.

Ultimately, the mechanism of death in crucifixion was suffocation. To breathe, the victim was forced to push up on his feet to allow for inflation of the lungs. As the body weakened and pain in the feet and legs became unbearable, the victim was forced to trade breathing for pain and exhaustion. Eventually, the victim would succumb in this way, becoming utterly exhausted or lapsing into unconsciousness so that he could no longer lift his body off the stipes and inflate his lungs.

You can read more about the various medical effects of Jesus’ crucifixion on Wikipedia.

Tell the audience that the cross is a symbol of pain, torture and death. Yet what should be a terrible and scary thing, now gives hope to millions! Something bad has become something good.

Philip Lawrence:

Change the atmosphere by telling the story of head teacher Philip Lawrence. Mr Lawrence was tragically stabbed outside his school in 1995 when going to the aid of a pupil who was being attacked. He later died in hospital.  However, 2 years after his death, his family started the Philip Lawrence Awards in his memory to reward outstanding achievements in good citizenship by young people aged 11 to 20. Every year they recognise contributions to the community which bring out the best in young people, empower them to take the initiative and make a real difference to their lives and the lives of others – building confidence, promoting safety and reducing crime.

You can read more about the Philip Lawrence Awards at

Out of something bad, something good has happened!


In 66 books, hundreds of stories, poems and thoughts, the bible is one long theme of how something bad became something good. The cross is the main symbol of that hope.

Most historians agree that there was a man called Jesus who lived and was killed around 2000 years ago. Christians believe that Jesus was killed for everyone. He died and rose again bringing new life. He took on death and said that we can live because He died.

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:7-8


Ask these questions as an end to the assembly. Challenge the young people to think about their own response to the symbol of the cross.

  • Have you ever experienced something bad turn into something good?
  • Do you think death can turn into life?
  • What does the symbol of the cross mean to you?

Social Media Policy

1 April 2011 — 6 Comments


Dave Johnson and I have been working on drafting some guidance around use of social media and networking within our organisation. I finished off the policy yesterday, so thought I would share it here as I’ve had two separate conversations with people this week who were looking for advice on how best to implement social media in their settings.

Firstly, I need to say that this is not a comprehensive document. In writing it we had three main aims; to be clear and concise, to give guidance for staff using personal accounts, and to give guidance over use of ‘official’ church accounts.

You can download the Social Media Policy Template in pdf format. Free free to use it and adapt it for your own use, but link back to this page where possible.

Download: Social Media Policy Template

Much of the information in the template was drawn from two online resources; the ‘Post your policies’ thread on youthworkonline, and the Social Networking Policy on the Birthtofive website which was then adapted to fit our organisation. If you require further resources, then visit the website of the brilliant Katie Bacon, who specialises in digital youth outreach.

Does anyone else have policies for social media use they want to share?

Made In His Image

31 March 2011 — Leave a comment


'Creative Independence' by nattu on Flickr



The following is a group session plan for young people to explore what it might mean to be made in the image of God. I have used it with young people aged 11-15, but it can be adapted for other ages. It is intended as an introduction to the subject, so doesn’t go into a lot of detail, but it would work well with follow-up sessions around self-esteem and value.

Made in His image

Key Point:

Even though we often want to change or improve ourselves, God created each one of us in His own likeness. That means we carry the characteristics of God in us!

Illustration: The Human Body

Read out some of these strange-but-true facts out to the group to illustrate how amazing our bodies are! These are taken from

  • The average human brain has about 100 billion nerve cells.
  • Nerve impulses to and from the brain travel as fast as 170 miles (274 km) per hour.
  • It’s impossible to sneeze with your eyes open.
  • Your stomach needs to produce a new layer of mucus every two weeks or it would digest itself.
  • The average life of a taste bud is 10 days.
  • The average cough comes out of your mouth at 60 miles (96.5 km) per hour.
  • Relative to size, the strongest muscle in the body is the tongue.
  • When you sneeze, all your bodily functions stop even your heart.
  • Babies are born without knee caps. They don’t appear until the child reaches 2-6 years of age.
  • Right handed people live, on average, nine years longer than left-handed people do.
  • Children grow faster in the springtime.
  • Women blink nearly twice as much as men.
  • Blondes have more hair than dark-haired people do.
  • Our eyes are always the same size from birth, but our nose and ears never stop growing.
  • The length of the finger dictates how fast the fingernail grows. Therefore, the nail on your middle finger grows the fastest, and on average, your toenails grow twice as slow as your fingernails.
  • Your ears and nose continue to grow throughout your entire life.
  • The human body is comprised of 80% water.
  • The average human will shed 40 pounds of skin in a lifetime.
  • You were born with 300 bones. When you get to be an adult, you have 206.
  • Human thigh bones are stronger than concrete.

Read: Genesis 1:26-27

Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image and likeness. And let them rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the tame animals, over all the earth, and over all the small crawling animals on the earth.”

So God created human beings in his image. In the image of God he created them. He created them male and female.


  • What does it mean to be made “in the image of God?”
  • What characteristics does God have that we share?
  • Do you ever think that you are made like God? Why or why not?

Activity: Bargain Hunt

Show the following photos and ask the group to guess how much each of these items are worth. Add in your own if you prefer. They will get some right, but others will be worth much more than they think!

Early 20th Century Chess Set

An Antique Chess Set – on sale for £450







A used Rolex Daytona Cosmograph Watch

A used Rolex Daytona Cosmograph Watch – currently available for £30,755 (35,000)








Crystal Palace Space Station in online game Planet Calypso

A virtual space station in online game ‘Planet Calypso’ – Erik Novak bought it in January 2010 as an “investment” for £218,000 (US$330,000)! It only exists in the game!







Often we can see things and don’t think they are worth much – jut like in some of the photos you’ve just seen. If we are honest we might not think that WE are worth that much, but the Bible tells us that God places a high value on each of us…

Read: Psalm 139:13-16

You made my whole being; you formed me in my mother’s body. I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way. What you have done is wonderful. I know this very well. You saw my bones being formed as I took shape in my mother’s body. When I was put together there, you saw my body as it was formed. All the days planned for me were written in your book before I was one day old.


  • Did you know that God knows you intimately?
  • How does it make you feel? Why?
  • What would you want to say to God now you know how he created you and cares for you?


That the group come to know how much God loves them.