Postcode Lottery – Do you have a winning postcode?
Louise Sheridan leads the MEd/PgDip Adult Education, Community Development and Youth Work at the University of Glasgow and is a member of the Scottish Youth Work Research Steering Group. Still a Youth and Community Worker at heart, she is currently setting up a Community Garden – always keen to enable people and things to grow.
No chance to win money here I’m afraid. Whether a school has youth work on offer is a bit of a lottery. Depending on things like a school’s postcode or the Head Teacher, a school may or may not have a youth worker attached. I’m making the case for all schools, or at least all secondary schools, to provide a youth work service. The fact that youth work in Scotland provides an amazing service to young people is not in dispute. The Scottish Government recognises that youth work can help to close the attainment gap. The Deputy First Minister for Scotland, John Swinney, paid tribute to youth workers across the country for their role supporting young people throughout the challenges of Covid-19. Youth workers rose to the challenge during the pandemic. For some, this was funded through Covid-19 Education Recovery: Youth Work but their adaptability and passion to support young people is long-standing.
If you are reading this, you probably know the benefits of youth work are many. These are captured in The Impact of Community-Based Universal Youth Work in Scotland, which include:
- Building confidence
- Gaining skills for life
- Learning to get on with others
My own research into youth participation in North Ayrshire* also found, through their involvement with youth work, young people’s confidence grows, and they feel more optimistic about the future. Part of this connects to the approach taken by youth workers, which is often different from teachers. John Swinney also noted ‘teachers are doing what they can…but an adult who is not a teacher can sometimes provide a different and welcome perspective for young people’.
The best youth workers are described as being ‘on the same level’ as young people*, which is different from the relationship between young people and teachers. In youth work, a lot of effort goes into building a trust with young people and helping them to build relationships with other people. From this, a sense of trust grows, and young people feel supported. Youth workers help young people to seem themselves as ‘agents of change’*, able to make a difference in their communities. This surely is the perfect accompaniment to the Curriculum for Excellence.
Rather than school-based youth work provision being a bit of a lottery, dependent on a Head Teacher choosing to secure a youth worker through Pupil Equity Funding, or some other factor, it should be part of all schools. It may be unknown territory, but guidance is available: Youth Work A Guide for Schools. Long before the pandemic, the Scottish Government (2015) recognised the need to address the gap in attainment for young people in Scotland when they wrote: Pupil attainment: closing the gap. Covid-19 only increased the gap and young people in Scotland will experience the impacts for years to come. The need has never been greater – young people have the right to the best support possible, from youth workers and teachers, working together to help young people reach their potential and change the world.
*For further information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org