Tag: evaluation

Sunday Schools and Government Inspections. #politics #religion


There has been some discussion over the English Department of Education policy for Out-of-school education settings: The policy is part of the UK Governments counter extremism policy. You can read the call for responses to the policy which includes the policy proposal and some questions the Government are wondering about here. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/480133/out_of_school_education_settings_call_for_evidence.pdf

What is this policy about?

That’s a great question. It’s a policy which fits with the UK Governments wider PREVENT strategy, (that’s a policy to tackle terrorism and extremism). As part of that the government is going to “work to reduce the risk that children and young people are exposed to harm and extremist views in out-of-school education settings “ (p6).

Why target out-of –school education situations

Well schools are regulated, and harmful practices are ways to get the school closed or teacher involved barred from working with children and young people, and out-of–school provision is not (p6).

And they are dangerous?

The government is saying OFSTED (the English schools inspection body) and Local Government bodies are making the case that they need to be checked out. Highlighting concerns over the Health & safety of premises, also “There have been reports of unsuitable teaching materials being used, and evidence that no suitability checks are being conducted on staff to ensure children are safe” (p6). The make an example of the so-called Trojan schools in Birmingham, UK.

That sounds Bad. What are unsuitable teaching materials?

While discussing good out-of-school settings they say:

We want these settings to continue to provide children with learning opportunities whilst putting in place a system which enables intervention in those cases where out-of-school settings fail to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. It is right to expect children to be in a safe environment and somewhere which does not teach children views which undermine our fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs (p7).

So an unsuitable teaching material would be something which is undermining our fundamental British values. Democracy, the rule of Law, Individual Liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. Do we get to vote on those fundamentals are the British fundamentals, or are they just decided for us and put into law by the government?

They are decided for us by the government. In a very democratic way which we should respect.

Quite. So okay I think what we do at our thing like Sunday school just about gets through, how does the policy work when and if it comes into practice.

As you are in Scotland and it is a policy for England, you do nothing.

What if I live in England. (this is on the world-wide web, and some people in England could be on the internet).
Two options.
1 – go rogue. (I will refrain from outlining the consequences of this, but suffice to say that would be viewed dimly.)
2 – the government will make a way for you to register your out of school setting.

Every Sunday school setting ?

When referring to out-of-school education settings, we mean any institution providing tuition, training or instruction to children aged under 19 in England that is not a school, college, 16-19 academy or registered childcare provider.

So that includes churches Sunday schools.

Hold on all of them? that sounds like the state is going to register all Sunday school style events and all Sunday school style event staff in England.

Not quite

we propose to focus resources on where children receive intensive tuition, instruction or training out-of-school, which are closer in nature to other regulated settings and which potentially have greater impact on children, and might pose a greater risk to children (p10)


Intensive Education could be considered anything which entails an individual child attending a setting for more than between 6 to 8 hours a week, bearing in mind that this could be over an hour every day after school or on one or both days of the weekend … [or] might establish themselves to provide ‘intensive’ education but less frequently, or for a fixed period of time, for example during school holidays or in the run up to exams (p10).

(check the first few minutes of this house of lords video where Lord Nash assures Lord Storey that Sunday Schools are anticipated as being under the time limit, as are one-off residential events.)

So closer in nature to a school type education model, and over 8 hours a week per child. Phew, I think I am safe.

Phew indeed.

So whay are people so upset.

Well on Thursday, this man, The head of OFSTED, said that every religious learning setting in England would need to be registered, (at around 11.22 on the video).  This would seem to contradict the Lords comment above. Although this ambiguity is perhaps indicative of the fact this is proposed policy, not enacted yet. If he is right though, the Sunday schools of any church in England would be registered and also could be a target for inspection by OFSTED, the results could be their staff could be barred from working with children or the entire thing shut down. of course OFSTED may also find them to be Outstanding and commend them on their practice.

yes it could be ok I suppose, but I am not sure i like the idea of the government have a register of people who believe things, is there anything we can do about it.

YES – these people want you to write to your MP and ask them calmly and politely to go and listen to the debate in parliament about it. As I live in Scotland and my MP cannot vote in this matter I am not going to write to mine about it.

Ok. But doesn’t it concern you at all?

Not really. The church where I help with youth work is registered with the government as a licence entertainment venue for concerts, and for gift aid already. All leaders with children & youth work are registered through child protection systems with the governments child protection check system. Registering that we have a Sunday school and who the staff are is not really an issue as the government already has access to all that information. Also I think this type of move fits into the ongoing narrative within Scottish youth work of the professionalization of the youth work staff. Youth work staff are encouraged to voluntarily become members of the CLD Standards Council for Scotland.

Where it does raise some issues for me is around how much of the youth work I do within the church which is learning (i.e. similar in nature to school based learning) and secondly How I feel about being externally validated / approved for this work. That is something to think about, not be feared I would guess. What should a Sunday morning event for young people look like in nature and is an educational lens the best way to view this work?

Evaluating Youthwork

In the recent few week i have been thinking alot about evaluation.
– A student in the local area has been asking to evaluate the Third Sunday event
Stewart Cutler has been asking does Youthwork Work?
– I have been thinking about what makes a great concert. (and by default a great interaction/youthwork engagement.)

Youth work helps young people learn about themselves, others and society through non-formal educational activities that combine enjoyment, challenge, learning and achievement. Youth work provides for young people’s well being and development in all its various forms – intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual.
Youth workers work primarily with young people aged between 13 and 19. Their work seeks to promote young people’s personal and social development and enable them to have a voice, influence and place in their communities and society as a whole. (http://www.nya.org.uk/information/108501/whatisyouthwork/)

Can I prove various things within that statement.  yes.
Should I prove the things within that statement. no

what does that prove? Does it prove I am a good worker? Does it prove i am effective? if so effective in what?
How can you prove that “young people learn about themselves, others and society” without introducing a test for the young people. It would need to assess them individually on a situation which relates to the subject of which they had the interaction with the youth worker about. Kind of similar in nature to the tests at the end of Dog Borstal. (although perhaps the rosette is slightly to far to copy.)

So that leaves us in a quandary. How can I justify my position to my boss, my boss’s boss and ultimately to those who pay my (decent) wages. How can I as a worker, be clear in what I do having worth and importance.

We have to justify our work within the basis of our our current economic system. That system is based upon the production of widgets. if you work hard i will see the widgets you have produced, therefore I will know you have worked hard. (exchange widget for any thingy you wish) The history of youthwork is that people have judged youthwork in that widget counting way.

The current practice is to measure outputs – how many clubs are you doing. What different opportunities are available for young people to avail themselves of. This system speaks of dealing with youth work by not dealing with the work itself, more where and when the work could take place.
The Scottish Government is pushing youthwork to measuring outcomes, as a worker you set an outocme for the session and using Outcome Focussed Planning and Practice you then assess if you met your own outcomes or not. I think that this is closer to the way of measuring youthwork, but still has problems.

How can you measure the outcome of a session of alcohol awareness? Immediately after the session? Immediately after the first time they are offered a drink?
I had a friend who did a session on drinking with a group of girls, talking about some of the effects of alcohol on the body. The response was not what was expected or wanted. The response the next week in discussion was that the group had still went out and consumed lots of alcohol, but they had wore jackets as in the session they had learned that alcohol lowers the body temperature.
Which box does that tick if we are assessing outcomes. They did learn about drinking, they did modify their behavior in relation to drinking practice, they drunk the same amount as they were planning to before the session. Is that successful or not? The problem I guess is that there is no easy way to do it.

If accepting this conception of youthwork. then traditional methods of measuring the process cannot be appropriate. Outcome based practice has got closer but yet i do not feel is actually the answer.

I have a suggestion but until then. the question of “How do you measure something which is unmeasurable” remains.

I am the King of the Internet (Beta version)

But i think i have it.

I am posting this blog and it it works this will appear on my facebook and bebo account within three hours. If so I will be the king of the internet, and need to set up a myspace and twitter to check it does work there to.

But I am hopeful. as soon as it works I will tell you how. in the mean time just bask in the goodness that may be how cool i am

Youthwork – What is it?

last week I was at a training day. It was led by a high heid yin of Youthlink, (the agency which acts as the main link between the youth work sector and the government within Scotland.

The training was around the concept of Outcome focused practice. The idea is that any youth work should be focussed on the outcomes from the youth work practice, (the what happens because of youth work), rather than the more traditional position held by the sector, of work being measured or focused on outputs (the things we do as youth work)

This is being driven by funders looking for more detailed outcome information, the HMIe’s assessment of youth work practice and evaluation methods, and by the Scottish Governments current policy drive towards a skills based agenda for Scotland.
My reflections

I smiled at the concept. As a youth worker for a church, i am paid and judged on outcomes of my engagement with young people. But if had met with the loca heads of The local Youth Network and I had said I had an outcome focused practice i would have been portrayed as an unethical youth worker. Just out to save the young people, not interested in good work. (I know that is stretching it a bit but hey, thats sarcasm for you.)

As part of the process during the day we split into groups and completed a Weavers triangle planning/monitoring/evaluation tool.

As the group wrote on the triangle the things we would plan to do and make happen as essential youthwork stuff they fell into three main categories

provision of
– opportunities, learning, training, volunteering opps, support, activities
indentifing and securing
– funding, partners, service level agreements
Monitoring and evaluating
– the above

The thing that jarred with me is that I believe youth work to be about relationships, yet there was nothing there about relationships. Yeah there was methods to build or maintain relationships, space for shared experience and glimpsing into the work of the other, but there was nothing about relationship, the voluntary nature of the work. it was all be stealth, that having a relationship wit a young person wasn’t a valid thing to be admitted to.

I think though that this is what the outcome focused evaluation is all about.

I meet with young people to be with them and work. My aim and outcome is to do good youth work.
If I do that then I have done a good job and I am happy.
If I have done that then the young person i have worked with has changed through a process or openness, weakness, equality, and reflection. This gives space for decision to be made and changes will follow.
If I do the above then as a result of good youth work a change will happen.
Outcome evaluation asks what the changes are. and are they the ones we expected or suspected at the start of the process.

One of the year out guys who have worked with me once asked me
“if you could only work with the same 20 young people for the rest of your life would you be satisfied”
I answered if if did good work then yes.

If as part of my work, i do good work and twenty people change their lives through engaging and undergoing youth work with me then I would be satisfied with that. didn’t Jesus work with twelve people or something?

so any thoughts?

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