The power of uniformed youth work

The power of uniformed youth work

Picture of Julie Neville

BY: Julie Neville
18 Aug 2015

 Arts Award Youth & Community Associate Julie Larner tells us how uniformed youth organisations are growing and highlights the natural links between uniformed youth projects and Arts Award

What’s new?

1st Olney Scouts doing their Bronze Arts Award skill shareDuring the last two years, Youth United and the Cabinet Office have invested £10 million in growing uniformed youth organisations across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  81% of the young people who have taken part in new projects said that participating helped them become more organised, as well as reporting a sense of empowerment, increased motivation and self-confidence.

To add to the growing trend, the government recently announced that they would be spending £50m to expand the number of cadet units in state schools.

Who are uniformed youth organisations and what does this all have to do with Arts Award?

Fire, Police, Army and Sea Cadets, Girlguiding, The Scout Association, Girls’ and Boys’ Brigades, St John’s Ambulance and Woodcraft Folk are all part of the expanding organisations making up the uniformed youth work sector.  With ongoing spending cuts in statutory youth work over recent years, the work of these largely volunteer-led organisations is more important than ever in supporting and developing young people.

Boston Police Cadets Arts AwardArts Award compliments the existing programmes being delivered throughout uniformed youth work.  The portfolio based approach enables leaders to be flexible in deciding how they link it to badges and awards, taking as much time as their members need to achieve the levels.  For some, this might take the form of a longer creative winter project when there are less outdoor activities happening, for others it might provide the perfect framework for a group sleepover or summer arts camp.

‘We did Arts Award Discover over the winter period when we do less outdoors stuff.  We did an arts walk around Chelmsford which we incorporated into the Award,’ Apryl Hammet, Occasional Helper from 6th Chelmsford Cubs told us. ‘The project allowed me to run the sessions in my own way which I enjoyed. My confidence has grown in the context of Scouting, so it has been brilliant.  For our group, it gave the young people a much broader approach to activities. They really enjoyed the art and also the exploration of Chelmsford. It gave them confidence in their skills and also promoted uniformed organisations to partners in the wider community.’

Making the most of resources

Leaders of uniformed youth groups don’t need to be arts professionals to become Arts Award advisers. In many cases the group store cupboard already contains a raft of materials for delivering arts activities and other volunteers will often be able to offer their own arts skills to groups free of charge.  Leaders already have a huge amount of valuable experience nurturing young people’s skills including their confidence and independence and Arts Award can contribute to this experience, developing other character skills along the way such as teamwork, problem solving and leadership.

Guiding and Scouting

Robert Baden-Powell and his sister Agnes who founded the Scouts and Guides over 100 years ago were both accomplished artists.  Following in their footsteps, both organisations (which between them have a million young members) strive to give young people a voice and to develop their leadership potential and wider skills, including in the arts.   In 1912, The Guide Association launched the photographer badge and Girlguiding’s badges today offer many more creative opportunities.  These include artist, craft, designer, dancer and entertainer badges for Brownies; circus skills, film lover and performing arts badges for Guides.

Girl Guides at Ancient House Museum. Photo Sonya Duncan

Guides in Norfolk were recently invited to their local museum for an Arts Award Discover sleepover which also earned them their Girlguiding Nights Away badge.  The girls met costumed characters, tried out historic crafts and handled genuine artefacts before trying a Palaeontologists Pudding for a late night treat. In the morning they explored a recreation of an Anglo-Saxon burial site and dug up pieces of pottery and coins.

Arts Award can be achieved alongside a number of The Scout Association badges, including the artist, creative, craft and photographer badges, and the skills challenge award.  To achieve their Bronze Arts Award, members of 1st Olney Scouts took part in watercolour and drama workshops before visiting their local theatre, meeting the actors and teaching local Cubs and Beavers to paint.  They evidenced their work in a troop scrap book.


Volunteer Police Cadets in Boston, Lincolnshire, worked towards Bronze Arts Award taking part in creative activities relevant to work in the police force, this included organising a community arts festival to promote diversity. The project also helped develop their leadership skills.  Arts Award has supported officers and volunteers to identify which cadets have the right attitude and skills to be future Cadet Section Leaders, which is a very important career development progression for members.

‘We believe Arts Award has and will become a core activity of our over-arching training programme. It has strengthened what we offer to the young people; it offers them creativity and an opportunity to be part of a cohesive team in a totally different way to what we have delivered in the past.’ Boston Police Cadets

Uniformed youth and formal education

The benefit that uniformed youth activities have on character building is now being recognised in formal education, for example Oasis Academy Nunsthorpe which has given every Friday afternoon over to Scouting.  The increase in models such as this and the potential rise in school-based Cadet corps provides an ideal platform for introducing Arts Award as part of their growing partnership between schools and uniformed youth groups.

So there’s no better time to get your uniformed youth group going with Arts Award, or for independent practitioners who are trained as advisers to approach their local uniformed youth groups to start up a project.

For further resources and support visit the links in this blog or contact Julie Neville

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