Scouting Grows In Numbers

It was very pleasing to read yesterday that the number of Scouts in the UK had risen again for the seventh year on the trot (see here). It was also pleasing to see that the number of 14 – 18 year olds showed a 6.8% increase.

Watching the social medial etc. it was quite noticeable that a lot of Counties and Districts were making quite a noise about the increase in numbers and trying to promote Scouting as the positive movement that it is. It’s just a shame that the total silence from my County was deafening! A couple of adjacent Counties were really pushing the good news and one County Commissioner was on their local TV. Us? Not a peep. I got my Counties figures from my DC (still waiting for a reply from the County…) and our figures are up. The County grew a modest 1.7%, but that is still growth. One of the Districts even grew their numbers by 13%, so well done to them.

The other downer yesterday was that the National Secular Society decided to start moaning again about the Scout Promise (see this from 2008) and the faith bit. Anyway, rather than going over old ground again, see what Chris at Be Prepared has to say – he makes a lot of sense.

Anyway, back to numbers! My District did actually lose a few young people over the past year, but that was mainly due to the (hopefully temporary) closure of a Beaver Colony due to the usual reason – lack of adult support. My Group increased its numbers by 19% on last year, and I’m sure it’s a lot higher now judging the number of kids I see at meetings!

I’m sure that this time next year we’ll be celebrating the huge increase in numbers across the District and in my Group (we’ll need more room to meet in if this goes on!).

I Do Wonder Sometimes…..

Last April, the Scout Association launched the My Badges App for the iPhone / iPod Touch / iPad. This app has all the requirements for all badges, from the Beaver’s right through to the Queen’s Scout Award. And very useful it is too.

At the time, I was not too impressed that it was just for the iDevices and not for the Android platform. The Scout Association said an Android version would be coming soon, er later in the year, no early in the new year, when pigs fly etc.

So today, you can imagine that I’m not overly impressed to read that the SA are releasing a game app for both iDevices and Android called Secret Island Adventure. Now why are they releasing a game for both platforms when they have yet to release the badges app on android? I’m guessing the game app won’t be free.

The badges app, I would buy for my phone (when it eventually comes out), but a game? An app that will be very useful seems to be being ignored for the sake of a game. I do wonder sometimes……

On a happier note, after last September’s discussion between me and Kiff, we were both keen to do another, but we both got a bit distracted by additions to our respective families! However, after Kiff has done a little housekeeping on his site this weekend, he will be publishing our next discussion. Watch this space!

The Woodcraft Folk

I read an article this morning about the Woodcraft Folk taking young people aged 11 / 13 (depending where you read) to the demonstrations about the proposed rises in university tuition fees. The article I read was in the Daily Telegraph (but I can’t find it online – p16 of the paper though!) or a much shortened version in the Evening Standard.

Now it’s all well and good to protest against things that you disagree with, but I don’t think that taking young people who are that young to protests which have a very high chance of violence breaking out is very clever. Having taken groups of Scouts to London in the past, I know it’s hard enough keeping everyone together normally, let alone in a protest where things could go wrong at any moment.

The Woodcraft Folk are, to quote from their website

A movement for children and young people, open to everyone from birth to adult. We offer a place where children will grow in confidence, learn about the world and start to understand how to value our planet and each other.

Sounds good. But there are a couple of issues I have with them.

First of all, it might be worth while mentioning that I may be a little biased against them, based on the one time I met some Woodcraft Folk. I was on summer camp as a Scout and we had gone somewhere for the day (no idea where) and we came across these scouty type people who obviously weren’t Scouts. We said hello to one of their leaders and asked who they were. The leader replied along the lines of ‘ Woodcraft Folk, don’t you know your Scouting history?’ and stomped off! So, being the mature Scouts we were, we immediately renamed them the ‘Flower Fairies’ and proceeded to take the mickey out of them (out of their hearing of course!).

So please feel free to carry on reading and let me tell you about my reservations about this organisation, but please take a look at their website, have a read and make your own mind up!

They started in the 1920’s and to quote them –

Just after the First World War one of the leading figures in the Scouting movement broke away from what he considered to be its militaristic approach…

Now I find this a bit odd as in 1917, in the middle of the Great War, Baden-Powell was horrified at the thought of all the men who had been Scouts being slaughtered on the battlefields (this was no longer the type of war he himself fought, but a highly mechanised one) and he wrote –

The roots of Scouting have grown among young people of all civilised countries and are developing more each day. It might be thought that if in years to come, a considerable proportion of the future citizens of each nation forms part of this brotherhood, they will be joined by a bond of personal friendship and mutual understanding such as has never existed before, which will help to find a solution to terrible international conflicts.

So Scouting itself was becoming an organisation dedicated to peace and friendship amongst countries. Indeed in 1937, the World Conference resolved –

The Conference resolves that the International Committee be requested to do all that it can to ensure that Scouting and Rovering in all countries, while fostering true patriotism, are genuinely kept within the limits of international cooperation and friendship, irrespective of creed and race, as has always been outlined by the Chief Scout (Baden-Powell). Thus, any steps to the militarization of Scouting or the introduction of political aims, which might cause misunderstanding and thus handicap our work for peace and good will among nations and individuals should be entirely avoided in our programmes.

(see here).
So the Scouts were hardly militaristic even then. The Woodland Folk seem to have a huge chip on their shoulders about the Scouts and similar organisations. The leader who spoke to me and my fellow Scouts is a case in point, but so are the Oxford Woodcraft Folk.

On their webpage it asks –


Camping, making stuff, building rafts, archery, abseiling, singing, high ropes, rock climbing, making brilliant friends, putting on shows, helping others, doing lots of really cool stuff?

Sounds good to me! But then asks –


Marching, saluting flags, uniforms, bossy adults?

Marching – Scouts are not known for square bashing, that’s the Cadets. We do a bit very occasionally, on Remembrance Day (and badly!), for example, but that’s it.

Saluting Flags – OK guilty as charged. But there is nothing wrong in showing respect to the symbol of your country and what it stands for.

Uniforms – Guilty again. But what is that young girl on your webpage wearing? Oh, it’s your uniform!

Bossy Adults – Erm I’m lost here. It doesn’t matter what organisation you belong to, some leaders / adults are going to be bossy, shouty, annoying, kind, helpful or inspirational.

The other thing is that I’m not too sure about their politics. I’ve said before that Scouting should be apolitical (here and here), but should engage our young people to take an interest in the issues that affect them and should converse with all political parties.

But isn’t that what the Woodcraft Folk are doing by attending these protests? Well no. They are taking a particular side and not engaging all parts of the political spectrum. In fact a lot of the protests just annoy many people and reduce the sympathy for the students and potential students!

Yes, talk to the politicians (of all parties) and get the young people to raise their concerns, but don’t take them to demonstrations where it is possible they could get hurt. Indeed there is a report in the Telegraph of a 15 year old girl being ‘beaten up by the police’ & ‘.. they broke her foot..’. Now that’s not good and deserves some further investigation, but can you imagine if I’d taken a Scout and that had happened?? Not worth thinking about.

So there you go. As far as the Woodcraft Folk are concerned, for me, the outdoorsy stuff is brilliant, they need to get rid of the chip on their collective shoulder about Scouting and engage in politics but stop being Political.

Please, though, make your own mind up!

Baden-Powell and The Nazis

On Monday 8th March, various previously classified documents from the 1930’s and 1940’s were placed in the National Archive. One of these documents concerned the relationship between the Hitler Youth, Scouting and BP. Of course all the media then blew up and started implying that Scouting was hand in hand with the Nazis! Indeed, I read a tweet on Twitter that went –

I never liked the Scouts. Nazi sympathisers it seems.

Oh dear!

However the WOSM have put out this statement

The Scout Movement victim of the Nazi regime

Geneva, 10 March 2010 — On the 8th of March, the security service of the United Kingdom submitted to the National Archives three bundles of declassified documents covering a period extending from 1937 to 1944. The World Scout Bureau acquired these documents for examination. These were essentially notes from the police declaring the coming and going of members of the Hitler Youth in the UK. Other parts are under the heading of the Nazi youth movement.

How Baden-Powell met with representatives of the Hitler Youth

Amongst all of these document pieces is a copy of a letter sent on November 20, 1937 by Baden-Powell to Joachim von Ribbentrop, German ambassador to London, thanking him for having received him on November 19, to meet Jochen Benemann and Hartmann Lauterbach, officials of the Hitler Youth. The tone of this letter is polite and diplomatic. It refers to the mutual feelings that the British and the Germans can exchange, Baden-Powell writes “I sincerely hope that we shall be able in the near future to give expression to it through the youth on both sides, and I will at once consult my headquarters and see what suggestions they can put forward”.

In one of these bundles of documents is a two-page report that Baden-Powell (hereafter BP) transmitted to the International Commissioner, where he states that “both [Lauterbacher] and Benemann are eager to see the Scouts get into closer touch with the German youth movement. He continued his report stating that Ribbentrop “sees in the Scout Movement a very powerful agency” to help bring together the two youths. To Ribbentrop, and as per the report by BP, “that the true peace between the two nations will depend on the youth being brought up on friendly terms together in forgetfulness of past differences”. This report carries no instructions from Baden-Powell to go along the suggestions proposed by Ribbentrop.

Lord Baden-Powell did not meet Hitler

In his report, Baden-Powell said that Ribbentrop would like him to go to Germany to meet Hitler. It is obvious that this meeting never took place. A week after his meeting with the ambassador, BP left for Africa. He returned to the UK for a short period in 1938 before returning permanently to Kenya October 27, 1938, where he died three years later.

In 1933 and 1937, World Scouting responds to the prohibition of Scouting by the Nazis

In January 1933, before the takeover by the Nazi Party, the Hitler Youth had expressed its hostility to Scouting, claiming that it alone could represent the youth of Germany. On the 17th of June, 1933, the Großdeutche Bund, a federation of many youth movements including a dozen Scout Movements was prohibited. On the 26th of May, 1934, a decree forbade the Reichschaft deutscher Pfadfinder, another federation of Scout Movements. The decree stated that the federation “had become a place of refuge for the young enemies of the new state.”

This solution marked the end of the Hitler Youth’s will to be recognized by the International Boy Scouts Bureau. Contacts were made during the jamboree in Hungary (August 1933) between them and the International Bureau, Hitler’s Youth sent its Chief of Staff Karl Nabersberg. He also went to the International Bureau in London in 1934, dressed in a Scout Uniform to negotiate contacts. He also sought to meet with the Scouts of France. But none of these contacts fell through and the dissolution of the Reichschaft deutscher Pfadfinder was one of the consequences.

In August, 1933, The World Scout Conference, held in Godöllo (Hungary), voted the following resolution (15/33), entitled “Political Propaganda”: “The Congress once again invites attention to the fact that any political propaganda of any character, direct or indirect, national or international, must not be permitted in any camp or scout gathering in which representatives of other nations are invited to participate.”
In 1937, the same World Conference was even more precise when it voted resolution 15/37 entitled “Patriotism”: “The Conference resolves that the International Committee be requested to do all that it can to ensure that Scouting and Rovering in all countries, while fostering true patriotism, are genuinely kept within the limits of international cooperation and friendship, irrespective of creed and race, as has always been outlined by the Chief Scout (Baden-Powell). Thus, any steps to the militarization of Scouting or the introduction of political aims, which might cause misunderstanding and thus handicap our work for peace and good will among nations and individuals should be entirely avoided in our programmes.”

Baden-Powell and the leaders of the International Bureau threatened by the Nazis in 1940

It is interesting to note that the Nazis invasion plan for the United-Kingdom, prepared in 1940 by the SS General Walter Schellenberg, foresaw the apprehension of about 2800 prominent British citizens, amongst whom was Lord Baden-Powell and the main leaders of the International Boy Scouts Bureau.

The invasion plan was accompanied by the document, “Informationsheft Groß Britannien” a book with information on British society: the administration, the education system, media, religious groups, political parties, unions, organizations of migrants , Freemasonry, Jewish organizations, police, secret services, described under the Nazi perspective.

Part of this Nazi book entitled “The education system” includes two sub-sections:”public schools” and ” The International Scout Movement”. Reading this text, a mixture of nonsense and very accurate information, makes us wonder. The Nazis believed that since Baden-Powell had been an intelligence officer in the British army, the Scouts he had created in 1907 had only been for the purpose of espionage for the benefit of England and commissioners of various international organizations had as their sole mission to prepare monthly and quarterly reports on the political economic and social life of their country for the International Scout Bureau. The portion devoted to Scouting is also an illustration of Nazi racism: Hubert Martin, Director of the International Bureau is described as “half Jewish”.

All these elements proves the lack of mutual sympathy that was between the Nazi regime Baden Powell and the Scout Movement. They should encourage today’s Scouts to reflect on their history to better understand the reality of their mission of peace, and to guard themselves against totalitarian regimes that have always tried to prohibit or restrict the Movement.

Of course, I know by now that some of the media will never let the facts get in the way of a good story! But it’s always interesting that certain sections of the media are so quick to criticise and put down the movement and very reluctant to be positive. Bad news sells of course!

Someone Needs to Re-read His Scout Law

I was looking at the Scout Association’s website this morning and an article on the front page caught my eye. It seems that National Chairman of The Ugandan Scout Association David Bahati, who is a member of the Ugandan Parliament, is the author of a Private Members Bill which calls for the death sentence for repeat practicing of homosexuality.

The UK Scout Association has issued this statement –

Statement on Ugandan Private Members Bill


In mid-January, Headquarters became aware of a Private Members Bill being tabled in the Ugandan Parliament by David Bahati MP, who is also the National Chairman of The Ugandan Scout Association.

We noted that the legislation being proposed appeared incompatible with our understanding of Scouting’s values and principles. Our immediate response was to raise the matter directly with the World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM) who have responsibility for coordinating Scouting on a global level.

Following these representations, and progress thus far, we are now issuing a formal statement that details the latest position in the development of this issue:


Since the mid-1990s, The Scout Association has been clear and unequivocal in our equal opportunities policy and practice especially regarding sexual orientation, as befitting our role in contemporary society.

We are recently aware that the Ugandan Parliament has received a Bill that calls for the death sentence for repeat practicing of homosexuality. This Bill is presented by a Ugandan MP (David Bahati) who is also currently the National Chairman of the Uganda Scout Association. In terms of our own policies and understandings, we find the Bill not only discriminatory and contrary to the sanctity of life, but also completely incompatible with our interpretation of the values of our worldwide Scouting Movement.

We have already drawn our grave concerns on this to the attention of the Secretary General of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM), and we are subsequently aware that the issues are now subject both to WOSM’s direct engagement with the Chief Scout of Uganda (Mrs Maggie Kigozi) and to ongoing global consideration by members of the World Scout Committee.

We hope that the bilateral and very positive educational and solidarity projects that have been fostered for many years between Scout Groups in the UK and Scout Groups in Uganda on such matters as health and community development will not be prejudiced or compromised by this situation; we await the formal and public response from the Scout Association of Uganda and from WOSM, whereupon we will review our position.

Alan Craft, Chair of Trustees,

Derek Twine, Chief Executive

23 February 2010

Now two things come to mind. First of all he needs to remember the forth part of the Ugandan Scout Law

4. A Scout is a friend to all and a brother to every other Scout.

His bill is hardly friendly is it?

Second, the Ugandan Scouts need to drop this nasty piece of work as soon as possible. Again on the Mission page of their website it states –

The mission of Scouting is to contribute to the education of young people, through a value system based on the Scout Promise and Law, to help build a better world (my italics) where people are self-fulfilled as individuals and play a constructive role in society.

Hmmm, can’t really build a better world if you want to go around executing a proportion of the population because of the way they are.

It’s good to read that the SA have raised this with the WOSM, but it will be interesting to see how they respond and what, if any, action they take. This kind of attitude has no place in today’s society and in Scouting and indeed never has done!

Leaders ‘Sacked’ For Not Following the Rules!

This kind of relates back to a post I made in July about Leaders refusing to accept girls in their Group.

Well, it now seems that a different Group has been refusing to accept girls (despite having to since 1st January 2007) and that their District has removed them form their roles. See this newspaper article (which does seem to be slightly biased towards the Leaders). And quite rightly so! The ruling that Groups must accept girls is now nearly two years old and if they don’t approve, well tough luck! What example is it setting to the members of the Group if their Leaders cannot follow the Scout Association’s rules?

Now from reading the article, two things strike me. First how was the District able to replace all the Leaders in one go (I’m very impressed about that!) and second why did the Leaders feel the need to go to a national newspaper to moan about an organisation they obviously enjoy being in and have spent so much time and effort doing stuff for? The sacked Leaders talk about getting the rules changed back to being boy only, but there is no chance of this happening, once this decision was taken there is no going back

The thing to bear in mind is that if you don’t follow the rules of the organisation you are associated with, be it work or a voluntary organisation, you will get sacked (unless you are an MP of course!).

It sad to see nine experienced Leaders being removed from their roles, but if they are so eager to break the Scout Association’s rules and set a bad example to their Scouts, then it is the correct decision.

Scouts Banned From Using Knives!

No, not really! But if you read this article from Saturday’s Daily Mail, you’d get that impression!

I first heard of this story on Sunday morning, when one of my friends in the BSA retweeted another American chap’s comment on the article.

So I pointed them to the Scout Association’s knife policy here and I also noticed the Scoutmaster blog’s post about it.

I didn’t think much more about it. Until this morning when the ‘story’ was picked up by other newspapers. And now I read that the ‘story’ has been broadcast by various media outlets in the USA (anyone heard or seen anything?)!

Of course it’s false and the original ‘story’ is a classic case of don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story – lazy journalism basically!

The UK Chief Commissioner, Wayne Bulpitt, commented of this in his blog today, and laid out the real facts –

Never before has the saying "never let the truth get in the way of a good story" been true than the current media coverage about Scouts banning knives. We haven’t and I thought you might appreciate a quick heads up before we circulate a more detailed response.

A Mail on Sunday journalist approached us on Friday having read the latest guidance we issued in Scouting Magazine/online in December 08 and April 09 on advising Scouts on the situations in which they can use a knife as part of normal Scout Activities. He was looking to make the story into "Scouts Ban knives shocker". The media team took them through the facts and sent them links to our various documents and magazine articles giving him the following info, 
– The Rules changed about wearing knives with uniform in 1968
– We have issued regular guidance to the Movement on this matter ever since 1968 e.g. early 1980’s , 1996, 2008 and 2009 (the latest being the magazine article in April/May)
– We need to support leaders with information to help them support young people 
 Despite making these facts available the Mail on Sunday published the piece, They used a few selective statements and quotes some out of context..

A number of newspapers this morning (Times, Telegraph, Express, Mirror, Sun) have taken the text from the Mail on Sunday (without talking to us) and have run with the story.
We are busy taking all the opportunities today to put the record straight via broadcast opportunities.
Hope this explanation helps reassure you.

So there we have it, from one of the Head Cheeses of the SA, we can use knives! It does make me think that if the story had been correct, what the point of having Bear Grylls as Chief Scout would be!

In fact, I wrote about knives in July as we’d been doing a lot of training of Cubs and Scouts in the correct and safe use of knives. Perhaps the ‘journalist’ should have read my blog first.

But the thing is that it is worrying that a poorly researched and edited article can spread across the media in this country and spread to other countries. And this in turn presents a poor image of Scouts and Scouting in the UK in general and gives the impression we are no longer adventurous.

The other thing is that I bet non of the media who run the story will run the real one!

You can read the actual article form Scouting Magazine here.

Scout Hut Burgled and Vandalised

In May this year it was very pleasing to hear that our friends from the 85th Stoke-on-Trent & Newcastle, Milton Scout Group opened their new Scout hut. They managed to raise well over £100,000 to pay for their new building and it’s very impressive.

So it’s extremely disappointing to hear that they’ve been broken into twice, had the building vandalised and stuff nicked!

Here is the story in the local paper

THIEVES had time to stop for a cup of coffee as they caused around £2,000 damage ransacking a newly-opened Scout hut.
Burglars raided the 85th Stoke-on-Trent Scout group’s new base in Milton for the second time in just three weeks before making off with electrical goods.
But they first smashed cupboards, tossed paint against walls and left neckerchiefs and badges strewn across the Leek Road building.
Volunteers were left devastated by the latest burglary, which happened some time between August 27 and September 1.
The raids are a bitter blow to the group, which finally saw the £110,000 hut open in May after years of fund-raising.
Andy Shaw, chairman of the group, said he could not understand why they had been targeted.
The 47-year-old added: "I can’t really explain how I felt when I saw the damage. I just came through the gates as normal and my jaw dropped. I could not believe what they’d done.
"I don’t know why they have done it. We put an awful lot of work into building this place up, we were here every night after work and every weekend for a year. I am heartbroken."
Mr Shaw said the intruders, who scaled gates and smashed a window to enter, stayed long enough to make themselves a cup of coffee before escaping with a digital camera, PlayStation 2 console and 20 computer games.
"They put their dirty cups in the sink but they didn’t wash them up. I have to laugh about some of it or I’d crack up," he said.
Thieves stole a strimmer stored at the site in a burglary three weeks ago, but the group has since reinforced the door.
The new hut is known as the Lucas Centre in honour of former leader Pat Lucas, now the group’s treasurer.
The 66-year-old, from Berwick Road, Sneyd Green, said: "It is soul destroying. We’re looking to have CCTV and perhaps something to protect the windows. But things like metal bars make it feel like a prison.”

After all the hard work that’s been done to raise money for this fantastic new building, it takes a few ****wits to ruin things (sorry for the language, but it REALLY get’s my goat…). I know Pat has put a lot of time and effort personally to get this building built and it must be really soul destroying for her.

Hopefully these mindless fools will be caught soon.


Next post is a positive one – honest!

Mountain Walking and Being Prepared

While we were on holiday, one item on the local news caught my eye. The Mountain Rescue Teams in the Lake District have been called out more times this year than last and the Keswick team (where coincidentally we were staying) had 70% more call outs than last year.

The main reason for this is people going into the hills and not being prepared for hill walking. From experience, I’ve seen people trying to go on challenging hill walks wearing t-shirt, jeans and trainers and carrying their lunch in a carrier bag. They have no map, compass or waterproofs, but they do have their mobile phone!

And this is where the problems start. When people get into trouble or lost for example, they call Mountain Rescue and expect them to be there in an instant. The thing is that the mountain rescue teams are all volunteers and it’s paid for by donations and not by a government agency. So by people not taking the right equipment and by not planning properly they are putting greater and greater pressure on these teams.

One example given in the news was of a couple who decided to walk up a mountain and and then didn’t turn up in the evening. In the end two rescue teams were tied up for the best part of a night as the couple changed their mind and gone up another mountain without telling anyone, got lost and eventually came down in the middle of the night!

I often think when I go out walking that I take too much stuff with me, but at least I know that if something goes wrong, I have the right gear with me and that other people know where I should be and at roughly what time.

I think I’ll let the Mountain Rescue Team video speak for itself.


Following Rules

I’ve been following and, to a lesser degree, taking part in a discussion on the Escouts forums about Scout Groups not accepting girls into their sections.

Now first of all, I have to make two points –

1. Policy, Organisation and Rules (PO&R), rule 3.6 states –

f. All Scout Groups, Explorer Scout Units and Scout Networks are required to be open to male and female membership except in special situations. Single sex Sections may exist within a Scout Group provided that membership is available for both sexes across all Sections within that Group.
g. Special situations are defined as being where:
there are cultural or religious requirements for single sex working;
Scouting is offered in a single sex institution (e.g. school, young offenders institute) through a closed Scout Group);
a specialist single sex provision is required to meet a clearly identified educational need (e.g. Scouting for young mothers).
The decision whether Groups may become an exception to the policy is made by the District Commissioner in consultation with the County Commissioner.

So PO&R quite clearly states, that other than in very special circumstances, girls must be accepted into all sections of the Scout Association.

2. To my friends in the BSA, this is in no way me having a go at the BSA’s policies. I am not a member of the BSA (obviously!) and it is not my place to comment on their policies. Girls in (Boy) Scouting in the USA may or may not be a good thing, but I am not in a position to comment – so I won’t!

The discussion is over a couple of Groups who have decided not to allow girls into their Groups. As you may imagine, the discussion has got quite heated!

However, this raises the point that there are Groups out there who are willing to ignore some very major Scout Association rules.

One of the posters has stated that his is a big Group which offers its members a great programme and he challenges the SA to take issue with the Group. The other poster has said that if girls were forced upon the Group, then he and other Leaders would leave.

They are basically saying that they do not agree with specific rules and therefore they are able to ignore them!

As one of the posters is a Group Scout Leader, I find it quite alarming that his Group is actively promoting breaking the rules and ‘daring’ the SA to challenge the Group. What example is this setting to the young people in the Group?
No. 1 in the Scout Law says a ‘Scout is to be Trusted’. If a Group cannot be trusted to abide by the SA rules (PO&R) what hope is there?

The point is that if you join an organisation, you are agreeing to abide by its rules. If you don’t agree with them you can put up with the rule, you can try to get the rule changed or you can leave. Simple.

Some of the people have also stated that they have no girls in their Group, but should they wish to do so then they will be welcomed. The lack of girls in these Groups is down to the girls in their area not wanting to join and not because they are not allowed to!

Girls in Scouting in the UK is now here to stay whether people like it or not. This has been discussed to death in the past and the decision is made. Getting this particular rule changed back to ‘how things used to be’ is never going to happen.

As far as my Group was concerned, we did not take girls in any sections until 2007 as we  did not want to upset the Guides who are associated with the Church that sponsors us.
However since the rules changed in 2007 (which meant Groups could not opt out of having girls), we’ve taken girls in all sections and we have not seen any problems at all. In fact a couple of our girl Scouts who went into Explorers have now become effective Young Leaders.

Indeed as soon as BP started the Scouts, girls wanted to join, but it was the values of the Edwardian era that prevented this.

The point of all this is that we belong to a movement (yes that means that things move on and don’t stay the same) that has rules and one of those rules is that we accept (perhaps I should say welcome) girls into Scouting. The rules are there – like them, lump them or leave.

As I said before, if we as Leaders cannot follow the rules of the organisation we represent, how can we not be hypocrites if we expect the young people of our Groups to follow rules if we are not willing to do so ourselves. We cannot be getting into ‘do as I say, not what I do’ .


As a movement we are very prone to stereotyping in people’s minds. Some people still believe that Scouts dress in the traditional Baden Powell style (some do, but most don’t), we are lying in wait to help old ladies cross the road (again nothing wrong there, see the BSA ad!) and we are always saying ‘DYB, DYB, DYB, DOB, DOB, DOB’ (Do Your Best and Do Our Best – not that we’ve used these abbreviations for over 40 years!).

The Scout Association is very good at promoting Scouting as a modern and relevant movement for the young people of today, and they do a very good job of it. Bear Grylls becoming the new Chief Scout is a fine example.

But then we have to put up with adverts like this –


Phones4U is a mobile phone retailer who originate in North Staffordshire, where I live. They don’t have the best of reputations round here for their business practices and sales techniques. Indeed, a friend of mine worked for them for a while when he was at university told me that his colleagues kept getting their work mobile phones cut off as the bills weren’t paid! Not too clever.

Obviously a lot of Scout Leaders have been annoyed by this (me included), despite the fact the company have been very careful to use an old style uniform and no current badges. The Union Flag badge is current, but I doubt we could claim copyright on that (Her Majesty may be upset if we did!), but the District badge does look like it could be a current one – can’t really tell.

It would appear a Cease and Desist order has been sent to Phones4U, the ad has been withdrawn and they have issued an apology of sorts!

What is it with these people and the image of Scouting? It was only just over a month ago I saw the political cartoon using the image of Scouting in an appalling manner.

Perhaps we should think of the ‘creative types’ as always knocking back their champers in the trendy London wine bars? Not really, as I know some people in advertising are also Scouts and are just as appalled! The last link goes to the Escouts discussion on the matter and people are not happy. There is also a Facebook page with over 1800 members who are not happy with this ad!

However, if nothing else, Phones4U have shot themselves in the foot and a large proportion of Scout Leaders wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole now and it gives the SA another chance to publicise the positive.

A final thought. Here is a poster made by Chris of the Be Prepared blog (thanks Chris) in response to the Phones4U ad. I think his is better!


Scouting and Party Politics – NO!

They do not and should never mix. We can engage with our politicians to ensure that the things we care about, whether it be knife crime or the environment, for example, but Party Politics are off limits.

The Scout Association have got it right in the past by getting Scouts to talk to the politicians on things they care about, but they have done it by talking to each of the major political parties.

It is also not on for political parties to use Scouts to make cheap political points.

I am a member of the UNISON union and today I got their quarterly magazine. With it came the magazine that members who donate money to Labour party via the union get. I don’t normally get this as I pay into an apolitical fund. However, it has gone to all members of the union as they want to make some point or other. Yawn, I’m not really bothered!

What does bother me was this cartoon (click on it to see the larger version) –

Scout Unison (Large)

In it you can see the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, asking a man for money, while the Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron, picks his pocket. They are clearly dressed as Scouts.

You will pardon my language, but this makes me bloody furious! How dare they use the image of Scouts in a bad light to score cheap political points and make them look like thieves?

I rang the union to complain and the lady I spoke to wasn’t sure who I needed to speak to, but she has said she will let me know.

I then gave the Scout Association a bell as I thought they wouldn’t be too impressed and I was told to get in touch with the Assistant Director Marketing and Communications. I was right and he isn’t very pleased and will be complaining to the union as well.

UNISON should know better than this. They go to great lengths to ensure they are ‘correct’ in every way (over the top sometimes if you ask me!) and yet they let this slip through. The union I belong to and pay money to for the privilege, is having a laugh at my expense and the expense of all the Scouts in the country and indeed the world. As usual it doesn’t matter what good Scouting does, they must feel we are an organisation to be mocked and portrayed in a negative image.

AngryBaring teethAngryBaring teeth

I’m waiting to see what they have to say for themselves and also what the SA has to say. I’ll keep you posted!

I’m now going to lie down and think calming thoughts…………

My Country’s Flag

800px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom_(3-5).svg This is the flag of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland


This is the flag of England which is part of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Tomorrow, 23rd April, is St. George’s Day. St. George, is the patron saint of England, Ethiopia, Georgia amongst others and the patron Saint of Scouting. On the Sunday closest to St. George’s day, Scouts in the UK take part in a parade in their town or village, attend a church service and renew our Promise.

The parade is normally (in England certainly) lead by a Scout Band, followed by the UK flag and the flag of England (St. George’s Cross) and then each of the Groups or sections with their own flags.

However, one of our local Districts has been told not to parade with either the UK or English flags! You will have to forgive me if I am deliberately vague here, but I can’t get into specifics.

The reason for this is one of the areas they are parading through has a predominantly Asian population and offence doesn’t want to be given to the local population!

The problem is that the UK and English flags have been used by far right and racist organisations and now have the ‘wrong image’ within the Asian community.

However, this stance offends ME. The Scouts of this District have been parading with these two flags for many, many years without causing offence. They are our national flags, the flags of this country. How stupid to say you can’t parade with your own country’s flag in your own country! I could never see this happening in Canada or the USA, for example, where they are proud of their flags and what they represent.

At my District’s parade on Sunday, we will have the UK and English flags at the head of our parade and we will be proud to parade behind them!

Accepting Disabilities

483px-Wheelchair_symbol_svg As I work in a school for children with special needs, I guess I am slightly more aware than most, about people with special needs, whether they are learning or physical disabilities. I’ve written about this before (here and here) and I am quite confident that if anyone with special needs came to join my Group, we would be able to welcome them. Indeed one of my earliest memories of my time in the Cubs was that one of the other Cubs had his leg in ridged callipers all the time. He was never treated any differently from any of the other Cubs and I seem to remember he could run faster than me!

A couple of weeks ago, the BBC had a new presenter on its children’s channel CBBC. Cerrie Burnell was born without part of her right arm. This has lead to at least nine official complaints to the BBC that she was scaring toddlers! Apparently one parent wrote this on the BBC’s message boards –

I didn't want to let my children watch the filler bits on The Bedtime Hour last night because I know it would have played on my eldest daughter's mind and possibly caused sleep problems.

Some people need to join the real world! A person without part of their arm is not scary, honest!

My best friend’s Dad was born without a left hand and the first few times I met him I don’t think I even noticed! I remember asking my friend why his Dad didn't have a left hand and the reply was ‘Dunno’ & it was left at that. He never let the fact he didn’t have a left hand bother him and in fact he didn’t know what he was missing as he’d never had one. From my point of view he just lived his life and never let his lack of hand define him. As an aside, he was our Group Chairman for over 19 years.

People with disabilities are not scary and children will accept the fact that they may be slightly ‘different’ without batting an eyelid. So the parents who complained to the BBC need to grow up.

The Bad and the Good

Over the last week or so we’ve had three events which have brought out the worst in some of the Scouts and the best in the rest of the Group.

To start with, the bad (and then improve). Last Tuesday, the Scouts went to the cinema for their Christmas party. I was not able to go as I was at home with a temperature. Anyway, some of the Scout’s behaviour whilst in the cinema was appalling. They were throwing popcorn, talking through the film and running up and down the isles. From what I understand they would not listen to any of the Leaders and were lucky not to get thrown out. The Leaders later told me that they had embarrassed themselves, the Leaders, the Troop and the whole of Scouting.

Not good. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you’ll know that just after Easter, we had some problems with the behaviour and attitudes of some of our Scouts and this caused our Scout Leader to leave (he hasn’t left to be honest, just stepped down to Assistant – he would have been a great loss). We thought we’d knocked the problem on the head, but in the lead up to Christmas, behaviour etc was getting poor again. The cinema was the straw that broke the camel’s back. So after Christmas, there will be some demotions as some of the trouble makers were PLs and APLs and even after some strong words and home truths, I suspect there will be a suspension or two. We don’t want to do this, but for the sake of the rest of the Scouts who can behave and who deserve to do interesting activities and not have to wait while we wait for the messing to stop, this will have to happen.

I was talking to a Scout Leader from another Troop who are close to us on Saturday and he told me that they are having the same issues. This both saddened and ‘pleased’ me at the same time. I was ‘pleased’ to learn it’s not just us and saddened that this seems to be getting more common.

I think in the New Year we may lose a couple of the Scouts and this will feel like we’ve failed them, but when we compete against some of the other major influences they have in their lives (parents, friends, TV), we are the one that sometimes has the least impact.


A Scouting Christmas Bauble for your tree

That’s the negative bit over. Here’s the good news.

The Beavers and Cubs went to the cinema on Friday for their Christmas party and had a great time! There were about 30 Beavers and Cubs there and they all sat and watched the film and were as good as gold! The Leaders who went on Tuesday were there as well and said what a complete contrast they were and what a pleasure it was to be with them!

And then on Saturday and Sunday we were doing some fundraising by bag packing at Sainsbury’s supermarket. As I said before, not my favourite way of spending a weekend, but a very profitable one for the Group!

A good cross section of Beavers, Cubs and Scouts came and helped and we also had some of our local Explorers helping out as well, so they get a slice of the money raised for their Unit. Of course, the best people to have packing bags are the Beavers as they have a great ‘ahh’ factor – who can resist a six year old helping to pack your bags?

Everyone did a great job and, considering they were working 3 hour shifts, didn’t get bored and that’s a long time to be standing at a checkout in a supermarket for anyone, let alone the Beavers and Cubs!

I was proud of all the hard work the Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Explorers and Leaders did and we raised a grand total of just over £1000! The other great news is that one of the Scout’s Dads has said that his company will match what we made up to £500, so that gives us just over £1500. This is going to buy some lightweight tents for the Scouts amongst other things.

I banked the money this morning and I can tell you two things about taking that much cash to the bank- 1) it’s quite worrying walking through town with £1000 on you and 2) £1000 in loose change is very heavy!

So a week with bad and good things, but it is heartening to know the good well outweighs the bad!

Happy Christmas

Sainsbury's Hanley - just thought I'd try out this new feature on Windows Live Writer!