Making Good Use of Time

A couple of months ago, I found out that each Group should have an Anti-Bullying policy. News to me I thought, but I knew we had to have one and it’s my job to put together the draft for the Group Executive to approve, change or chuck out!

However I’d been putting it off for a while. The problem is that we have a Group executive meeting this week where it needs to be discussed. It’s on the agenda (‘cos I wrote it!), so it has to be ready.

As I’ve been in London this weekend for a big model railway show, I decided to take my laptop and start writing up the policy on the train down to London. So I did and now the policy is about 95% written and just needs a bit of formatting to make it look professional. A good use of the journey time I think!

Getting Back to Hiking

In a couple of weeks we are going to take the Scouts hiking and they will be carrying their own tents etc. Nothing too unusual about that really. They will be split into two groups and the older Scouts (12+ I think) will go on a longer route than the remainder. Again nothing unusual there.

However, this will be the first time any of the Scouts have done any hiking or backpacking and it’s five years since a certain Group Scout Leader did any serious hiking and too many years to remember since I did any backpacking!

I have to admit that I never did much backpacking and in fact the only serious ones I did was for my Chief Scout’s Award (I even found the log we kept here) and Queens Scout Award.


The end of our Queens Scout Award Expedition.

The Chief’s hike was 2 days and 15.6 miles and the Queen’s hike was 4 days and 50 miles. I remember being quite knackered after the Queen’s hike!

Although I didn’t do much backpacking, I did quite a lot of hill walking in Snowdonia, the Lake District, the Peak District and Scotland and it was really enjoyable. My friends (who were all Scout Leaders) and I went quite regularly. But then things change, life gets in the way and we stopped. So although this hike isn’t very far, it will be a good way to break back into hiking and hopefully this will lead to some more adventurous ones.

We’re actually walking to another Groups Scout Hut and staying there overnight and then walking back. But while we are there, we will be able to use their indoor climbing wall and do some archery as well. So this will be a good weekend’s activity for the Scouts and should do the unfit GSL some good as well!

Many Beavers, Active Cubs & Trying Something New

Last night I went to see the Beavers and Cubs mainly because of the reason I’ve discussed in my last three posts.

However I was also there because seven new Beavers were invested into the Colony last night. To see seven excited 6 year olds getting their neckers and badges is great!

Then at Cubs I watched as they continued with their Fitness Challenge. As part of this they are getting some experience of doing martial arts as it is a new experience for most of them.

Because I knew these were going on I took my camera. As well as taking the usual photos, which can be seen in the Group’s Gallery, I thought I’d use the video function to take some ‘action shots’.

Obviously video on a stills camera is never going to be great, but it’s good enough to show what’s going on and also to put on the net –

Of course with the software included with Windows (Movie Maker), it’s quite easy to knock something up quite quickly albeit a bit rough and ready.

This video is now on the Group’s site and is only the second time I’ve put video on our website. The first was about 8 years ago and was a rather nasty Real Video clip that was awful quality and yet took ages to load up because of using dial up internet connections. Thank goodness for YouTube!

There are plans for another video in the near future, but I can’t go into that at the moment!

Moving On, Life Continues

Well last night at Cubs seemed to go well. The boys who lost their sister were there and seemed, albeit a little subdued, to be enjoying themselves. I saw the parents, but couldn’t really speak to them properly, which was a shame, but they seemed better (probably only on the outside). And the rest of the Cubs were, well Cubs!
What the long term effects on the boys will be, I don’t know and I know time will heal, but so far so good.

Thanks to everyone for all the thoughts, prayers, advice and support.

Delivering Very Bad News

Thanks for the support, this was not an easy one I must admit.

The first thing I did was to look at the Scout Association’s Bereavement Factsheet (we have one for everything it seems). It wasn’t quite what I was looking for, but gave the numbers of some professionals in this area, so I gave them a ring. I also spoke to my sister who is a doctor of psychology who deals with children and talked through what I thought was the correct way to tell the Scouts.

What I did was after flagbreak and inspection we had split them into two groups, one the invested Scouts and the other the ones who are learning their Law and Promise. I sat each group down and told them I had something serious and sad to tell them. I explained that their friends had lost their little sister and that they were deeply upset. I suggested they don’t hassle them or bombard them with questions, just to treat them normally and if they wanted to talk to do so or if they told them to go away to do that as well.

I was most impressed as the Scouts sat and listened and none were silly (they can be ‘boisterous’ at times). A few looked somewhat shocked, but none came to see me afterwards even though I said they could if they wanted to talk. They seemed to take it well as they were quiet for a few moments, but then came back to normal and went into a game. I guess they would have been more shocked / upset if it had been one of the Cubs themselves.

In fact the hardest part for me personally about all this, was when the father rang me last night to thank me for the Group sending some flowers and a sympathy card. I didn’t really know what to say to him.
We think the boys will be at Cubs on Friday and if they are I don’t think we will say anything to the rest of the Cubs. It wouldn’t be fair to announce it in front of them. But we will play it by ear.

As I said I don’t think there is a definite way of doing this, but I hope I got it right tonight.

How Do You Break Very Bad News?

Over the weekend I was told that the young sister of three of our Cubs had passed away. She had been born earlier in the year three months prematurely and I don’t think she’d ever left hospital. Very sad news and I know we’re all thinking about the family.

The parents and the Cubs are known to many in the Group and it made me wonder, do we tell the Cubs and Scouts the bad news? I guess by the end of the week when they meet, most of the Cubs will already know. But all the same, their friends most likely won’t be there and some of the Cubs won’t know why. Is it our place to say? What if the three boys are there?

I have no idea if there is a right or wrong answer here, but if anyone has any thoughts or experience I’d be interested and grateful to hear.

If you think this isn’t suitable for ‘public’ discussion, drop me an email or leave a quick message on the blog and I’ll email back. Thank you.

Closing a Group

Closing a Scout Group is never a good thing. It means that local kids have less places to go and things to do, there is a loss of something that has provided a service for the local community and there is the sense of failure. It also doesn’t portray a positive image of Scouting when this happens.

However, some good can come out of a closure.

At our District Executive on Wednesday night the formal closure of the Group that was very close to us was approved.

This Group which was about ten minutes walk away from us had been around for nearly 50 years and was sponsored by the same Church parish as us. They were our friends and friendly rivals! In fact, it was a standing joke when I was a Scout, that when out at camp, if we got into trouble and asked which Troop we were from, we would say their name and they would do the same saying they were us!

The Group was one of the very first in Britain to have a Beaver Colony, and so I am told, our then DC was summoned to Gilwell to explain what they were up to! Everything was ok and their Beavers continued long before they became an official part of the Scout Association.

By the end of 2005 the Group was in trouble, there were disagreements with the Church, there was a lack of Leaders and leadership and the Group closed. The idea was to put it ‘on ice’ until early 2007 when the position would be assessed and it would be seen if the Group could be restarted. In the mean time all the Group’s equipment was split up between ourselves, the Group that the Scout Leader had gone to and the District.

Unfortunately, this didn’t happen and things were ‘forgotten’ (for various reasons – I do have to be a bit vague here as I’m sure everyone will understand) until I said something to the District Chairman at the end of 2007. After a lot of arguments and messing around the Group was, as I said at the beginning, officially closed on Wednesday 🙁

One of the main sticking points was what to do with the Group’s financial assets. These would normally go to the District, but members of the closed Group wanted it to go other local Groups so the cash is used to the benefit of Scouts in their old area. After a LOT of discussion, it was decided to split the money 50/50 between the two Groups where the old Group’s Leaders had gone. We are one of them.

The good coming out of this sad event is that we now get some more money to enable us to get better equipment for our Beavers, Cubs and Scouts. In fact some hiking tents have already been ordered!

So although there is no longer a Group in that area, kids from there come to us and we can provide Scouting for them with the aid of the old Group’s equipment and assets.

The Lows & Highs of a Group Scout Leader

I couldn’t make it to the Troop meeting last night as I needed to finish some work due to the forthcoming inspection at work.

Later in the evening I got a phone call from the Scout Leader. The first thing he told me was that one of the Scouts had had an accident and he had to fill in the accident book.

I should point out here that if we have an injury to any of the Beavers, Cubs, Scouts or Leaders that is more than a small cut, for example, then the details go into the accident book. This is the same book that businesses, shops, schools etc. have to fill in if they have an accident and it records what happened, the person’s details and what was done about the injury etc. and it means that a record is kept, ‘just in case’. As the Scout received a bump to the head, the book was filled in. If an injury results in a visit to any medical professional, we also have to fill in an incident report form (18 pages long I think) and send it back to the insurance people at the Scout Association, so they have all the details in case of us being sued sometime in the future. Such are the litigious times we live in.

Luckily the Scout wasn’t too badly injured. As part of all this, the Group has its own safety policy, which can be seen here if anyone is interested.

Of course, my first thoughts on hearing this was ‘I hope it’s nothing serious’ and ‘is she ok?’. It wasn’t and she is! But it’s part of the GSL’s role that I need to be informed every time something like this happens in case things are more serious. These bits are not really my favourite parts of the job!

The other thing he told me was that a couple of potential new Scouts turned up last night and this means the Troop is effectively full! I think we could take a few more, as we have enough Leaders, but the numbers in the Hall would make things too difficult. So we have the potential situation that we may need to operate a waiting list for the first time in many many years!

So now our Beaver Colony is full, our Cub Pack is nearly full and the Scout Troop is full! Again, something we haven’t been able to say for a very long time. I don’t think this situation will last too long as the kids move sections, so spaces will open up. All the Group’s Leaders are doing a great job with their sections for us to be in this situation! These bits are my favourite parts of the job!

Blowing My Own Trumpet!

Over the weekend I noticed that my blog has now had over 4000 hits since the beginning of last year! I’ve been writing here since April 2006, but until January 2008, I hadn’t put any accurate hit counters on the blog.

Also in August of last year I set up Feed burner to manage my RSS feeds and that now records over 2200 hits. There does seem to be a bit of a discrepancy between the two as I guess they record in different ways, but I’m impressed!

Although I don’t get nearly as many hits as some of my North American friends, I’m very honoured that so many people have read and want to read what I’ve written and to listened to what I’ve said.

So to all of you out there who read this, a very big THANK YOU.

And thank you to everyone who has left comments and offered support and ideas.

OK, so that’s enough self promotion and its back to normal.

Being Prepared

As a movement the Scouts have a very good motto. It’s short, to the point, meaningful and easy to remember – Be Prepared.

I try my best to be prepared in everyday life as well as Scouting and most of the time I am. I do slip up from time to time, but that’s life. If you are doing something or you know something is going to happen you are prepared.

Which is why I had to smile at work today when we were told the school inspectors are coming in on Thursday and Friday. We knew they would be coming this year before Easter and yet staff are beginning to panic!


The panic button has been pressed!

I should point out that schools in the UK are inspected by OFSTED every three years and are inspected at the same time of the year and the school gets two days notice of an inspection. Yet there is a sense of worry and not being prepared. Tuesday and Wednesday will see people running around trying to make everywhere and everything look perfect. Perhaps if the staff at work were prepared then the inspection wouldn’t be so stressful!

The UK Programme – part 3 (Podcast)

Podcast number 9. This covers the Explorer and Network programmes which are quite similar and cumulate in the Queen’s Scout Award.


Next podcast will be on the adult training scheme and Wood Badge.

An Odd Request

When I got home from work tonight I saw there was a message on our answer machine. Before listening to it, I thought it would probably be my Mum telling me something before she and Dad went away for the weekend. But no, it was our Cub Leader asking me to ring her ASAP. As Group Scout Leader that kind of request always sets the alarm bells ringing!

So I rang her and she told me she’d had a phone call regarding the Scientist Badge we’d run with the Cubs back in January (see here). We had been approached by a company in conjunction with a housing scheme (you’ll see why I’m being a bit vague in a minute) to do the Scientist badge. They would provide all the stuff needed and we would have a few photos taken for some publicity. Good deal we thought, so it went ahead.

The phone call was to tell us that one of the companies had withdrawn its sponsorship of the scheme and we were to stop using the names of the company and the housing scheme and any of their photos in any publicity material we had. The odd thing is, the company who had withdrawn their sponsorship was never mentioned to us!

The only publicity we had done was on the Group’s web site, so I removed the names of the other company and the housing association just to be sure. We never got any of the official photos, just the ones I took and they are staying put as they are mine! We also found out a story about it was in the local newspaper (although none of us noticed!), but the story is still on their website, with all names intact, for all to see.


Ahh well, at least 25 Cubs were able to earn the badge!


clip_image002After sending a load of emails of to various people in my Group and the District I thought how much easier it is to communicate today. I can email any documents to my Leaders that they may need in a fraction of a second. I can also send information to multiple people in one go. Isn’t it great?

Also typing letters is so much easier, as I type it into Word, check the spelling(!) and send it to my printer. I can remember Dad typing letters to Cub parents when I was a kid and he’d use his typewriter and loads of carbon paper. Luckily he was good at typing, spelling and had a good idea of what he was going to type beforehand – unlike me!

The great thing is I can email my old Scout Leader when he is working at the South Pole on his telescope, all my other friends around the world, all my Group’s Leaders and Carol when I’m on my PC upstairs and she’s watching the TV downstairs!

However, I have to remember I can’t just rely on email. Some of our Leaders don’t have it and some don’t check it as often as others (unlike me as I’m on my PC at work all the time and the PC at home is rarely off). We would love to be able to send letters home to parents by email and then they don’t get lost or forgotten about.

So we still have to actually talk to each other, be it in person or by phone and sometimes that’s the best way to communicate. The written word sometimes cannot convey the meaning of a sentence the way saying it can.

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.