Self Review

At the Group Scout Leader’s conference I went to last year, one of the things talked about was a self review form that had been trialled and was likely to be rolled out across the country. I brought it back with me and thought  it was a good idea.

However, I kind of forgot about it and it sat on my ‘to do pile’. Then a month or so ago, it was given out to all the District’s Group Scout Leaders as it is being fully rolled out. Each Group needs to work through it and then we are having a meeting about it in November (I think).

Its official title is the Scout Group Development Planning Traffic Toolkit! There are 15 sections and each has various criteria. If the ideal criteria is met, you score ‘Green’, if you are close to the ideal but need some work, you score ‘Amber’ and if there is a lot of work to do, you score ‘Red’. Once you’ve gone through all the sections, you again score green, amber or red.

Yesterday and today I’ve been working on it, and I must admit I had good idea of what our overall score would be. And I was right – amber.

To be honest, I’m quite happy with this result as it shows that we as a Group are doing a lot of things right and there are some things where we need to improve. So i need to write up my reasons for the scores, this is so I can show my reasoning to the other Leaders and the Group Executive, and write an action plan. The action plan will be a draft version again so the other Leaders and Executive can add their ideas as well.

By doing all this, I hope this will enable us to provide better Scouting for all the young people in the Group. I’m glad of this opportunity to do this as it gives us some idea of where we are and where we need to be. Although I’d like to think we’re perfect(!), this does prove that although we are doing some thing properly, we need to address others.

I’ve put a copy of the form here so if anyone is interested they can read it.

Does anyone else, in the UK or elsewhere, do anything similar?

Camping (Podcast)

Podcast number 14. A bit of a chat about camping and the Nights Away Scheme.

Our Old Pack and Troop Flags

Last year for our centenary we finally got ourselves a new Troop flag. After the new one was dedicated in Church the old one was taken away and my Mum said she’s do some repairs on it so it wouldn’t deteriorate any more.

Now bearing in mind this flag is well over 60 years old it’s done us proud! At the same time as checking over the Scout flag, the old Cub flag which was replaced around 10 years ago was also taken in for repairs. Again, I think this flag is well over 50 years old, and so needed a bit of tender loving care!

Well, my Mum has done us proud and the flags are now ready to be returned into Church to be officially ‘laid up’. However, we will keep an eye on them as they are important parts of the Group’s history.

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The old Cub Flag

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The old Scout Flag

Money and Fundraising (Podcast)

Podcast number 13. On this one I talk about the ways my Group spends and raises its money.

If anyone has any other good ideas for fundraising, please let me know.

Rain, Mud and a Wide Game

The Scouts have just come back from playing a wide game in Bradwell Woods. The idea had been to let off some rockets that the Scouts had made for their Astronautics Badge, but it was raining and there was quite a strong wind. So like NASA, we postponed the launch until another day and played a wide game instead (although I don’t think the people at NASA play wide games when a launch is delayed – or do they??)!

As it’s been raining a lot recently, everyone got muddy and wet and most of us, including me, slipped over and got even more muddy! At one point all the Scouts disappeared when walking through some ferns as they were shorter than the fern bushes!

However, we all had a good time and by the time we’d finished the clouds had nearly gone, the sun was shining and there was a rainbow on the horizon!

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A soggy group of Scouts!

More photos of general soggyness are in My Group’s Gallery.

The Water Tax

312 I’ve been meaning to mention more about this, but other things came up.

On Wednesday 15/07/09, St. Swithin’s Day, Cubs, Scouts and Explorers were in London to lobby MPs and OFWAT about the proposed Water Tax (read all about it here – explained better than I could!). Apparently, this was the first time in the Scout Association’s nearly 102 year history that they had actively campaigned and lobbied MPs on a specific issue.

The campaign has been all over the net with its own YouTube Channel (see the link above) and people Tweeting about it with the tag #stoptheraintax.

Everyone who went did a great job to raise this issue and from what I read it was one of the most successful Lobbies of MPs in many years! One bit of feedback I read that really impressed me was –

MPs were amazed at our organisation

And that says a lot I think!

I wrote to my MP to see if he would go along as, although the Rain Tax wouldn’t have a direct affect on my Group, it could on the Church Hall where we meet. I’m waiting for his reply!

The other interesting thing is that due to the power of Twitter, Scott over at InsaneScouter picked up on the story and wrote about it on his blog (and even referenced me EmbarrassedSmiley ).

So now we wait to see if all the hard work the Cubs, Scouts, Leaders and people from Gilwell put in will get it sorted.

Henry Allingham – The World’s Oldest Scout

I was saddened to read that Henry Allingham passed away in his sleep early this morning. He was the oldest surviving British World War 1 veteran, the oldest man in the world, the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland, the last original member of the Royal Air Force and the world’s oldest Scout!

As I posted last year, he became a member of the 6th Brighton Scout Group 100 years after first trying to join Scouting!

With his passing a little bit more history passes with him and it is very noticeable how the First World War is now virtually gone from living memory.

RIP Mr. Allingham.

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’ .

Another 1st Gilwell Website Update

I got another update on the 1st Gilwell Scout Group / Troop 1 Gilwell website today –

The website for Members of the 1st Gilwell Park Scout Group is almost ready after a very long wait. There will be a testing period at the beginning of August which we will be sharing with you. After receiving and implementing the feedback the live site will be ready by the end of August, just in time for Gilwell Reunion.
Some of the exciting content we have includes: the history of Gilwell Park around the time it was bought for Scouting, old photos of Gilwell including Baden-Powell at Gilwell, the origins of the Wood Badge and the Gilwell Scarf and Woggle, photos of previous and current Gilwell Reunions, timeline of Gilwell, how to book a tour and lots, lots more.
You can follow what is happening at Gilwell Park on Facebook and Twitter whilst waiting for the new website.
Please feel free to share this with your Wood Badge friends and encourage them to sign-up too.
We would like to share with you the number of different Countries that have signed up to the website so far. We think it is about 25 but it would help us to confirm this if you could Update your Country or confirm it as soon as possible please.

Many thanks,

The 1st Gilwell Park Team

I hadn’t realised Gilwell is on Facebook – I’d better look them up. So it’s good to see coming soon.

International Rover Net Moot

As anyone who reads these pages regularly will know, I find the combination of the internet and international Scouting most fascinating (hello USA, Canada, Sweden, South Africa, Bradwell(!) and anyone from any other location who happens to be passing by!) and I have gained may new friends because of it.

So I’m quite interested by an email I got this morning telling me of the International Rover Scout Moot which is being held in the Sultanate of Oman from the 12th August for 42 hours. According to the WSOM page about it –international_rover_net_moot (Medium)

Participants..  will be able to connect and communicate during 42 hours with people worldwide through the use of Internet technologies, such as MIRC & teamspeak.

The email came from someone who I am guessing I must have chatted to on one of the JOTI weekends as I don’t immediately recognise his name, but I am grateful for him doing so as I wouldn’t have found out otherwise.

I’ll be keeping my eyes open for more info and I’ll post it when I know more, and it will be an interesting event to take part in and learn about Scouting in the Middle East.


Perception of Scouting

I was talking to a colleague at work the other day and he brought up the subject of Scouting. He had seen us at our Annual General Meeting as we had hired my School’s sports hall and he uses  part of it to run his fitness business.

He was telling me that he was very impressed at the number of young people who were there and also the number of parents present. As a side note, I think we had around 2/3 of the Beavers, Cubs and Scouts there. He mentioned that he thought when his grandson was old enough, he would be likely to join us.

My colleague went on to say he was very impressed to hear that Bear Grylls was our Chief Scout. He thought that he is a good role model for our young people as he is an obvious outdoorsy type of person.

While talking to my colleague, he admitted he didn’t know too much about the Scouts and that he’d never given the movement much thought. But by seeing the number of young people and parents we had at our AGM and by the Scout Association’s publicity regarding our new Chief Scout, he told me how impressed he was and what a good job we were obviously doing!

By promoting Scouting at both the national and local levels, a good perception can be cultivated in people who don’t necessarily know much about us and this can only be a good thing.

If nothing else, I think in a few years time we will have gained a new Beaver!

Bear Grylls Chief Scout

Bear was invested as Chief Scout at Gilwell 24 yesterday. Best wishes to him and lets see what the next 5 years bring!

UPDATE: Just found out that Bear is on Twitter!

Scouts, Water, Drains and the House of Commons!

Scout Groups who own their own buildings have been hit with a new charge from the water regulator OFWAT and the water companies. They will now be charged for the disposal of rain water which runs into the drains and sewers on their premises. Some Groups, it would appear, are now being charged over £500 a year and this constitutes, along with the actual charges for water to their headquarters, to around one third of their total yearly budgets!

The Scout Association have, quite sensibly, been campaigning along with other charities to try to stop this policy and to ensure that a social tariff is introduced for all community and voluntary groups. You can read all about it here.

One of the things planned is to lobby MPs, next week on St. Swithun’s Day. As part of this the idea is to get as many Cubs and Scouts there to participate in the event at Westminster Hall. Which is where the problems started!

The House of Commons authorities tried to cancel the event as the Cubs are ‘not old enough to vote’! Obviously this has upset and annoyed a lot of people, not least as MPs and politicians in general have a poor image at the moment! One MP said –

All constituents, regardless of age, should be free to lobby their MPs.

Quite right too! However the new House of Commons Speaker has over ruled the decision and the Cubs and Scouts will be able to attend the event!

The Speaker welcomes the visit by the Cub Scouts to the House of Commons on July 15 and has given permission to allow them to meet MPs in Westminster Hall.

All this has two very obvious points. First is the financial implications to Groups who will suddenly have to find hundreds of pounds to pay out (I’m sure I read somewhere it could be £1000’s for a couple of Groups!). It’s hard enough for these Groups to finance and maintain their own buildings without having to suddenly pay out loads more money for no tangible gain! I am kind of glad we don’t have our own premises when I hear of things like this!

Secondly, what image does it portray of our political system if young people who are not old enough to vote are not allowed to make their point to politicians at Westminster? It could have put them off voting or trying to get involved in making their local communities better places.

At least one of these issues has been resolved. Let’s hope a sensible outcome is achieved for the water billing issue.

An Old Resource

I was sorting through some stuff at my parents house last night with a view of chucking some of it out (told you I am a hoarder!), when I came across some stuff I’d done for a qualification in greengrocery when I worked at Asda. One of the things I had to do was to find recipes for all the stuff we sold. As I did this in 2000 / 2001 and the internet wasn’t as useful or as fast, so I used a little Scouting database programme I’d downloaded called ‘Resource Information Management System’ and it was put together in 1994 by someone called M. L. McLaren.

I looked around some of my old backups, found it and tried to run it on my current Vista machine. And despite being that old and originally made to be run in DOS, it still works!

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By the looks of it, it was made by a Canadian, but has information from the UK, USA, Canada and even some from BP himself. I’ve no idea where I got it from originally and I can’t find any mention of it on the net today. Presumably I downloaded it from somewhere and I guess it was originally shared by zipping it up and spanning it over 6/7 floppy discs (it’s a whopping 8Mb in size!).

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All you do is select the section or age range you want, select the area and then select the thing that grabs your interest.

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You can even print out the article (although I haven’t got it to work yet) or export to a text file – simple.

M. L. McLaren obviously put a lot of time and effort into creating this resource (the games and recipe sections are huge), so it seems a shame not to use it! I will be going through it and picking out the bits I think are interesting and we maybe doing some interesting new recipes on camp soon.

If anyone is interested in having a copy, drop me a line and I’ll email it to you. I’ve no idea if it will run on a Mac, sorry Apple people!

Free Money!

Bet that got your attention!

The reason for this is that today my Group got a cheque from Her Majesty’s Customs and Revenue (the taxman!) as part of their Gift Aid scheme.


Gift Aid is a scheme for charities which means that for every £1 given to the charity, the charity can claim back 25p from the taxman!

To be able to do this, we have to register with HMRC, get each parent to sign a form saying they are happy for us to claim Gift Aid on their behlaf, record money given to the Group by each parent and apply for the money once a year.

We can claim for money given to the Group for Capitation fees or weekly subs, but not for camps. Basically if you get a specific ‘thing’ for the money, we cannot claim against it. Fair enough!

It does require some work on the Group Treasurer’s part and a little bit on mine as Group Scout Scout Leader, but for the small amount of work we have to do, we get about the same amount of money as we get when we spend a whole day bag packing at one of the local supermarkets!

This is a great scheme which helps many UK charities and not just Scouting, but I find it extremely surprising that some Scout Groups don’t do it as they think it is ‘too complicated’.

When I was talking to our Treasurer earlier today, he reminded me that when we started applying for Gift Aid we didn’t think we would get much cash back from the scheme, but we were initially surprised at how much we got and we have been surprised every year since. As the Group is growing, the  amount of money coming in is going up and then the money we can claim back goes up. Win win really!

If you are a Scout Group (or any charity really) and don’t do Gift Aid, get it sorted! After all you get free money! And of course, this goes to provide great equipment and activities for the Group’s members!