Teachers (or Parents);  Just in case you have a youth worker in your school, invited in the school by the deputy head, or another of the senior management team, and you’re not sure what a youth worker is; here are a few pointers to help. There might not be many articles in TES about the practice of youthwork (even though it has educational credentials)  Its funny that no teacher I have ever met in a school had personal connection with youthwork – did they not ever have use of a youth worker as a young person themselves? maybe not- so for them, and other teachers here, in no particular order are some credentials of youth workers.

  1. Youthworkers do do more than just play table tennis with young people. Or take young people off the streets.
  2. Youthworkers might have limited sympathy for you as your pay doesnt rise. Youthworkers have had their jobs decimated by 40% in the last 5 years, and have lost colleagues, buildings, resources, and identity.
  3. Youthworkers, most of them, have received professional training which includes education philosophies, such as Friere, person centred work of Rogers, and consider education to be important with young people. We would love to do the educational work that wed like to do, and not have to focus on the targetting of job employment, alcohol or social development work that we maybe have to.
  4. Youthworkers consider the environment the space of learning and nature of learning to be important, and that young people learn better in their own context, and we can help young people reflect on the things that you teach them in classrooms, we find that young people love to tell us about lessons they love, they hate, their futures, their choices and their struggles.
  5. Youthworkers might be the people whom young people might choose to talk to, their voice is valid, especially in multi agency case meetings, they might also be able to act to affect the solution outside or inside the school environment, in between the structures & timetabling.
  6. Youthworkers will want young people to flourish, and know that school is important and a valid process for most young people, but for some young people it doesnt fit, youthworkers arent there to fill that gap necessarily, just to help think about a broader inclusive approach, and critique the bindings that you face from the regulations of Ofsted, league tables and curriculum. So, on the basis that you hate regulation and inspection we’re on your side, just that there’s less of us left to fight with you, and we dont have a union.
  7. A Youthworker might live and work in the social & geographical context of the school, and thus might meet the pupils in different local contexts, have greyer boundaries, they might be employed by councils, voluntary agencies or faith organisations. Their local context they see as a strength in building purposeful significant relationships, however odd this might seem as you drive 10 miles to the school each day.
  8. A Youthworker will have policies, guidelines and procedures to adhere to, so dont worry, theyre not mavericks, but just have a more informal approach, they would want to work with young people within values such as voluntary participation, empowerment, informal education, value the individual, community/human flourishing. Do ask them, not just to justify themselves, but so that they can enable you to trust them and learn about their way of working.
  9. Youthworkers might want to work during break and lunchtimes in school, and take breaks during lessons. The space when young people have more freedom is a better space for conversation & interaction. Its part of our work to be in thier spaces, however socially timed and constructed by the environment of a school.
  10. Youthworkers, especially professional ones have undertaken at least 2-3 years higher education training, and have JNC/CEVE accreditation. Its something, it might not be to the level of a teacher, its just different based on community learning, not formal curriculum.

So, if you have a youthworker in your school, and someone who describes themselves as a youth & community worker most of the above apply. Its not that youthworkers think these things on the basis that we think teachers might not, its that these tend to be commonalities of approaches, philosophies and background (except the table tennis bit). Should they say that they’re a Youth Minister or youth pastor, I wouldn’t want to state how many of the above apply to them as their training or approach might be different. However, a youth worker will want to have the needs and flourishing of young people as their predominant focus, and this is surely then a resource of a person that you as a school or teacher will want to utilise.

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