The Albemarle Report: activities and facilities

Chiltern Youth Club, Amerham

infed archives

The Albemarle Report (1960) provided youth work in England and Wales with a very influential rationale and framework – and was a key element in substantially increasing funding for youth work. Here we reproduce Chapter 5 of the report.

contents: preface · introduction · activities · association · training · challenge · facilities · premises and equipment · provision for physical recreation

The Committee responsible for this report was chaired by the Countess of Albemarle and was appointed by the Minister of Education in November, 1958. It was given the following terms of reference:

To review the contribution which the Youth Service of England and Wales can make in assisting young people to play their part in the life of the community, in the light of changing social and industrial conditions and of current trends in other branches of the education service; and to advise according to what priorities best value can be obtained for the money spent.

The Committee’s report was presented to Parliament in February 1960. For a discussion of the background of the Report and its significance go to: The Albemarle Report and the development of youth work in England and Wales

Chapters from the report:  chapter 1: the youth service yesterday and today; chapter 3: justification and aims of the youth service; chapter 5: activities and facilities; and Chapter 10:  recommendations and priorities

[page 52] 182.     It is proper to move from a discussion of the structure of the Service to a consideration of what should be provided in terms both of activities and facilities. Of course, not everything can or should be provided. Nothing is more boring than the life of the child whose every wish is anticipated and every whim instantly met. An over-solicitous Youth Service could be just as stifling as the too-conscientious mother. The young must have room to breathe. There must be genuine and not contrived opportunities of service for themselves as well as for others.

I.   Activities

  1. What the members of youth -groups do is shaped by the aims for which they come together. In Chapter 3 we have defined the aims of the Service as association, training and challenge, of the right kind. This description is likely to be accepted by every section of the Service, although organisations will differ in the kinds of -association they encourage, in the specific techniques of training and forms of challenge they offer, -and in the interpretation they give to “of the right kind”. “. We go on to consider separately the consequences of each of these three aims, while we recognise their interplay at every stage.
1.  Association
  1. To encourage young people to come together into groups of their own choosing is the fundamental task of the Service. Their social needs must be met before their needs for training and formal instruction. This does not only mean that their happiness in each other’s society is a necessary condition of further training, although that is true. It means, too, that it is the task of the Service to offer, in its own different environment, social education of the kind that has long been valued in the corporate life of those pursuing formal education in schools, technical colleges and universities. There are many who leave school lonely or estranged, without ever having learnt to live in the company of their fellows; if they do not learn in adolescence, they never will. The coming together of the young with understanding and helpful adults presents opportunities which can be used in different ways, depending on the traditions of the different organisations and clubs. To three in particular we want to call attention.

(a)       An opportunity for commitment.

  1. 185.     Group or club membership is in itself a commitment. The burden of the commitment may vary from the very slight financial and human obligations laid on a member of a group largely social, to the far more exacting demands and pledges which must be expected by a member of a uniformed organisation or a church group. The acceptance of even the slightest obligations has its value in an age in which -the young are shy of [page 53] committing themselves and often lack a sense of purpose. A clear purpose which demands loyalty is what many young people are seeking. The demands of loyalty should be related to objects which young people respect and comprehend; what may be real in the context of the public boarding-school may be quite irrelevant to the leisure needs of the young wage-earner. Basically the group should provide ideals as well as activities and a warm and friendly atmosphere in which a young person can feel wanted and understood.
  2. Some are too wary or too deeply estranged to accept, at any rate initially, even the slight commitment required by club membership. We should like to see more experiments made to cater for their social needs in the unconstrained way which they appear to seek. We have in mind the coffee bar sited strategically at the sort of place where they tend to congregate, the “drop-in” club where they pay by the evening for what they get, the experimental youth centre or workshop where they can come without registering as members. We would go even further and suggest there is also need for experiment with peripatetic youth workers, not attached directly to any organisation or premises, who would work with existing groups or gangs of young people. Gang loyalties are intense enough in their way; their members are in a sense committed, but to objects often unworthy of their loyalty. We believe that for groups of this kind the first approach has to be purely tentative, and that only by going out to them shall we discover how to gain their confidence, to meet their needs and to make them aware of more genuinely rewarding pursuits.

(b)       An opportunity for counsel

  1. At school the child is a person, whose progress and behaviour are carefully watched. He is conscious of “counting” “, even though he may yet be restive under discipline. Once he gets to work he no longer feels he “counts” in quite the same sense: his problems are neither known nor watched; though glad in himself to escape discipline, he may be resentful of the price he has paid for this, without realising consciously what is the source of his resentment. He may feel that there is no one in his new world to whom he matters. Yet on leaving school he meets many problems — of ethical values, of sex, of adjustment to the world of work. At a later stage he is faced with the problems of marriage and home-making and of full adult responsibility. Only too rarely do young people feel enough confidence in an older and more experienced person to seek advice; parents often prove inadequate or some children are too shy to put to them the difficulties that bear on them most hardly. We believe that the good youth group should try to cater for these needs. We have been impressed by evidence, some of it from abroad, of successful counselling of the young. We should like to see this idea grow in groups of all kinds. There should be nothing in the structure of any organisation, however firm its discipline and its programme, to prevent the officer or leader from being regarded as the natural counsellor of those he leads. Everything will depend upon the quality of personal relationships between members and leaders, and the amount of time that leaders can find. Counselling is time-consuming and calls not only for understanding, but for knowledge of the individual circumstances of the young person, his home background, his conditions of work and his personal make-up, and leaders may not be able to tackle this single-handed. It follows therefore that if there is to be a development [page 54] of counselling within the Youth Service many more helpers will be required. It is not essential for these helpers to be involved in arranging activities; what is important is that they should be available and that they should get to know the members. The supporters’ councils, which we have suggested in paragraph 172, might enlist such people; and priests, pastors and social workers could be made use of, if they can be related to club life. We have in mind something quite informal; we doubt whether the young would make use of an advice bureau as such.

(c)        An opportunity for self-determination

  1. Too often it must appear to the young that by joining a club or group they forfeit the opportunity of doing things in the way they like. Some clubs may well seem to them as concerns in which all basic decisions have been made. Nothing that they can do will have any effect on the way of life of these clubs; their only remedy is to leave them if they do not like them. We value very highly the active participation of the young, and their own leadership of groups which they bring into existence themselves. If this is a good principle, we should admit in the Youth Service the consequences of it. This means in practice that we must not expect every kind of youth work to be tidily patterned through established organisations, and that we should accept, as a proper part of the Service, spontaneous but ephemeral units which may spring up and passionately absorb the energies of their members for two or three years and then fade away as the members grow out of them.
  2. In proposing that such groups should be recognised, we are not suggesting that the principle of self-determination can be applied in a wholesale fashion over the whole field of the Service. Many organisations, clubs and centres are not organised to allow for such spontaneous groups, and their leaders and members have a different approach. But we would urge these sections of the Service, however well established their traditions, to explore continually the present-day needs of their members. They should also keep their techniques and programmes sufficiently responsive to those needs to bring out their members’ powers of leadership, and to enable them to feel conscious that they can have an influence on what they do and how they do it.


  1. Having discussed the opportunities which association can give, we turn now to consider the conditions under which such association can be made effective. We have already said that the basic task of the Youth Service is social and pastoral. It must therefore provide opportunities for young people of all classes and groups to meet on common ground, to talk and to get to know one another, without necessarily any further obligation. A pleasant social life in places where we feel at home and in which pressures are lifted is a necessity for all. Social clubs cater for those who can afford them; pubs meet the needs of many others; the housewife enjoys this relaxation in the Women’s Institute or Townswomen’s Guild; the student expects to find it in his college union. The young, for whom the Youth Service was brought into existence, are precisely those who cannot create such club-like provision for themselves, though clearly they can and would like to pay for many of its services. Some clubs do [page 55] indeed provide these. Many, however, still think of them in terms of 1939 or even 1910—a gymnasium, a table-tennis room, a canteen, a hail in which occasionally to dance. We should like facilities to be thought of, where this is financially possible and where the young contribute themselves, in terms of an approximation to the facilities for social life offered by a college union: good decorations in good colours; modern appearance; a coffee bar rather than a canteen; reading room; listening or viewing room; games rooms, and small rooms where self-programming groups can meet. We know that cost rules out this kind of provision immediately for every place; but a general youth centre such as is described here should be provided experimentally in some towns and new housing areas. One county is seeking to do something like this in rural catchment areas by placing a youth club on the same “campus” as the local library, swimming bath, village hail and secondary modern school.
  2. Successful association can be furthered by conditions like these. They are not essential to it. The street corner will always have its devotees, and there is a kind of footloose group that deliberately prefers the odd, the heterodox rendezvous to the most civilised amenities. Many groups find their companionship in strenuous physical ventures, in canoeing or cycling together, in camping or travelling across Europe by hired lorry. To be a member of a group, living side by side for a period in camp or on an expedition, can be of special value to social development. Experience of the same kind can be gained from residential courses, which many witnesses have praised for the greater impact they make on young people and the opportunities they give for more stimulating and far reaching work. Their value is all the greater if they also give young people a chance of attending a series of progressively more exacting courses over a period of years. Some young people do not find themselves until they have had a chance of getting away from home for a time. Whatever may be thought of the total effect of national service on young men, it did do this for them; it took them away from home and subjected them to many vigorous and some fascinating pursuits under discipline, in parts of Britain and the world they otherwise might never have visited. Many gained immensely from these radically altered ways of life. With the ending of national service, the Youth Service ought to try to replace some at least of these lost opportunities, and this makes -the case for residential and venture courses all the stronger.
2.  Training
  1. We need to define here the sense in which we use the word. It carries suggestions of instruction, of coaching in specific activities, of standards demonstrably improving over a period of time. In the context of the Youth Service it will include all these, but we want the word to be interpreted liberally enough to include opportunities of any kind that help the young to be better people in ways that may not be easily measurable. We have dealt at such length with association because it is an end in itself as well as a means to other ends which we shall consider later. This does not mean that all forms of association are good. Of some groups it is possible to ask “What have they gained from being together? “ and the only answer can be “Nothing” or, “Nothing good”. But there are groups [page 56] which are at present disregarded by educational opinion because they obviously will not last or because their aims are thought to be too trivial or too narrow; and yet they may have done something quite indelible for the characters of their members. Such are the ephemeral groups whose case we argued earlier in this chapter; their members know what they want to do, and their adult leader (if they have one at all) is there to enable them to do it.
  2. Nor are their aims as trivial as they may appear. The most casual of such groups are the street-football or skiffle-and-washboard groups. But the jazz clubs often develop a scholarship of their own; and there are plenty of young toughs who will spend intent hours tuning up each other’s motor cycles or overhauling radio or television sets. Even if their craftsmanship remains at the “do it yourself” level, it has a neat, quick competence that commands respect. There are countless cycling, rambling and camping groups or gangs, and there are others whose aims are recognisably serious: naturalist clubs or scientific and semi-scientific societies. Many of these do not seek adult help, and remain unknown to the Youth Service; they are not the less valuable for that. For others their own achievement, their own sense of worth would be heightened if they could secure just that minimum of adult instruction and counselling that would help them to increase their expertise; some have already found this help through the understanding of a Youth Service officer. The Youth Service should be generous enough in spirit to recognise them and, what is more, to promote groups of the kind which may be especially attractive to the over-eighteens. Assistance to them might be all the easier to organise if provision were regularly made for what we have already called self-programming groups. Some will prefer their own independent existence; but it is perfectly feasible for the members of such groups to be also members of those clubs which are able to encourage this hiving-off process, and to be given all the facilities and protection of the club, including meeting place and help in finding expert instruction. For this new growth to be widespread, a radical revision of the conception which some clubs and organisations have of their duties will be needed. Youth leaders themselves often expect to frame the programme for the young, and to coax them into support of activities already decided. If they find that this does not work, they may then allow members to enjoy the purely social activities of the club without strings attached. This too can lead to a dusty boredom. The middle way, to encourage groups of friends to work out their own programme within the shelter of the club, can help to create the new spirit needed. It is clearly possible in club work; it is not out of the question for some at least of the uniformed organisations. This involves a new and critical look at the basic organisation of youth work, to which we shall return later.
  3. With groups like these, association has clearly become more than its own end; it has already become a means of learning, at however humble a level. In any voluntary service of education the social atmosphere must be congenial if there are to be any takers. This applies not only to these informal groups, but it is equally true of the uniformed organisation and the maintained youth centre. It does not only mean that the young [page 57] will not come if the atmosphere is uncongenial; it means too that the emotional tone of the group has its influence on the process of learning. That is one reason why residential courses, in which a sense of community can be built up over a period of time, are particularly effective in promoting a readiness to learn.
  4. 195.     And learning is what the public will look for from the Service as a whole. We want the public to share our sympathy with spontaneous groups and see their place in the Service, but we do not suggest the Service should consist of nothing else. The programmes of established organisations and clubs should be sensitive to the present-day needs of their members, but this does not mean lowered standards or a less exacting sense of craftsmanship. Even in the traditional club the leader can make it a part of his job to enable the young to do what they want; he will also hope to bring them to an enjoyment of what they might not have thought of but for him. Advance seems to us desirable on the following three fronts.

(a)        Physical recreation

  1. There are powerful reasons why provision for physical recreation should be improved. First, because sports and physical activities generally are a major leisure-time interest in the lives of the adolescent boy and girl. Secondly, because this interest is unrelated to academic ability or manual skill: it cuts across the stratification of society, the incidental effects of which we have deplored. Thirdly, because there is evidence that work and their present leisure activities fail to satisfy the increased physical energies of many young people. Physical education at school has become much more challenging and more comprehensive in scope than it used to be; yet planned physical education stops as soon as young people leave school.
  2. Apart from the organised team games, there is a whole range of activities which are valuable for their informality and the opportunity they give for social mixing and their appeal to girls, who are more difficult to cater for in this field. Among them are badminton, camping, canoeing, dancing, fencing, golf, judo, motor-cycling, mountaineering, pot-holing, rambling, riding, rowing, sailing, skating, ski-ing, swimming, tennis and water ski-ing. The fact that some of these were until recently beyond the means of the majority must not obscure the fact that they could now be made available to substantial numbers of wage earners.
  3. We recommend the practical encouragement of these activities, particularly in the following ways:

(i)        by making better facilities available (see paragraphs 234—238);

(ii)       by the local education authorities’ being prepared to prime the pump by helping initially with finance, accommodation and loan of equipment;

(iii)      by providing coaching at convenient centres. Young people should be expected to pay something for these activities which, if they are sufficiently attractive, might become self-supporting. The Central Council of Physical Recreation makes a valuable contribution in the whole of this field. Some local education authorities run admirable games and athletics centres; [page 58]

(iv)      by associating those concerned with sports clubs and specialist groups in the area through representation on local youth advisory committees; and

(v)       by recognising the contribution which can be made both by established sports clubs and by informally organised specialist groups. The help and services of the local education authority should be available to these clubs and groups for their work with young people. A few authorities do already foster specialist groups as a matter of policy, and the results are rewarding. We hope that governing bodies of sport and clubs themselves will encourage the formation of junior sections for young people aged 14—20, whatever their abilities.

(b)       Other skills and interests

  1. It is easy for youth clubs and organisations to acquire a general philistinism without knowing it. Admiration for physical achievement, love of social life and dancing, impatience with activities in the world which appear precious or have no obvious utilitarian value, can all foster this contempt for, or indifference towards, things of the spirit. There have been some interesting attempts in clubs to break this down—for example, in their music groups, reading circles, discussion and film societies—and we should like to see more of them. Although this is very hard ground to plough in view of the fact that there are almost two cultures in the land— a “mass media” culture determined by press, radio, television and film, and a minority “culture of the cultivated “—we ought not to accept this as a counsel of defeat or despair. Youth organisations have a role to play here: they are sometimes gifted with a fine sense of history, of religion, and of social morality, and on the other side maintain a creed of physical well-being and mental alertness: but of the area of man’s struggles of the spirit in art, poetry, music or drama they seem quite often unaware, so that their young members grow up ignorant that this too is a realm of human endeavour to which they should be committed. Music, art and crafts now have an established place in the curricula of schools, but as yet too little seems to have been attempted in following up these interests in the clubs. Recent experiments such as Youth Makes Music, and Youth Theatre, are evidence of the latent enthusiasm that exists. We should therefore hope to see, if this Report is accepted and operated, many efforts at providing the young with a cultural apprenticeship. Again, residential courses offer a particular opportunity for this.
  2. Young people are often more aware than adults of the impact of the scientific revolution upon the world in which they live. Though ill-informed about the limitations of scientific knowledge and its inability to satisfy all the needs of the human condition, they believe it is of their world—it is forward-looking, dynamic, expanding. Here is an interest to which they respond spontaneously, and the mechanisms which they enjoy, the motor-cycle or the television set, may be the best starting point for some; others may be fired by recent discoveries to take an interest in such subjects as astronomy or electronics. The Youth Service should seize this opportunity and enlist the aid of amateur scientific societies and individual scientists and technicians to promote practical projects. [page 59]
  3. It would greatly help the growth of all these interests if public libraries, museums and art galleries remained open until 10 p.m. on at least some nights of the week, so that young people might make fuller use of them during their hours of leisure. It would be valuable too if experiments in the informal counselling of young readers in libraries in the evenings could be taken further. Extension of hours may not be possible all at once; the library service in particular is understaffed. (Report of the Committee appointed by the Minister of Education on The Structure of the Public Library Service in England and Wales, 1959 Cmd. 660). But the need should be recognised and experiment fostered in selected areas. There should in any case be close co-operation between the Youth Service and the public library and museum services, so that visits can be arranged and books, records, photographs and specimens lent under suitable safeguards.

(c)        Preparation for adult life

  1. Young people are greedy for adult status, and some of them anticipate it. A sense of adult responsibility is quite another thing. How far the Youth Service can promote it has been obscured in recent years by the existence of national service, the prospect of which has come down like a shutter between the mind of the adolescent and his adult future. Now that young people will not be called away for service with the armed forces, the question poses itself whether they will find uninterrupted development any easier and assume their responsibilities as adults more readily.
  2. We have indicated some of the difficulties in Chapter 3—difficulties of communication, the wariness of the young when they scent persuasion, their acute perception of falsity in the man who says what he thinks he ought and not what he lives by. We have also expressed our belief that young people today are fiercely sceptical because their natural idealism is being frustrated. The Youth Service cannot shirk its responsibility to help them in their search for values, values which can inform their lives and give them meaning. This is one of the most difficult tasks the youth leader has to face, because he is conscious that if he touches religion, politics or industrial relations, he lays himself open to criticism, since these are all controversial subjects. We can understand his hesitation and his reasons for caution, but we think this responsibility must be faced. Group discussion, as informal as may be, and individual counselling in terms that are relevant to the young, are the methods we suggest, and we have particular suggestions to make in the following three fields of human conduct.

(i)        Public affairs

  1. We have elsewhere referred to the quality and range of social provision for young people who remain in full-time education. We are conscious that the backbone of student life is the debating society and the political club, which make an important contribution to the students’ general education. Likewise we think that, where members of youth clubs and other youth organisations wish to discuss controversial public issues, they should be given every encouragement and facility. We believe that often political youth organisations might well be able to assist in this task by providing speakers for discussions and debates. In view of young people’s general suspicion of “brainwashing” it is perhaps best done by [page 60] the younger generation amongst themselves, and not by older people known to hold allegiance to public and spiritual causes. It would be useful for young people in their own clubs and societies to meet other members of their generation who, while they are probably as critical commentators of the political scene as their contemporaries, are not politically disarmed by defensive cynicism. However, we stress that such activities should grow only out of the expressed interests of the young themselves, and further that we are not suggesting any formal relationship between the political youth organisations and the Youth Service. Whilst we recognise the importance of political youth organisations in a democratic society, we are conscious of the dangers of permitting such organisations to have any call on public funds.

(ii)       Employment

  1. There are three types of problem by which the young worker may be perplexed: problems of conduct and industrial ethics; industrial relations; and vocational and educational guidance. For the first, help is most easily given by young adult workers, men and women, who have been through the mill sufficiently recently themselves to know what is most likely to trouble the young. They will be more easily listened to if they are under no suspicion of having any axe to grind. Industrial relations can bewilder young workers because of their ignorance of the purposes and functions of management and trade unions and of the established machinery for settling industrial disputes. Youth clubs can help their members to find out the facts. Leaders need not be nervous of controversy; the really contentious questions are fewer than they think. The most sensible way of treating them is to bring together representatives of both sides of industry for a down-to-earth discussion in the club. Vocational and educational guidance almost always need expert knowledge, and for this the leader can call on the resources of the youth employment office or employment exchange, the college of further education and the education office.

(iii) Preparation for marriage and home-making

  1. As we have pointed out, young people are tending both to stay longer at school and to get married earlier. Witnesses have stressed the increasing importance in these changing circumstances of helping them to make a good home and a happy marriage. It is parents who bear the first responsibility for the sex education of their children and for helping them to have a healthy and purposeful approach to marriage and the running of a home. Nevertheless we think the Youth Service, even if it is not the only available means, should be ready to encourage young people to fit themselves for the range of knowledge, skills and understanding associated with marrying and setting up a home.
  2. We have in mind not only advice on personal problems, sex education and preparation for parenthood, but also on budgeting, buying, furnishing and home maintenance. Some of this can be approached through short courses in an area, and we should like to see more of these projects tried out or adequately aided by local education authorities. But there are also problems which only personal and individual discussion can solve. Wise and tactful counselling of the kind we have commended may be of special value In this context, and here the leader needs to ask himself whether he is [page 61] competent to give the particular advice needed or whether it can better be given by marriage guidance counsellors, doctors, clergy and teachers. We believe that one of the most important contributions which the Youth Service can make is through the influence of happy and healthy relationships established between boy and girl in a mixed group. Clubs can be greatly helped in this if they can number among their adult helpers young married couples who themselves are making a success of their life together.


  1. The development of skills and interests, or definite educational instruction in certain subjects brings the Youth Service firmly into closer liaison with further education. Because we have encouraged the spontaneous and flexible youth work which leads to self-programming groups it must not be supposed that we should want to call a halt to regular classes for young people, either in special institutes provided for them or through general adult educational facilities or even at their clubs. We hope that these provisions will continue to grow We simply should not wish to see it made obligatory, as it is at present in some places, to take a course as the price of membership of a club or youth centre. Instead, we hope to find systematic courses springing from more informal youth work, to satisfy those who need more rigorous intellectual training in subjects they have come to love. Part-time leadership—that is of those who teach for part of the week only and work in youth centres for the rest—ought to be particularly effective in drawing the enthusiastic young into evening classes. We should expect part-time teacher-leaders to have more knowledge of facilities available, and more experience in guiding the young towards them, than leaders outside the teaching profession.
3. Challenge
  1. The importance we attach to association, the sympathetic encouragement of spontaneous and single interest groups for which we have pleaded, do not mean that we are thinking of a service which makes few demands. We think indeed that the Youth Service must offer opportunities of relaxation for all, but it must as well provide opportunities for as many as possible to find something sufficiently challenging to capture their enthusiasm and to ensure the fullest development of their qualities of mind and body.
  2. Group or club life provides opportunities for challenges of all sorts to the young, who in meeting them satisfy the sense of achievement for which all hunger and which so many have failed to find in school or at work. The challenges may come from within the group to the individual or from outside the group both to the group and to the individual. Some, like team games, will be competitive, but there is no reason why all should be: indeed some of the most arousing challenges to individual achievement come from enterprises which have to be corporately met, as in exploration or mountaineering, for then the individual satisfies his own longing to achieve something worth while by contributing to the group effort. In this way he often secures a better feeling of his worth as an individual than in competition with other members of the group. We are not saying that competition is worthless, but rather that it is common and easy to organise, that it can discourage the [page 62] keen but ineffective performer, and that because of it, the value of less spectacular forms of challenge, achievement and recognition is overlooked.
  3. The opportunities for challenge which crop up in the life of the group have a special value for the non-academic boy and girl. Physical adventure has the most obvious appeal. To many of the young their world is a humdrum affair; their lives are tram-lined by the streets and timetabled by the running of buses and trains. The colourful and the unexpected do not happen to them unless they make it. They can do so by violence, destructiveness or deliberate breaches of accepted public behaviour. Or they can go out of the towns to find it. Scouting and Guiding and kindred movements and, more recently, Outward Bound and Brathay have shown the young a variety of approaches to the object of their search. Some of these schemes have helped young people to find the colourful and unexpected constructively, even in an urban environment and in the workaday setting of home and work. Others have taken them to a strange environment and shown them how through strenuous physical effort they can find powers in themselves they had not known. While all these movements use physical adventure as a medium, it would be wrong to assume that the aim is toughness for its own sake; to all of them physical endurance is a means to personal development. Experience suggests that these schemes appeal to the young worker, boy or girl, who has vigour of mind as well as of body; and although they may appeal to a minority only, their values not lessened thereby. It is more doubtful if they can succeed in attracting the corner-boy and his girl, with all their wariness and suspicion of standards and demands and guidance. Yet we remember humble and scruffy camps on the outskirts of industrial cities which suggest that a hankering for rough living and adventure exists in unexpected quarters; thought should be given to the ways in which the uses of mountain, moor, waterway and sea might be exploited to meet these needs.
  4. Travel can be another means of challenge. We are not thinking of organised tours, where everything is provided, but travel as a form of strenuous adventure. We should like to see a growth in hiking and cycling abroad, the use of youth hostels and rough going by cargo boat. Young people appear to have little stomach for sight-seeing, but they do enjoy a foreign atmosphere, and they can show intense curiosity about differing ways of life and an admirable persistence in ferreting. out information. Even sight-seeing can take on meaning, if interest has been aroused by preparatory work in the club or at a residential course. One of the most fruitful forms of travel is to go abroad to do a job of work. Oecumenical and refugee work camps are examples of international co-operation by the spade. So is the scheme promoted by Voluntary Service Overseas.
  5. Most young people seek recognition of their ability to make a significant contribution to society, and many youth groups undertake practical schemes of help to their neighbourhood or to the wider community. Some of these schemes are picturesque and dramatic, and appeal to the imagination of the young, but the true challenge of community service lies less in these fields than in the more humble forms in which need presents itself in workshop or neighbourhood. Youth groups and clubs should make a careful study of the real needs of the community in which they live, before offering their practical help. They are likely to find that the demands [page 63] made on them by the situation are testing ones. Bedpans and drawsheets are not picturesque, the old and sick can be demanding, most forms of help require sustained effort to be of any value and they have all the tedium of repetition. This is a challenge which should be offered to young people in all its starkness, not by suggesting ready-made schemes so much as by helping them to an awareness of the needs of others and then leaving them to decide what they mean to do about it.
  6. Challenge is to be found within the club as well as outside, particularly in what we have described earlier as cultural apprenticeship. The introduction to art, drama and music which has been made at school needs in the club a new and more adult approach. It is not simply a matter of carrying on from where they left off at school. Young people in fact welcome a change of tone. The challenge here should be one of standards and adult outlook.
  7. We have made these few suggestions by way of illustration of one basic point. Challenge is an emotive word that rings hollow unless it involves sustained interest. No response to a challenge will have a lasting effect on the adolescent unless he is prepared to pull his weight in planning, preparation and training for his pursuit, and to study to improve. This is as true of physical ventures, travel and service to be undertaken outside the club as it is of cultural activities inside it. As it is, so many promising enterprises fall flat or fizzle out because they have not been worked out and prepared for in advance. From discussion within the club of activities to be undertaken outside can come, as a by-product, a great gain in power of communication. Talking to the point is one of the most fruitful of club activities, and the planning of combined operations gives the occasion for it. What often baffles the leader’s attempts is the natural instability of young people’s interests and an exasperating casualness which may show itself at times in the best of them. The leader will be helped both by his knowledge of their individual wants and powers and also by skilful and inventive presentation, so that a new idea can be introduced to a group and interest in it kept hot over a period by all the arts of good display. More difficult still is the group that has a taste for boating or cycling or camping in its own rough-and-ready way, but which does not recognise that these pursuits have their discipline and exacting techniques. They may not want to learn from an adult, and may best be helped if they are introduced to someone of their own age who already has the necessary pride of craftsmanship.
  8. To rise successfully to a challenge is a means by which the young can win the sense of status which many of them hanker after. The status of the child is recognised; so is that of the adult; adolescence tends to be thought of as a turbulent interim. To do something well, and particularly to do it well as a member of a group, will help the individual adolescent to win recognition both from his contemporaries within the group and from the larger society outside.


  1. These suggestions prompt us to look again at the basic unit of club work. Is the general-purpose club the most suitable unit, or is it—with older teenagers at any rate—the small natural group of friends and contemporaries? We expect a big increase in these groups as national [page 64] service dies away, and many of them will want to develop in independence. The Service should encourage them, admit them and promote them. But many will have much to gain if they can function within a larger club, and so will the club itself. Often it is precisely this sort of group which is labelled a clique and skilfully discouraged. Ought not the club to be thought of rather as the centre within which small groups can find their own enthusiasms and from which they can be encouraged and aided to develop into self-programming groups? We believe that re-thinking along these lines may help, not only the club organisations, but also some of the uniformed and other voluntary bodies. Too often what is offered to adolescents in them is an elaborated and slightly more difficult version of what they have already tackled as juniors, and it does not take enough into account their need to attain adult status and recognition.
  2. Each type of club or group, whether for one sex only or mixed, has its purpose and its special value, and we have no intention of proposing a uniform pattern. But we do think it important to emphasise the value of mixed activities in our kind of society. More and more schools and colleges are becoming co-educational, and the working and meeting together of the sexes from childhood is now so much part of the social scene that adolescents do not always take kindly to segregation in their clubs. Clubs and other groups can be a better preparation f or life and for marriage if they reflect the mixed pattern of school and family life. With the ending of national service the clubs will hope to attract the young men of military age previously lost to them; this is precisely the male group which has already established the pattern of early marriage and which is likely to look askance at the strictly segregated club in the first years of courtship, marriage and home-making.

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219 No report of this kind can hope to lay down programmes of activities or to give birth to new ideas. New modes of youth work spring up from their roots in the field, and in the future it will be for the Youth Service Development Council to appraise these and to make their value known. Everything suggested in this chapter will somewhere have been tried out. We have only tried to show how group experience can be shaped to achieve certain aims and how, in doing so, it can satisfy the hunger of the yon f or challenge and adventure and their need to commit themselves, to determine their own group life, and to achieve recognition in their society.

 II. Facilities

1. Premises and equipment
  1. In speaking of the activities to be catered for we have implied some of our views on the premises which are required. Before dealing with them more specifically, there are some further general observations we must make. Hitherto much of the work of the Youth Service has been done—and it is creditable that so much has been done well—in surroundings whose dinginess suggests relief work in the thirties. In the crippling absence of funds, determined leadership and a valiant spirit of self-help have taken derelict chapels and schools, even derelict air-raid shelters, warehouses and decayed town mansions and turned them into places where young people can meet [page 65] and pursue certain activities; but the range of these has been seriously limited by the unsuitability of the accommodation. For the first generation at least the sense of achievement can outweigh the drabness of boarded windows, improvised partitions, ugly lighting and poor furnishing. We do not underrate such enterprise, nor seek to remove opportunities for it. But if the Service is to achieve what is expected of it there must be a change of approach.
  2. New schools and new housing are setting the standard of physical provision; television too plays a part in accustoming young people to attractive surroundings. Commercial interests recognise this and woo the teenager with plush and chromium. The lesson for the Youth Service, whether voluntary or statutory, is plain. It needs to take account of the worthy desire young people have for a bright and gay background, a desire they express in their personal life by their choice of colourful and unconventional clothes.
  3. Two provisos need to be entered in case our suggestion that more and better facilities are badly needed seems both extravagant and relaxing. We believe that many young people would pay more for better facilities— as they already do in choosing to go to commercial premises; and also that they would be willing themselves to work to make their surroundings come closer to the standards they enjoy. Our argument is not for a simple provision of more, and more expensive, premises; it is primarily an argument for a change of heart among many in or concerned with the Youth Service, for a more liberal attitude towards what is both suitable and possible in physical provision. We do not suggest that Youth Service premises should try to compete with commercial premises in glitter, but that they should be of good design in furnishings and decoration; that they should both reflect the tastes of young people themselves and seek to widen and inform those tastes; and above all that they should be suitable for the purposes and activities of the groups using them.
  4. The nature of the Youth Service would preclude us, even if the scale of the subject did not, from attempting to lay down in exact terms what premises should be provided, where they should be situated and how equipped. We can only state in general terms the principles which we think should govern their provision in the emergency period—the next five years. In planning for the longer term we hope that the Youth Service Development Council will take an active part. We must also record our conviction that it is in this field—the planning and financing of the essential capital expenditure—that the community, represented by the Ministry and the local education authorities as two members of the partnership, must take the lead. To carry through quickly a fairly substantial capital building programme is clearly beyond the financial capabilities of voluntary organisations or young people themselves; local education authorities, on the other hand, can provide premises which may be used by a number of different organisations on different nights.
  5. We therefore regard a generous and imaginative building programme as essential to rehabilitate the Youth Service and to equip it for the expansion that is called for. We should like to see the Architects and Buildings Branch of the Ministry of Education, through its development group, giving [page 66] the design of premises for youth work, as it does already to the of school and college buildings. This might mean an increase of staff and if that were necessary we should recommend it. There is need for research and experiment in the provision of efficient, pleasing but economical buildings for the special purposes of the Youth Service, and not only for the very large unit. The needs of potential users must be studied, and buildings designed to house the type of activities and interests of an evolving Service. There have been some enterprising experiments both in new buildings and in adapting old ones for youth work. We think that information about these should be collected and made available for the guidance of others. The Ministry’s Pamphlet No. 8 (Further Education) contains in its Appendix V a list of accommodation requirements which the Ministry once thought appropriate for the Youth Service; this list might well be brought up to date when the information has been collected.
  6. Important as it is to have enough buildings designed for youth work, it would be wasteful to permit uncontrolled development. Already in some areas schemes for building youth centres are being projected without adequate consultation between all the parties concerned. For the wise use of resources which must necessarily be limited it is essential that local education authorities accept the responsibility for preparing, in consultation with voluntary organisations, development plans for their areas, when reviewing their schemes of further education as we have already recommended. We hope that the first emergency five-year building programmes will be used to experiment with various types of provision, so that the experience gained can be put to good use in the greater building programmes we expect to see planned for the second five-year period.
  7. It has been argued that it is wasteful to provide out of public funds expensive buildings for part-time use only. In answer to this we would point out the extent to which all educational building and much other public building is inevitably used part-time: some of our new schools are occupied for about 30 hours a week in 40 weeks of the year, and much of the university building programme is destined for even less intensive use. All the same we envisage that the dual use of some schools will be a permanent feature of the Youth Service. In the new buildings and the renovations which are entailed by the reorganisation of secondary education the needs of the Youth Service should be allowed for, and the drawbacks and frictions inseparable from shared use should be minimised by planning. At present unsuitable furniture, absence of suitable canteen facilities, storage and lavatories, and the need to take care of children’s equipment and practical work are all too often associated with youth work in school buildings. A quite limited addition to the facilities provided, and recognition given to the need for dual-purpose furniture, would remove most of these disabilities and greatly ease the strain which they impose on the goodwill of both groups of users. We have received contradictory evidence on the attitude of young people to the use of schools for youth work, but we believe that any disinclination to “return to school” can be overcome if the premises are sufficiently attractive and the facilities adequate, and the question would hardly arise if in new schools a separate wing or building providing club facilities could be included in the plans. We believe that there are considerable advantages in this arrangement. It makes for an easy transition in the last year at school, when potential leavers [page 67] become eligible for club membership. It also sites the club near facilities such as gymnasiums, playing fields and swimming baths which might be shared with the school
  8. When county colleges become a reality there will be a further and important opportunity for meeting ‘the needs of youth work. We would stress, however, our view that county colleges cannot provide, as has been suggested to us, the core of the Youth Service. Inevitably they will come too late to meet immediate needs; and the areas they serve will be wider than the social areas on which the Service must be based. They will however be most valuable adjuncts; and in planning them special provision should be made for their use at night by clubs and voluntary bodies. Perhaps a start could be made by providing a first instalment for the Youth Service on sites of future county colleges where these are available, planned in such a way as to fit in with the intended lay-out of the college buildings as a whole.
  9. Another way in which the requirements of the Youth Service can be combined with other forms of social investment is by the addition of facilities for youth groups to be integrated with community centres. We are aware of the conflicting bodies of opinion in this matter, and we should like to see experiments with provision that is “insulated but not isolated “. We recommend this on two grounds: first, the economical use of sites, staffing and servicing; second, the desirability of helping the adolescent to pass easily into the world of adult organisations.
  10. We hope to see a number of specially designed youth centres built, particularly in areas such as new towns and housing estates which by their nature are lacking in other available premises. Such buildings can provide unrivalled opportunities by drawing in the unattached and for the formation and meeting of informal groups. Ideally they should contain, in addition to the coffee bar and the larger rooms for dancing and games, a number of small rooms for the use of such groups. In some areas it may be possible to provide youth centres by adapting redundant school buildings or other existing premises: more often, probably, special buildings will in the long run be more economical. Inevitably the provision of youth centres will be costly, but in one way they are economical: they give an opportunity to make the most effective use of first-class leadership— without which, indeed, their potential can never be achieved.
  11. We should welcome the inclusion of some experimental workshops and studios in the authorities’ building programmes. These facilities need not necessarily be linked with further education establishments or youth organisations. Two types are envisaged: (a) for the use of groups (e.g. boat-building, dramatic) which need a permanent workshop; (b) for the use of the adolescent who wants to pursue by himself a hobby or short term interest (e.g. carpentry, sculpture, oil painting) which may involve noise and mess and always needs space for housing equipment. We should expect him to pay for this workshop as and when he uses it, but we should not require any formal “membership “. We think such provision might attract certain of the unattached, and that it would in any case meet one need for the increasing number of young people who live in flats and the small but smartly furnished home.
  12. Because of the urgency of providing more and better premises as quickly as possible we have given priority to local authority building; [page 68] but we hope by this that we shall not be thought to minimise the value of voluntary groups and organisations acquiring, adapting or building their own premises, which may well be on a smaller scale. They should be helped to do this in every possible way. We deal in Chapter 7 with the means of encouraging this by grants and loans.
  13. There is one other form of provision we believe important, and that is the residential centre. We have referred to the value of residential courses, and several authorities have shown how a centre can be used efficiently to provide opportunities both for leadership courses and for weekend or longer visits by groups of young people. We recommend that the expansion of residential provision should have immediate attention in development schemes. The provision should be of two kinds: the permanent centre with sufficient accommodation, including a library and rooms for group studies, which can be used for courses of all kinds; and the simpler hostel or base-camp, such as are found in several European countries, suitable for groups of young people for short periods.
  14. Before leaving the question of premises, we must stress again the need for standards to be raised in furniture, lighting, decoration and equipment as well as in the buildings themselves. Floor-coverings and curtains, pictures, flowers and plants, tablecloths and crockery should all be so chosen as to contribute positively to the influence of the centre or club and its power to attract young people. In the long run we believe that they will be willing to pay for the maintenance of a higher standard: in the first place it must be provided by adequate capital grants.
2.  Provision for physical recreation
  1. As we stated earlier in this chapter a major interest of most young people is in those activities which challenge their growing physical powers. At the present time there is a general shortage of facilities for physical recreation, particularly in areas of dense population and the new housing estates. We recommend that a high priority be given to remedying this. All local authorities who have powers under the Physical Training and Recreation Act, 1937, should be encouraged to use them, and we hope that local education authorities, in reviewing their schemes of further education, will consult minor local authorities (and on technical matters the National Playing Fields Association) in order to evolve plans for their areas in which their own provision would form a complementary part. We should also like to see closer relations between the parks and gardens committees of local authorities and the youth committees. Parks committees often work jointly with cemetery committees, and they become dedicated only too easily to the task of keeping people off or under the grass. We should like to see parks committees studying the needs of young people, and their active co-operation enlisted by education committees. Many parks shut early because of the dark for half the year, just at the hour when most people’s leisure time begins. If parks committees could provide some floodlit enclosures, with hard or soft surfaces, for coaching, practice and evening games, they would be giving a service to youth. Changing accommodation would be necessary, and we suggest that authorities might also try providing club-house facilities, because we believe such informal social provision allied with opportunities for physical recreation would appeal to some young people who at [page 69] present are not touched by the Youth Service. Local authorities in general can help by constructing floodlit hard-surface all-weather playing areas in their localities. Waste ground can often be put to good use in this way. Another established need is for more facilities for swimming. Large covered baths have obvious advantages, but are also the most expensive. Experiments in small and less. expensive open-air baths, including a plastic one, are being made and should be studied.
  2. Provision for outdoor activity is only partly a Youth Service problem, and it is reasonable that facilities should be planned for the community as a whole. This brings up the vexed question of the dual use of playing spaces. We should like to see the needs of youth groups considered by schools, sports clubs and other owners of recreation grounds so that the maximum use of existing facilities can be planned in consultation. Hard tennis courts, all-weather hard pitches, cinder tracks and netball courts are the most easily shared. But no amount of shared use will meet the needs of the situation. An investment in more facilities for physical recreation is imperative, particularly in view of the ending of national service.
  3. Indoor facilities are even scarcer than outdoor ones. Multi-purpose sports halls large enough for such games as badminton and basket ball are the ideal. Alternatively, partly covered practice areas or specially constructed “barns” can meet many needs. The use of existing gymnasiums could well be extended and the facilities of new schools and colleges of further education made available more readily to those youth groups who wish to make proper use of them. All this again is a matter for planning.
  4. We should like to see the same research and enquiry in planning facilities for physical recreation as we have recommended for Youth Service premises. And the results should be made known as soon as possible to all providing bodies. One line of enquiry which might immediately be pursued is the possibility of some facilities at present used by the armed forces becoming available after the ending of national service.
  5. There has been an increasing response to adventure courses, and to those outdoor activities that require challenging group work rather than competitive match play. Equipment and accommodation are the chief requirements for developing this type of adventuring, which we believe to be well worthy of encouragement. Central pools of up-to-date equipment for loan should be made available by local education authorities, base-camps provided where necessary, and groups of young people given all reasonable help to carry out adventure schemes. The authorities might also consider providing facilities and equipment initially for those outdoor activities which have hitherto been the prerogative of a minority (see paragraph 197). This would be a way of introducing young people to a wider range of outdoor interests. In time we should expect them to meet the costs themselves, but unless they have a chance to develop these new enthusiasms through introductory courses they are unlikely to launch out on what would involve them in considerable expenditure at the start.

First published as Chapter 5 of Ministry of Education (1960) The Youth Service in England and Wales (‘The Albemarle Report’), London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.

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First placed in the archives: July 2002