The Albemarle Report: the youth service yesterday and today

Chiltern Youth Club, Amerham

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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 1 of the report.

contents: preface · history · present machinery · what it costs · present aims · assessment of the youth service

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 4]


  1. In 1939 the Board of Education called the Youth Service into being with the issue of a single circular. This could not have happened but for what had gone before. The voluntary organisations had been labouring in the cause of youth, some of them for well over half-a-century. Some of the local education authorities had been trying to help and co-ordinate the voluntary work in their areas through juvenile organisations committees. And in the 1930s the State itself had tried to promote social and physical training and recreation. What the Board did at the start of the war was to bring these three parties, State, education authority and voluntary organisation, into a working arrangement to which the term “Youth Service” has ever since been given.
  2. In Circular 1486 the Board undertook “a direct responsibility for youth welfare “. The President had set up a National Youth Committee, and local education authorities were called on to set up youth committees of their own. Key phrases in the circular were: “close association of local education authorities and voluntary bodies in full partnership in a common enterprise” . . . “ordered scheme of local provision”… “indicate the lines on which a real advance can be made under more favourable conditions” . . . “new constructive outlets “. Later circulars made it clear that the Board regarded the Youth Service as a permanent part of education. So did the White Paper on Educational Reconstruction (l943), which gave a separate section to the Youth Service The McNair Report (1944) encouraged the public to think of youth leadership as a profession which ought to have proper conditions of training and service. The Youth Advisory Council (the successor to the National Youth Council) produced two reports (1943 and 1945) which were full of hope for the future of the Service. Finally the Education Act 1944 not only made it a duty on authorities to do what they were already doing out of good-will, but offered in addition the county college, a mighty ally to the Youth Service.
  3. With the sense that the Youth Service was here to stay, authorities and voluntary bodies responded vigorously. In spite of natural early difficulties of adjustment a creditable measure of co-operation was achieved. The Youth Service was much written about, and youth workers of the time speak of the interest and enthusiasm of the public. Universities and university colleges offered training courses for professional leaders, and as the war ended the Service seemed full of promise.
  4. In 1945 the Ministry of Education made it plain that they did not intend for the present to put into effect the McNair recommendations about youth leaders. All the same the outlook still seemed bright enough to attract numbers of able men and women leaving the armed forces into the courses for professional leaders offered by universities and voluntary organisations. For two or three years longer the Service made some [page 5] progress. It continued to be widely discussed, and four of the Ministry’s pamphlets published between 1945 and 1949 took it into serious account. Then the wind began to blow cold. With one economic crisis after another the Ministry could do no more than indicate that the Youth Service (with other forms of “learning for leisure“) must be held back to allow, first, for the drive for new school places and, later, for the development of technical education. The county college looked as far off as ever. The Jackson Committee (1949 – Report of the Committee on Recruitment, Training and Conditions of Service of Youth Leaders and Community Centre Wardens) and the Fletcher Committee (1951 – Second Report of the National Advisory Council on the Training and Supply of Teachers, entitled” The Recruitment and Training of Youth Leaders and Community Centre Wardens”) produced reports on the training and conditions of service of professional youth leaders. Neither was put into effect. The flow of recruits shrank, the number of full-time leaders fell away and the university and other full-time courses closed down one by one until today only three survive (At University College, Swansea, Westhill Training College, Birmingham and a course run by the National Association of Boys’ Clubs at Liverpool University Settlement.). With the Ministry unable to give the signal for advance certain authorities lost heart. Public interest flagged too, and not surprisingly voluntary bodies felt the effect. It is easy to over-expose the picture and to fail to do justice to the good and valiant work which has been done since the war and is still being done. All the same the Youth Service has not been given the treatment it hoped for and thought it deserved, and has suffered in morale and public esteem in consequence.

Present machinery

  1. The Service that emerges from this history is not one homogeneous organisation but a partnership of a complicated kind. Of the three parties to the partnership the Minister has the particular duty of making plain the national policy within the general terms of which the Service is to work. This he can do through official circulars or public pronouncements. His decision on priorities is important: no less is the influence he can have on public opinion, on the community’s awareness of priorities and needs and its response to them.
  2. There is now no national council or committee through which the Ministry can discuss national policy for the Youth Service with the local authority associations and national voluntary organisations together. The Minister can, however, refer questions to the Central Advisory Councils for Education, and these can and have included matters touching on the Youth Service. Questions of common policy are discussed from time to time between the Ministry and representatives of the Standing Conference of National Voluntary Youth Organisations or individual organisations. The Ministry are represented by an observer on the Standing Conference, and certain of H.M. Inspectors keep in touch with the headquarters of organisations and may sit as assessors or observers on some of their committees.
  3. Direct help to the Service from the Ministry takes the form of grants offered under the Social and Physical Training Grant Regulations, 1939 (See Appendices 2 and 3, and Chapter 7). These grants are given in aid of the administrative and training work of national voluntary youth organisations, towards the expenses of [page 6] training full-time leaders and towards the cost of premises and equipment for youth clubs provided by voluntary bodies.
  4. The Ministry also give indirect help through the grants offered under the Physical Training and Recreation Act, 1937 to national voluntary organisations which provide services (especially coaching in physical pursuits) for young people as well as adults. Capital grants are offered under the same Act for local projects meant primarily to benefit adults; these include playing-fields, swimming-baths, community centres and village halls. Young people too can benefit from these forms of provision.
  5. If we turn to relations between the Ministry and local education authorities, it is clear that grant-aid now matters much less than it did, since the Youth Service has ceased to be aided by a percentage grant. Control of capital investment still remains; the Minister regulates the amount and type of building by requiring authorities to submit for his approval their major building programmes and certain minor projects. Nevertheless since April, 1959, the authorities have been freer than they were to undertake minor building works if they want to. The Ministry are represented locally by H.M. Inspector whose job is to keep in touch with authorities, local associations and the work in the field. Much of his most useful work is the advice and encouragement he gives in informal visits to clubs and other units. From time to time he reports to the Minister on the quality of the authority’s service or on particular groups.
  6. The local education authority are responsible for making the partnership work. They have to interpret national policy in terms of local needs; to set up the machinery through which the authority and voluntary bodies can work together; to help and to service local groups; and in certain conditions to provide clubs and centres themselves. Help and servicing may include grants of money, advice and information from the authority’s organisers, training courses, the provision of instructors, the loan of equipment, premises, playing-fields and camp sites, perhaps the organisation of a youth orchestra, a youth theatre, athletics centre, foreign visits and exchanges, and local festivals. The authorities’ duties are undertaken by a responsible committee, normally a youth committee. Many authorities appoint further education organisers or Youth Service officers to carry out the field-work, committee-work and administration. We are very much alive to the value of the work of these officers and to the importance of their posts.

What it costs

  1. We are primarily concerned with value for public money, but we think that as a beginning the extent to which the Youth Service is financed by voluntary contributions should be recognised. We have tried to find out how much comes from these voluntary sources, but three factors prevented our getting a complete picture. First, the finances are extraordinarily complex: money comes from members’ subscriptions, trusts, donations and special money-raising efforts; these contributions are made at all levels, national, county and unit; and there is little uniformity of practice among the many kinds of organisation. Second, it is impossible for some organisations to separate their expenditure on young people aged 15—20 from that on adults and children. Third, units in the field are usually autonomous, and they keep their own accounts which are not readily available. [page 7]
  2. The following examples from our evidence, however, show what proportion of income in the year 1957—58 is claimed by the bodies concerned to have come from these voluntary sources:

National Association of Boys’ Clubs   Per cent.

At headquarters       …         …         …         75

In local associations …         …         …         88

Affiliated clubs         ……      …         …         78

Young Women’s Christian Association

At headquarters       …         …         …         88

National Association of Mixed Clubs and Girls ’Clubs

At headquarters       … … … …                     60

Young Men’s Christian Association

At headquarters (for those under 21)        93

In local associations…          …         …         87

The evidence of the Standing Conference of National Voluntary Youth Organisations suggests that it is not at all unusual for its member organisations to have to raise from private and voluntary sources 90 per cent of their total yearly expenditure on headquarters administration, the provision of regional organisers and the training of leaders. What must, of course, be remembered about these several figures is that they are merely percentages of income or expenditure, which may in either case be quite inadequate to meet the needs of the organisations concerned.

  1. We now turn to expenditure from public funds. Total direct expenditure on the Youth Service by the Ministry of Education under the Social and Physical Training Grant Regulations, 1939 was £317,771 in 1957-58. (See Appendix 3. We have used the year 1957—58 throughout the Report, because later figures were not available for all organisations.) This represents only a small part of Ministry expenditure on all forms of education, which amounted to £355,400,000 in that year (This amount included about £l.5 million in percentage grant that year towards the expenditure by local education authorities on the Youth Service mentioned in paragraph 25).
  2. When we came to examine the expenditure of local education authorities, under sections 41 and 53 of the 1944 Education Act, the practice of including expenditure on adults and schoolchildren again made it difficult to assess accurately the amount spent on young people aged 15—20. We therefore sent a questionnaire to all authorities asking for details of expenditure in 1957—58 under the following headings:

(i) clubs and centres maintained by the authority;

(ii) leaders employed by the authority (full-time and part-time);

(iii) youth organisers and youth officers employed by the authority;

(iv) grant aid to clubs and centres maintained by voluntary bodies;

(v) grant aid to the county or local headquarters of voluntary organisations;

(vi) Youth Service training and aid to students;

(vii) other Youth Service expenditure. [page 8]

  1. Their replies (see Appendix 4) show how varied and uneven the provision is. For example, expenditure on training including aid to students was £54,189, or a little over 2 per cent of total Youth Service expenditure; yet some authorities appeared to spend nothing on this item. About £760,000 was spent on centres which the authorities themselves maintained, and rather less than £500,000 on aid to voluntary youth clubs and units; again variations between .the authorities are great even when allowance is made for differences of population. It must be remembered, however, that some authorities also provide services other than these for the benefit of the 15—20 group in the form of advice from their organisers and help from instructors. Total expenditure on the Youth Service by local education authorities in 1957-58 was about £2.5 million. This represents almost exactly 50 per cent of the expenditure shown under sections 41 and 53 of the Act for recreation generally. (In the same year, expenditure on all recreation and social and physical training represented 0.95 per cent, of total net expenditure by authorities on education. In 1949—50 the proportion was 1.65 per cent.)
  2. Thus in 1957—58 total direct expenditure on the Youth Service by Ministry and authorities combined was a little over £21 million. Of every pound they spent on education about ld. went on the Youth Service.
  3. We have examined the actual expenditure over the 12 years up to and including 1957—58 and we have also taken into account the fall in purchasing power of the pound. (In the absence of a special price index relating to Youth Service expenditure, we have used the consumer price index as a basis for calculating the fall in the value of the pound – see Appendix 5). In terms of real money, direct expenditure by the Ministry on the Youth Service has fallen by about a quarter over these years. We cannot easily calculate the extent to which the Youth Service expenditure of local education authorities has changed in these years, because of the imponderables mentioned above; but their total expenditure on recreation and social and physical training for adults, young people and school children appears to have increased substantially over the period: in terms of real money, by almost a half.

Present aims

  1. In Circular 1516 of 27th June, 1940, the Board of Education gave “some guidance on the general aim and purpose of the work “, much of which is still relevant today. The general aim was to be found in the “social and physical training” which could be given through both youth organisations and schools. The common task was to bring young people into a normal relationship with their fellows and to develop bodily fitness. It was recognised that these needs did not cease when young people left school, but that for most children, unfortunately, opportunities failed just at the stage where they were most wanted. The over-riding purpose was seen to be the “building of character “, and youth welfare was to take its recognised place in education. Young people were to be given a happy and healthy social life in association with their fellows, perhaps sharing in some common project, accepting and exercising the authority which a free relationship involved. In other words, much of the training was regarded as indirect, the [page 9] result of these associations. This was a stirring document, full of challenge and encouragement.
  2. The Ministry of Education made it clear in Pamphlet No. 2 (1945 – A Guide to the Educational System of England and Wales) that the Youth Service was intended not merely to cover the provision of recreational facilities, but to provide for the training of young people (without compulsion) in “self-government and citizenship “, and to be a means of continued education in the widest sense of the term.
  3. Following the Education Act of 1944, the Standing Conference of National Voluntary Youth Organisations issued a statement (“Partnership in the Youth Service“ – published by the National Council of Social Service) in which they affirmed that the aim of education in their kind of organisation was not only “good citizenship” but also, “to live the good life” (and to some of them this meant Christian life in a Christian church).
  4. All this indicates that the Youth Service has been seen, by at least some of those concerned, as something much more challenging than a rescue service and its units as much more than “streets with a roof “. Its purpose has been to help young people to make the best of themselves and act responsibly. This being so, we have sought to find out how the Service is living up to its aims and what are its present strengths and weaknesses.

Assessment of the youth service

  1. We have reviewed briefly the history of the Youth Service, the machinery by which it is operated, its cost and its present aims. We come now to the more difficult task of reviewing its performance in recent years and assessing its ability to sustain the burden we foresee for it. In doing so we shall have to point to its weaknesses, since we want them to be remedied, and we may therefore seem unduly critical. Let us then start by seeing where it has succeeded and where it is strong.
  2. First of all, the Youth Service has been kept in being throughout a difficult time, when the calls on the national resources have been very great. While on other fronts substantial advances have been made, in this sector the line has at least been held. Without this holding operation, there would be no Youth Service to discuss. The headquarters of the main voluntary organisations have had enough help to make limited development possible in the field; and locally, while few areas have been able to establish a Service such as the early circulars envisaged, most have been able to ensure a small provision of clubs and centres to meet the growing needs of youth. Local education authorities as a whole have increased their expenditure on the Service, and their youth officers or organisers have generally kept them aware of the most urgent needs. Some have notable achievements to point to; others have planned a groundwork on which it will be easy to build when the opportunity is provided. Interesting experiments have been tried, both by authorities and voluntary bodies. Overall, thanks to public funds, private generosity, and the timely ‘help of trusts, and thanks even more to the resource and devotion of a great number of voluntary workers and a small band of paid (but often underpaid) ones, provision of some sort has been made for the needs of one in three of the young people between 15 and 21. [page 10] 
  3. We have mentioned voluntary workers, and it is appropriate here to refer to the great importance of the voluntary principle in the Service. Voluntary attendance and voluntary help seem to us to be its chief strengths. Voluntary attendance is important because it introduces adult freedom and choice. Compulsory attendance is a feature of school and will be of the county college, but in contrast to some Youth Service experiments in totalitarian countries, young people here go to a club of their own free will. They are free to take part or not in its activities, and to leave if the activities fail to hold their interest. Their freedom of choice matches their independence and their growing maturity. Voluntary help is no less important. There are great numbers of people who are willing to give up their time to meet and talk with young people, and to help with the activities of youth groups, clubs and centres. The motives which have urged them to take up work in the Service are varied, but we are struck by the real concern for young people and the desire to help them at whatever cost which characterises most of these voluntary workers. It is vital for young people to understand that many of the older generation are genuinely anxious to make friends and to share their interests.
  4. So much for the strengths of the Youth Service as it is at present. We have been made equally aware of its limitations and weaknesses; in policy, in machinery, and in performance. Since many of the weaknesses we have noted in the field stem from the prolonged financial stringency and consequent lack of drive, we must look first at the policy and the machinery for implementing it.
  5. We have referred to the importance of the Minister’s role in forming the national policy and guiding the development of the Youth Service. This part of his responsibilities has for some time past had a low precedence: during the ten years up to the end of 1958 the Ministry have not issued a single circular devoted solely to the Youth Service. During the same period there have been ten circulars which have had some bearing on it; all were concerned with educational expenditure and seven of them imposed restrictions (the remaining three offering slight relaxation of previous restrictions). It is hardly surprising that this lack of encouragement has checked the momentum with which the Service was launched and has betrayed the high hopes of those who believed in it.
  6. The Select Committee, in their Report of July, 1957 (Seventh Report from the Select Committee on Estimates, “The Youth Employment Service and Youth Service Grants “), referred to this discouraging effect and put it down to lack of interest on the part of the Ministry of Education in the present state of the Service and to apathy about its future. The Minister’s observations on the Select Committee Report Third Special Report from the Select Committee on Estimates, “Observations of the Minister of Education and the Secretary of State for Scotland on the Seventh Report of the Select Committee on Estimates in Session 1956—57) point out that successive Governments have found it necessary to restrict the moneys they made available for the Youth Service, and “so long as this continues to be the case, it would be disingenuous if the Minister were to make statements purporting to encourage the adoption of policies either by local education authorities or by voluntary bodies which could not in fact be implemented without increased expenditure from public funds.” [page 11]
  7. It is not necessary for us to question decisions about the priorities in national expenditure which have been taken by each successive Government since the war: but we must point to the consequences as they have affected the Youth Service. First, the Minister has been unable to exercise effectively his function of guiding local education authorities in the development of policy and of ensuring the performance of their duties under the 1944 Act, since he has been unable to release the funds that would be necessary to implement the Act’s requirements. Second, the machinery for the Ministry’s direct grant aid, to which we have referred above, has never been developed: the system is a patchwork and there are obvious inconsistencies which ought to go. But the system is not as important as the use made of it. We can imagine a grant system used as a constructive instrument of Ministerial policy, giving the organisations a sense of security and in addition promoting development and experiment in fields where the Minister feels the need is most urgent. In fact recent grants have in some cases been barely enough to allow the organisations to carry out their basic work, and not enough to free them from chronic anxiety.
  8. In view of these discouragements it is not surprising that when we come to examine the contribution of the next partner in the Youth Service, the local education authorities, we find a picture of somewhat haphazard development Of course, since authorities have to frame policies to fit local needs, there. are bound to be differences of system or approach as between one area and another: but where these differences are ones of efficiency they may reflect the apathy of some authorities or their loss, of confidence in the Service. Some important authorities have no youth committee and no youth officer. Even authorities that value the Service show surprising variations m the way they go about things. These variations are generally the result of the differing views that authorities take of their relations with voluntary bodies and the extent to winch the organisations should be brought into consultation. At one extreme are those that spend most of their money on clubs and centres of their own, at the other those that leave provision wholly to the voluntary bodies with the help of comparatively generous grants. The result of all this is that there is no accepted minimum of services which voluntary bodies of standing can expect from every authority as a matter of course.
  9. Finally, we must look at the limitations of the Youth Service in the field, whether its work is being done by local authorities or voluntary bodies. Our views on particular aspects will appear in later chapters, and we draw attention here only to the general picture. In the first place, we must mention one general failing. We have looked for variety of method and a willingness to try new things, to adapt tried methods of work to the changing needs of young people, and to seek out new groups in need of help. There is a great variety of organisations working in the service of youth: apart from the national voluntary bodies listed in Appendix 1 there are numerous local clubs and activities provided by the Churches, local education authorities and independent groups. There is, of course, some variety of method, but there is less willingness than we should have hoped to break new ground. The type of boy or girl aimed at tends to be the same. This limitation may not be unrelated to some other weaknesses in the present-day Youth Service to which we must refer. [page 12]

Lack of finance is at the root of several shortcomings we have noted: clubs that frequently have to function in dingy drab premises; lack of equipment for the job; insufficient provision for outdoor recreation; and failure to measure up to the needs of new towns and housing estates, summed up in the remark of the boy who described one of these estates as “a graveyard with lights “.

  1. Leadership within the Youth Service has also suffered from shortage of money and lack of encouragement. Leaders feel unsupported and unappreciated: they look for some sign that their work is nationally recognised as important, but find it neither in official expressions of policy nor in the rewards of a salary scale for those who are full-time which would put the work on a level with cognate professions. They seem to themselves to be in danger of becoming cut off from the march of social and educational advance. And there is a considerable volume of evidence that full-time posts fail to attract good applicants.
  2. We believe that another factor enters here: that is the failure to provide a satisfactory structure for a professional service which of its nature is episodic rather than a life-time career. There have been attempts to face up to this. As we have seen, the Jackson Report of 1949 and the Fletcher Report of 1951 made recommendations which were never implemented; recruitment is still haphazard, salaries and conditions of service have never been agreed, and professional training is producing only a trickle of full-time leaders.
  3. The partnership, envisaged in the early circulars, between Ministry, local education authorities and voluntary organisations, has not always stood up to the stress of circumstances. We have referred to the substantial variations that exist between the practice of local education authorities, their interpretation of their responsibilities, and their relations with voluntary bodies. Lack of sympathy for youth work in some areas—fortunately a minority—has not always prevented progressive work being done in them, but the lack of consistency in policy over the country as a whole, together with the uncertainty about the scale of future grants, has undermined the confidence on which any partnership on a national scale should have been founded. As between local authorities and voluntary bodies there has been too little co-ordination of effort, and consequently a temptation to create areas of influence rather than to seek common ground.
  4. A particular weakness in the Youth Service, for which all our witnesses have shown concern, is its failure to reach so many of the young people today. The figure often quoted was that the Service was attracting only one in three, and we found confirmation of this, first, in the replies of local education authorities to our questionnaire and, secondly, in the survey carried out by the Central Office of Information. We have taken this as a starting point for our own investigations as to the future of the Service, and we begin by surveying the changing scene and the way in which it affects the attitudes of young people.

First published as Chapter 1 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

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