The service of youth and young people’s colleges

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Part two of Teachers and Youth Leaders (the McNair Report 1944) on the supply, recruitment and training of teachers and youth leaders provides us with both a useful review of developments up to that point and a classic statement of the nature of youth work.

contents: preface · introduction · the service of youth · history · present position · the future · training · young people’s colleges · how to cite this piece

The Committee chaired by Arnold McNair (the vice-chancellor of the University of Liverpool) which produced Teachers and Youth Leaders arose out of longstanding concerns about deficiencies in the system of recruiting and training teachers. These worries came into sharp focus as plans for educational reconstruction were mapped out in the Board of Education (and which found expression in the 1944 Education Act). As part of the Committee’s deliberation a small sub-committee was established to examine the training of youth leaders. This sub-committee made two important co-options: Eileen Younghusband (then with the National Association of Girls Clubs) and John Wolfenden (then Headmaster of Uppingham, later vice chancellor of Reading University). The Secretary of the Committee was S. H. Wood (who was later to chair a youth work committee at NAGMC and to become a friend of Josephine Macalister Brew). The presence of these three people perhaps help to explain the direction and nature of what appeared in the final report about the training of youth leaders. 

As P. H. J. H. Gosden (1976: 401) has commented, an important aim of the subcommittee was to ‘make the careers of youth leaders parallel to those of teachers’. The committee recommended that the pay of youth leaders should be comparable to those of teachers, that service as a youth leader should be pensionable, and that the normal period of training should be three years. They also set out what the shape of that training should be. One of the most evocative aspects of the resulting report, as Kerry Young (1999: 5) has noted, was its characterization of the role of the youth leader as a ‘guide, philosopher and friend to young people’ – and its discussion of just what this meant for their training.


Gosden, P. H. J. H. (1976) Education in the Second World War. A study in policy and administration, London: Methuen.

Young, K. (1999) The Art of Youth Work, Lyme Regis: Russell House.


317. Our terms of reference require us to deal with the supply and training of Youth Leaders as well as teachers; and it seems proper to us to consider at the same time the supply and training of teachers for the new Young People’s Colleges. These colleges for the compulsory part-time education of boys and girls up to 18 years of age are bound to influence the shape and the activities of the Youth Service. What the precise effect will be no one can say until there has been a fairly prolonged period of interaction between them. The two services deal with approximately the same groups of young people: the one attempting to meet their needs on the basis of compulsory and the other on the basis of voluntary attendance. It is true that the Youth Service provides for many beyond the age of 18, but its foundations must be laid during the years immediately following the cessation of full-time attendance at school.

318. We attach great importance to Young People’s Colleges, but we devote comparatively little space to them ‘because they are not yet in existence and it would, in our opinion, be quite foolish for us to treat them as though we, or indeed anyone else, had any clear and reliable picture of what they will be like. It is not our business to define the content of the education they will provide; and we hope no One will attempt to stereotype their shape and curriculum until they have emerged from that experimental period which is so essential to the growth of new and, in a sense, revolutionary institutions.

319. The position with regard to Youth Service is different because the service has a history. The new thing about it is that it is being woven into the pattern of education for which public authorities are responsible. This involves co-operation between statutory and voluntary bodies of a kind which calls for tolerance and adjustment rather than rigid rules, for the enunciation of principles rather than the elaboration of details. The service is wholly voluntary so far as young people are concerned. It will flourish and require the devotion of a large number of people if it is conducted in a way that attracts and satisfies the young. It will wilt or have a precarious existence as part of the national system of education if organisation becomes an end in itself. The country has had a hundred years of experience of teachers and schools and there are many things about them which are the fit subject for specific and drastic recommendation. It is otherwise with youth leaders and Youth Service and we make no apology for dealing with them in a more experimental way and confining ourselves, even more than in the rest of our Report, to broad principles.

Chapter 10 The Service of Youth

320.  There are those who, not unnaturally, fear the consequences of what they call the professionalisation of work among young people. They say that any systematic recruitment and training of youth leaders and any attempt to standardise types of work and conditions of service, including salaries, may result in a loss of that spontaneity and freedom which is characteristic of

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voluntary work at its best. This fear is always expressed, and not without some justification, whenever public authorities are required to assume responsibility in fields where the patient but adventurous work of pioneers has revealed the need for a comprehensive service. On the other hand, when it is shown that voluntary effort cannot by itself cover the field and that therefore the service must be broader based and become a public responsibility, there is no escaping the fact that suitable persons must be encouraged to undertake the service as a profession, and that adequate training facilities must be provided and reasonable conditions of work secured. Any fears about professionalisation will be falsified if the quality of men and women recruited to the profession is sufficiently high to maintain the best of its traditions and if statutory and voluntary bodies co-operate to put the needs of young people first and leave administration, standardisation and so on to find their proper but subsidiary place.


321. Provision for the leisure-time activities of young people culminated in October 1939 in the announcement of the formation of the Youth Service as an integral part of the education system. More than four-fifths of the boys and girls in this country cease full-time school attendance at the age of 14 or thereabouts. Of the remaining fifth, some are to be found in secondary schools up to the age of 16 and a few beyond that. Before the war, large numbers (a million and a quarter at the peak) continued their education after leaving school at 14 years of age, or later, by voluntary attendance at evening classes. Many of these and others joined, or continued membership of, voluntary youth organisations, such as Boys’ Clubs, Girls’ Clubs, the Brigade, the Scouts and Guides, Y.M.C.A., Y.W.C.A., The Welsh League of Youth and Young Farmers’ Clubs, where they found wholesome and interesting occupation for their leisure time and opportunities for the exercise of  responsibility and for leaning something of the art of self-government It is true, however, that before the war these voluntary leisure-time activities, whether in the form of part-time continued education in evening institutes or of training through membership of youth organisations affected at most only some 30-40 per cent of the boys and girls who had left school and begun to earn their living.

322. This was not the position contemplated by the Fisher Act of 1918. That Act provided, in the first place, for compulsory part-time continued education during working hours for all boys and girls up to the age of 18 who had ceased full-time schooling before that age; and, in the second, place, it empowered local education authorities to supply or aid the supply of facilities for social and physical training both for children at school and for young people who had left school and, if over the age of 18, were attending “educational institutions “. The Physical Training and Recreation Acts 1937, to which reference is made below, extended this power to the provision of facilities for people of any age whether or not associated with educational institutions. Unfortunately, the provisions of the Fisher Act relating to compulsory part-time continued education suffered shipwreck in the stormy period following the end of the war in 1918. As regards facilities for social and physical training in the inter-war period, though a considerable amount’, of provision was made, especially in some places through the agency of the Special Commissioners for Distressed Areas, the exercise by local education authorities of their powers was somewhat sporadic and all too often least in evidence where it was most needed. [page 95]

323. The Physical Training and Recreation Act of 1937, in addition to extending the power ‘of local education authorities to supply and aid the supply of facilities for social and physical training, also gave extended powers to other local authorities to provide such facilities; and it set up elaborate machinery through a National Advisory Council and a Central Grants Committee and 22 Area ‘Committees covering England and Wales for the administration of grants to local authorities and voluntary organisations. This Act was, however, as its name implies, concerned primarily with the physical aspect of education, and the “National Fitness Campaign” had scarcely begun to have any real effect when the outbreak of the war in 1939 led to its administrative machinery being placed in abeyance.

324. The disturbance of conditions caused by the outbreak of hostilities in 1939 emphasised the lack of national provision for education after the age of 14, while local education authorities were too fully occupied ‘with evacuation, A.R.P. provision and many other problems immediately to give to voluntary organisations much needed assistance or themselves to provide the facilities which were urgently required. To meet this situation the Government charged the Board of Education with a special responsibility for looking after the needs and interests of young people who had left school and begun to earn their living, that is, those between the ages of 14 and 20. A National Youth Committee (now replaced by the Youth Advisory Council) and a Welsh Youth Committee were appointed, and a special Branch was established at the Board to administer this service, including the funds which had been made available in the form of grants to voluntary organisations to enable them to weather the storm. This machinery began to operate in October, 1939.

325. The Service of Youth was in its initial stages frankly a “first aid” service designed to absorb the shock of war. It was made clear from the beginning that this was to be regarded only as the initial phase, and in Circular 1486, issued in November 1939, a policy and procedure were announced for placing the Service of Youth on a permanent basis as one of the normal education services administered by local education authorities. The authorities for Higher Education (i.e. the authorities of counties and county boroughs) were asked to establish county and county borough youth committees designed to bring together all the interests and agencies concerned with the welfare of young people and to survey needs and plan ways and means of meeting those needs to the fullest extent possible under the inevitable restrictions of war-time.

326. The response of authorities and voluntary organisations, notwithstanding the difficulties and preoccupations of the war, has been most encouraging. Machinery for the administration of the youth service as part of the education service is now firmly established in all counties and county boroughs with, in the case of counties, local youth committees working under the county committee; and a valuable partnership is being built up between the authorities and voluntary organisations and others concerned with the training of young people and with their living and working conditions.

327. The response of the young people has also been good. Whilst no national statistics are available, there is no doubt that there is now a much higher proportion of young people associated with some form of training and service in evening institutes, voluntary organisations or in other ways than there has ever been before. It must be admitted that this result is, in a considerable measure, due to the special conditions of war-time and to the attraction of pre-Service training for both boys and girls. The Government’s policy of registering young people has been made an occasion for putting [page 96] before them the opportunities for, and the advantages of, joining some form of youth organization. The larger numbers are, however, also partly due to the vigour and flexibility shown by the Youth Service itself.

328. The raising of the school leaving age and the establishment of a system of compulsory part-time continued education after the war will undoubtedly affect the pattern of organisation and the content and standards of the Youth Service; but the result will, in our opinion, be an emphasis on the need for this service as an integral part of the public system of education, and an increase in the variety of the demands which young people will make.

Present position


329. The staffing of work amongst young people involves such variety that, on paper, it will probably always appear extremely complicated. Those engaged can be classified in many ways: by the nature of their duties, that is, whether they are organisers working over a wide field or workers directly concerned with one particular group, club or institution; by the time given by the workers, that is, full-time or part-time; or by reference to the body to whom they are responsible, that is, to a local education authority or to a voluntary organisation. Further, cutting across this classification is the nature of the contribution which is made: some workers are primarily qualified to promote the general interests of young people, others are equipped with gifts in a particular field such as music, drama, handicraft or games. Finally, there is the important distinction between those who are in control and those who are assistants. We do not propose to examine staffing in detail from all these different points of view. Two broad classifications can, however, usefully be made:

(a) full-lime workers, such as organisers, wardens and heads of large centres or institutions, who are almost invariably paid workers, and

(b) part-lime workers, who may be paid or unpaid.

330. There are at present several hundreds of full-time workers and many thousands of part-time workers. The contribution of the voluntary or unpaid part-time worker is fundamental to youth work. The Service of Youth as it exists to-day owes an immense debt to the long and high tradition of voluntary effort which is so characteristic of the British way of achievement, and nothing that we propose for the recruitment of paid leaders, whether full-time or part-time, should be taken as suggesting that an adequate supply of them will in any way diminish the need for those who give their services without reward. Voluntary workers are vital for three reasons:

(a) they bring to young people a varied experience of contemporary life which full-time workers clearly cannot bring in the same measure,

(b) voluntary work carries with it the hail mark of altruistic interest and sets an example of unrewarded service which young people are quick to appreciate, and

(c) the work of volunteers is a safeguard against the over-professionalisation of the service to which we have already referred.


331. There is no recognised qualification for a youth leader. Only a few courses are of such length and scope that they can be regarded as offering systematic training. These have in the past been provided by a few of the voluntary organisations, and they vary in duration from a few months to [page 97] two and a half years. One course includes a social science diploma of a university. Not more than 150 trained workers have been produced each year as a result of all these courses.

332. Other workers have diverse qualifications. Many have been trained in courses designed for other purposes such as social work or teaching. Some are graduates. Such qualifications, although relevant to youth service work, do not cover the whole ground. Whatever a man’s or woman’s qualifications, it is generally recognised that a substantial spell of practical work with young people who have begun to earn their own living is vitally important.

333. Since the outbreak of war the Board of Education have taken two steps in the sphere of training. First, they have themselves conducted a number of short courses lasting from one to two weeks, many of which have been residential courses. These have been of a general nature or devoted to a particular aspect of youth work. They are not training courses so much as conferences either for helping those who are inexperienced or for the pooling of experience of those who have been at work in the field for some time. Similar courses or conferences have been held by local education authorities and voluntary organisations. Second, the Board announced in 1942 (Circular 1598) their willingness to grant financial assistance on a student capitation basis to institutions and organisations which were prepared to conduct approved emergency courses, on the understanding that in war-time and in advance of our Report they would not regard the courses as more than experimental. The Board were naturally unwilling to commit themselves at this stage to the recognition of any course as providing a full qualification for Youth Service work.

334. Several universities, one training college and some voluntary organisations have taken advantage of these arrangements, and courses ranging from three months to a year and some part-time courses have been approved. More than 300 students have enrolled and there is no doubt that those who are conducting the courses are learning both what to include and what to avoid. These different types of course are serving a three-fold purpose. They are giving a number of war-time youth workers a better background of knowledge and experience; they are offering a variety of bodies the chance of experimenting in a new field of training; and they are bringing together in the work of training the Board of Education, local education authorities, the universities, training colleges and voluntary organisations. These experiments and the resulting experience are essential if future courses leading to the attainment of nationally recognised qualifications, which we regard as vital to youth service, are to be soundly constructed.

Salaries and Pensions

335. Before the war, work among young people was a little known career offering poor prospects, low salaries and no pension. There is as yet no national scale of salary for workers in the Service of Youth. Advertisements of posts show wide differences: £2oo to £6oo for organisers and £200 to £350 or more for leaders or wardens. There is great disparity in the salaries offered for comparable posts, and provision for pensions for youth service workers, as such, does not exist. Pension arrangements, where they do exist, have to be brought under regulations made before the Youth Service came into existence. For example, persons employed by local education authorities as full-time workers in Youth Service who are engaged on administrative duties, such as organisers, may be accepted for pension purposes under the Local Government Superannuation Acts. If the person employed as an organiser has the requisite previous service as a teacher, he may be [page 98] eligible for pension under the Teachers (Superannuation) Act, 1925, as an educational organiser. A few voluntary organisations have pension schemes of their own, although in some circumstances the services of a person who is employed full-time by a voluntary organisation can be treated as pensionable under the Teachers (Superannuation) Acts.

Age and Field of Recruitment

336. The age of entry to work in the Youth Service varies between wide limits; but in the nature of things the paid leader entering upon his first appointment is likely to be, and should be, older than is the teacher when he begins work. Youth Service covers an age-range of young people from 14 to 20 and some corresponding maturity on the part of those who may be called upon to advise and guide them is essential.

337. Youth leaders and organisers are drawn from a very wide field and it is important, whatever may in future be done about recruitment and training, that this field should not become restricted. The voluntary organizations especially, have attracted a great variety of people into their service, particularly those who have had experience of some profession or in industry. University men and women, public school boys, policemen, boys and girls from business and factories have all from time to time found their way through training and experience into full-time work amongst young people. The staffs of local education authorities, not unnaturally, show a high proportion of men and women who have initially been trained as teachers and amongst them are many who have specialised in physical education. Among part-time and voluntary workers there are few professions or occupations which are not somewhere represented. This variety is all to the good and whatever system of training is devised must preserve it.

The future


338. The first question we must consider is that of supply. The Service of Youth is a growing service. Even so we do not expect every young person between the ages of i5 and i8 to be associated with some form of youth organisation. There are many boys and girls in all walks of life who prefer activities which are not of a corporate nature; and there are others whose interests, education, friends or homes are such that they have their own rather personal plans for the use of their spare time and the means for carrying them out. They might or might not contribute or receive something valuable by joining an organisation. The choice is theirs. They are neither better nor worse than other young people who welcome the advantages offered by, say, a scout troop or a guide company, a club, a young people’s community centre or an evening institute. We are not therefore aiming at 100 per cent enrolment in youth organisations. When we have excluded those who have sound reasons for not joining an organisation, we must not expect, at any rate for some time to come, that the whole of the remainder will embrace the opportunities offered to them by a service which is by its nature voluntary. In some cases, indeed, sheer physical disability, geographical location or unfortunate conditions of employment, especially hours of work, may make participation impracticable.

339. With these considerations in mind we have, with the aid of our witnesses, attempted to estimate the total number of full-time youth leaders who may be required. If we secured an average of one full-time leader every 300 boys and girls between 15 and 18 years of age we should require between 5,000 and 6,ooo full-time workers, These numbers would, of course, [page 99] be inadequate if there were a 100 per cent enrolment but, for the reasons we have given above, this is not desirable or likely. Moreover, in rural areas particularly, the “average” basis has little validity; and, not only in such areas but throughout the field as a whole, great reliance must continue to be placed on the part-time paid worker and particularly on the unpaid voluntary worker, to whose numbers, fortunately, no limit need be set provided those who volunteer are equipped for the work they are pleased to do.

340. We now have to consider how many full-time leaders will be required annually to maintain a permanent staff of between 5,000 and 6,ooo. The average active working life of some leaders, which cannot be precisely estimated, will, as we have already said, be comparatively short. We do not say this in any belief that men and women of 50 and 6o years of age have nothing to contribute to young people. Experience flatly denies any such assumption, which seems to be based on too great a pre-occupation with the physical content of youth work. It is time for men and women to give up youth leadership when it becomes apparent that they have lost touch with the outlook of young people or that their tolerance has worn thin. But some people who are suffering from actual physical disability may nevertheless amply justify full-time service with young people.

341. The fact remains, however, that since physical activities constitute a very important part of the interests of youth and since many other types of activity which young people pursue with zest make great physical demands on those older people who help to plan them, there is good reason for considering the active working life of the youth leader as less than that of the teacher. When we add to this consideration the normal depletion of the service through death, illness or premature withdrawal to other types of work, it is not unreasonable to put the average working life of the youth leader at about 15 or 20 years, thus making necessary an annual recruitment of about 300, once the full establishment is in being.

342. This flow of 300 a year will not be achieved without the establishment of a profession involving approved courses of training of a satisfactory standard which lead to a recognised qualification and of a service in which adequate salaries are paid and acceptable conditions of service are secured.



343. Training we regard as essential, though it may not be practicable to make it compulsory in the immediate future. The youth leader works with human material, and the unguided experience through which he now has to learn his profession is only too often bought at the expense of those whom he seeks to help. Moreover, the experience of voluntary organisations over many years testifies to the value of training, while the wide and ready response which youth service workers of all kinds have made to the various short courses which have been offered shows that the leaders themselves recognise the need for some period of preparation for their work. But there is a danger of overlooking the personal education of those engaged in youth work and of concentrating solely on their professional training; It is as important for the leader as for the teacher that he should be a fully developed normal individual. Complete absorption in work with young people to the exclusion of a personal life of his own is one of the temptations which beset a leader, and his education should give him something which minimises the danger of his becoming unduly pre-occupied with youth. He has a life of his own to live, and if be neglects it he may cease to be a normal adult, with harmful results to himself and to the young people with whom he works. [page 100]

One way of approaching this problem of education and training is to begin at the end and to ask what, in very broad outline, ate the qualification which should be looked for in a young man or woman of about 25 years of age who was seeking his or her first post as a full-time leader? An answer to this question will reveal something of the nature and scope of the course which ought to be provided for those who desire to prepare themselves for it. Having pictured such a course, we can the more easily consider what varieties of study, instruction and practice should be available to meet the needs of those, and there will be many, whose knowledge and experience make desirable a training which is more or less personal to themselves.

Nature and Length of the Course

345. The present period of rapid development is not the time to define too closely what should be the composition of full-time courses for youth leaders. There will have to be much more experimenting in this field before schemes of training, reasonably proof against criticism, can be formulated. We suggest that the youth leader, at the time of his first appointment to a post, should

(a)  have achieved, as a personal accomplishment, a fairly high standard in some field of knowledge or in some craft of his own choosing;

(b) have acquired a good working knowledge of national and local government, social and industrial conditions and the social services with some reference to their historical development;

(c) possess some understanding of the psychology of young people in’ relation to their personal health, their fellows of both sexes, their homes and their working conditions, and in relation to adults and society at large;

(d) have developed a genuine interest in, and enjoyment of, one or more of the many activities in which young people freely engage, such as music, drama, crafts of all kinds, gymnastics, boxing, games and so on;

(e) have had practical experience, if only as an apprentice during training, of actual work with young people, including what is involved in the organisation and business management of groups, clubs or institutions.

346. We have dealt only with those qualities or qualifications which courses of training might give: we recognise as fundamental that unless the youth leader has the right personality for the work his other gifts or attainments might be useless. He must be the kind of person who is acceptable to young people and to his colleagues in the service and he should have some genuine sense of vocation for the work.

347. It is one thing to catalogue the desirable qualifications of a youth leader: it is another to plan coherent courses of study and practice which will ensure them. We are satisfied that for the student with no substantial previous experience or attainments the course should normally extend over three years. The proper content, the ‘balance and nature of the syllabuses hid the most effective methods of training will reveal themselves more clearly as experiments proceed and experience accumulates. Meanwhile we offer the following suggestions based on the evidence which we have received.

348. At least a quarter, and in some cases a half, of the course should be devoted to practical work. The actual amount must depend upon the quickness of the response of the student to the ways and interests of young people. 

349. On the theoretical side, though attendance at systematic courses of lectures and the writing of essays will be a necessary part of the course, particularly in regard to the subject which the student proposes to study more or less as his own personal interest, the method of the course as a whole

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should be less that of the lecture and more that of the tutorial group or seminar combined with directed private study. Tutors must be highly competent if intellectual disappointment and waste of time are to be avoided. While engaging in discussion themselves the students should learn the technique of conducting discussions with young people.

350. There are three matters which are of great significance for young people – religion, politics and sex. They are certain to arise, sooner or later, in any discussions with boys and girls on social conditions or their own physical, mental or spiritual problems. Leaders must therefore be prepared to face them. There is a body of knowledge on all three subjects with which leaders should be acquainted, and for this purpose well-informed lectures and courses of reading will be necessary. Moreover, religion, politics and sex are highly controversial matters upon which conflicting and divergent views are conscientiously held. We therefore regard informal discussion on these matters as indispensable to the proper understanding of them, provided, and it is a very important proviso, that the tutor in charge is qualified by his or her own knowledge, balanced outlook and stable personality to be a reasonable guide on issues some of which are personal and intimate.

351. We believe that lectures and discussions properly planned and conducted which lead to further private study and disciplined reflection may result in the discovery by each individual of a philosophy of life or, at any rate, of certain standards of thought and conduct. A well-informed philosophy of life, which may or may not ‘be professedly religious, is most necessary to the youth leader; indeed, it is not easy to conceive of a successful youth leader without it. If the course of education and training which he undertakes in preparation for his work with young people does nothing to help him to achieve such a philosophy, it fails in one of its chief purposes.

352. The practical side of the course will not be easy to plan. In the first place, there must be amongst those responsible for conducting the course one or more persons who have had substantial practical experience of youth work; and, in the second place, selected youth leaders still in the field must be persuaded to take a responsible share in the training, and to assist in working out what is entailed in the very difficult art of practical training for youth work. Practical training should not mean merely a series of brief visits of observation to a number of institutions concerned with young people: it should include substantial periods of continuous work in one or more institutions or amongst one or more groups of young people. Residence in a settlement would be useful and some individual casework desirable. In probably every case some part of the practical work should be taken at a distance from the students’ main training centre, and sometimes in rural areas. Experience of camping and other outdoor activities, extending beyond games, is an essential part of training.

353. The danger of a course such as we have indicated, but not precisely defined, is that it will lack coherence and standards. We deal with safeguarding standards later. Lack of coherence is a very real danger, the more so as in a measure each student, because of his previous knowledge and individual interests, will require something personal and adapted to his own needs. This being so, we regard it as of vital importance that the tutorial method should be pressed to the point of a particular full-time tutor being responsible for planning the study and practice of a defined and small group of students, so that the course of each is properly balanced and his reading and practice properly directed and supervised. It would be the duty of this [page 102] tutor to ensure that students did not devote themselves wholly to lectures, book work and practice but had time to browse and-reflect.

354.  Students should become conversant with current affairs and have times to discuss them and other interesting things with their fellows. They should learn what it means to make informed and independent judgments and they should keep a sense of humour and proportion undistorted by “cram” methods. It would be fatal if those attending courses for youth leadership found themselves becoming mere students of a number of subjects with essays to write and examinations to pass in all of them. Ideally, each course, because of its practical nature and because of the co-operation of active workers, should itself be a contribution to the youth work of the locality, and the training system as a whole should influence such work throughout the country.

Eligibility for Training: Methods of Selection

355. The personal suitability of applicants for entry into youth service is fundamental, and the institutions offering courses of training will keep continuously before them the need for devising the proper machinery of selection, in which the interview will find a prominent place. During the war many experiments have been made in the Services and elsewhere in the technique of selection and there are some valuable lessons to be learned from those who have been developing this technique.

356. Since it is difficult to judge a man unless he is seen in action it might prove necessary either to require that he should have been tried out in some youth service work before he makes a firm application for training, or to arrange for a preliminary interview sufficiently in advance of the beginning of the course to enable him to do some practical work prior to a final decision being reached about his suitability for training. If the applicant is judged to have a suitable personality for the service and some sense of vocation for it the only other indispensable qualification is that he should have had a good enough general education and be sufficiently intelligent to be likely to follow the course through. Even under the best conditions some mistakes in initial selection are unavoidable and the first term or two of the training course should be regarded as probationary.

Assessment of the worth of the Student

357. The best methods of judging a student’s achievements during training and his fitness for full-time professional work will appear as more courses are tried out. It is clear that the results of an examination at the end of the course will not suffice. Capacity, as revealed during training, to live and -work with young people and, when necessary, to give them a lead must be the core of the assessment. Any special contribution, unique perhaps to the individual, must also be taken into account if variety of gifts is to be welcomed -and recognised.

358. So far our suggestions are tentative because some experimental work is in progress and more is necessary. We regard it as of great importance that the Board of Education should obtain an intimate knowledge of the conduct and results of the present emergency courses which they are aiding under Circular 1598. Much guidance for the future might be available if the experience of those conducting these courses was pooled, analysed and made generally available. We doubt, however, whether the Board or any other single body has on its staff sufficient people of experience to cover the whole of what would be required for a comprehensive evaluation of these courses. [page 103]

359. We therefore recommend

that representatives of the Board of Education, accompanied by other qualified persons, should visit all the emergency courses recognised under Circular 1593 and should make available the results of those visits in so far as they offer guidance about the nature, scope and methods of assessment of the courses which should be provided after the war ‘to – enable men and women to qualify for full-time posts as youth leaders.

Minimum Age for Recognition of Full-time Leaders

360. We have already said that the course for the beginner should extend over at least three years. A related question is the minimum age at which a man or woman should in normal circumstances take up full-time work as a youth leader. It may be reasonable for young men and women to enter upon their work as teachers at 21 years of age, but we do not think this is a suitable age for- youth leaders. We are not urging that the qualities required of a youth leader are either rarer or more valuable than those required of a teacher, or that there is some mystery about youth work which only the elect few can probe. It is a question of the nature of the work and the age and state of dependence or independence of the young people concerned. No exhaustive analysis is required to show that maturity is the essence ‘of the problem when dealing with boys and girls or young men and women of 15 to 20 years of age who have reached, or are on the way to, economic and social independence. The psychological and the social problems with which a leader has to deal differ profoundly from those which face a teacher in a primary school or even a secondary school; and personal maturity, which to some extent can be measured by age, is highly relevant. We consider that as a general rule local education authorities and voluntary organisations should not appoint young men and women to full-time posts before the age of 23.

361. We do not, however, wish to be dogmatic on this question of age and particularly we do not wish to miss promising applicants by reason of too rigid requirements. If maturity rather than precise age is taken as the test there will be room for anyone whose nature, personality and experience fits him at an earlier age to be guide, philosopher and friend of young people. Mistakes will, of course, be made. But where human potentialities are involved it is better to make a mistake than stand on the letter of the law.

Shorter Training Courses

362. Shorter courses of training should be provided for those who, in one way or another, have already achieved knowledge and experience which is relevant either to their personal life or to their professional competence as youth leaders. There will be a great variety of such persons. We give a few examples:

(a) the university graduate,

(b) the holder of a social science diploma,

(c) the man or woman who has had considerable practical- experience as a part-time youth leader and now wants to qualify for full-time work, and

(d) the business or professional man or woman whose maturity is not in question but who nevertheless may be ignorant of the structure of society as it affects young people or may need some stimulus to the revival of his cultural interests.

363. It is very important that the present diversity of recruitment should be preserved and that the door should be kept wide open for suitable men [page 104] and women with experience in all walks of life to enter the service of youth. We believe that when the three-year course which we have indicated is in being and is properly staffed it should be easier to arrange training for those whose needs can be met by a shorter course. We consider, however, that, save in very exceptional circumstances, no course of training should be less than one year, and this course should be an entity in itself and not merely a condensed version of the three-year course.

Refresher Courses, and Courses for Part-time and for Voluntary Workers

364. We regard the liberal provision of refresher courses for trained leaders as essential, and courses of training for part-time workers, both paid and voluntary, are equally vital. These courses should be varied in nature and duration; some should certainly be residential, but the comparative immobility of the part-time worker must always be considered. Some courses might be intensive, others spread over a series of weeks or months.

365.  We recommend

(a) that the course of training for those without any special qualifications who are seeking to prepare themselves for full-time posts as youth leaders should extend over three years of combined full-time study and practice;

(b) that courses of not less than one year’s duration should be available for those whose previous experience and qualifications make a three-year course unnecessary; and

(c) that the minimum age for recognition of full-time leaders should, save in exceptional cases, be 23.

Youth Leaders and Teachers

366. We have suggested a course of training for youth leaders which, although it may have in it many elements in common with training for other related professions, is yet a specific course designed for its own purposes. We do not think that training for youth leadership should be attempted within the course designed to train teachers or other kinds of social workers, although during their training youth leaders, teachers and social workers will necessarily take some account of each other’s field of service.

367. We should expect that for some years after training, the youth leader or teacher would serve in the capacity for which he has been specifically trained, although we realise that some joint appointments, such as part-time teacher in a young people’s college and part-time leader in the youth service might be made. If after some years of experience a youth leader or teacher seeks to transfer to another part of the educational field, and has given evidence of suitability, he should be enabled to do so. No barriers arising from his initial qualifications should stand in the way of his becoming eligible for the new post. A short reorientation course should, however, normally be required of him at the time of his transference. We very definitely do not mean that anyone should transfer to teaching because he has worked himself out in youth service. It by no means follows that the man who has been successful as a youth leader would be of value as a teacher in a school even if he did take a special course of training. In other words we believe that there will always be some persons who at the end of a substantial period as youth leaders will have to seek fields of work other than youth service or teaching. This is one of the risks attaching to work in youth service and we have no suggestions to make for minimising it.

368. The course of training which we propose for youth leaders, as might be expected from the nature of their work, is comparable in content, standards

[page 105]

and length with that which we propose for teachers. This has its advantages from the point of view of the professional status of both. The possibility of transfer from one service to the other, even if only on a very small scale, is essential; but such transfer is impracticable unless salaries are comparable and superannuation arrangements are linked.

369. We recommend

(a) that the salaries of youth leaders should be comparable with those of teachers, and that service as a youth leader should be pensionable; and

(b) that transfer from one service to the other should be facilitated by the necessary linking of superannuation arrangements and the provision of suitable short courses of training.

The Provision of Courses

370. It is clear to us that no one institution is likely to be able to provide the courses of training which we have outlined. In another part of our Report we have recommended that training facilities for teachers should be organised on an area basis and that universities, training colleges, technical colleges, colleges of art, certain adult residential colleges and the schools themselves should for this purpose combine to produce the framework within which training would be undertaken. We think it extremely desirable that youth leaders should not be segregated during their training; and we are clear that the area training authority, if properly representative of the interests of youth work, is the right body to plan and provide courses of training for youth leaders. It is here that the maintenance of standards comes in. The universities, the technical colleges, schools of art and training colleges are all accustomed to the maintenance of standards in their own field and they must see that in academic subjects, in social studies, in crafts and skills, the standards of youth service training are built up and maintained at a high level. Statutory and voluntary youth organisations duly represented on the area training authority would have special regard to the standards of the practical training.

371. We do not, however, believe that these things will happen unless each area has at its service someone competent to undertake the direction both of full training for youth work (in areas where this is to be undertaken), and, in all areas, of the organisation of part-time and refresher courses and the maintenance of general contact with youth activities. It is not suggested that full courses of training should be available in each area, as the comparatively small need for fully trained youth leaders would render unnecessary the existence of more than a few ‘training centres of economic size. In those regions, however, where these did not exist, provision would still be necessary for part-time and refresher courses, and the maintenance of area contacts. It appears likely, therefore, that persons responsible for the direction of youth training would be required for all areas, and that in certain areas, so situated as to serve most conveniently the needs of the whole country, these persons would have in effect the status and functions of heads of training institutions whose business it would be, in consultation with others, to plan and direct the full-time training.

372. We recommend

(a) that each area training authority should be adequately representative of youth organisations, and should appoint a person qualified to direct such training for leaders in the Youth Service as the area is called upon to provide and, in certain areas, to take charge of full-time training; [page 106]

(b) that training during the first five years should be regarded as experimental, and that before the end of that period the Board of Education should review the experience of each area with a view to systematising, so far as may be necessary, the qualifications required for recognition as a youth leader and outlining the nature of the courses of training which they will recognise and aid; and

(c) that for the time being the Board of Education and others should, if necessary, recognise the appointment to full-time posts of those who have not been trained but are deemed otherwise to be suitably equipped, on the understanding, however, that as soon as practicable the Board of Education will require the appointment of trained leaders to any posts in respect of the salary of which they make a grant.

Chapter 11: Young people’s colleges

373. There are two alternative ways of assessing the period during which boys and girls will be required to attend Young People’s Colleges. It can be regarded as primarily an educational period during which young people are also at work, finding their feet in industry, commerce, agriculture or domestic activities. Or it can be viewed as essentially a working period during which boys and girls are recalled to school for part of their time in order to continue their education. The latter view is comparable with that which produced the half-time system of schooling under the Factory Acts in the 19th century. The principle of that system was the interruption of the working day of children with a little schooling. We do not wish to press this analogy, or the distinction between the two views, too far. We believe, however, that the former view is the sounder of the two and must inspire the work of these colleges if they are to avoid becoming subordinated to the fluctuating needs of industry and commerce and to the frequently narrow requirements of the “jobs” which young people are doing. Further, the view that the period is primarily educational accords with the raising of the age of full-time attendance at school from 15 to 16 and with, what the White Paper suggests may prove ultimately desirable, namely, a still more substantial part of the period up to i8 years being made available for education.

374. We are quite aware that whichever view is taken there will be a demand on the part of many young people themselves for vocational education in the form of technical instruction related to their wage earning work, and that if this demand is not adequately met the colleges will fall into disrepute. At the same time we are of opinion that only if the period is regarded as educational will the colleges develop into institutions calculated to inspire loyalty and affection from young people generally. In the long run the desires and ambitions of the pupils ought to be the biggest influence in determining the shape of young people’s colleges; and a great many boys and girls between 15 and 18 years of age desire, and require for their well being, opportunities for enjoying studies and activities extending much beyond those which are directly related to their work.

375. We make these preliminary remarks because they are relevant to the staffing of young people’s colleges, with which we are mainly concerned. It is estimated that the colleges will require the services of about 20,000 teachers involving, on the basis of one day’s attendance a week, a replenishment rate of about 1,000 a year. At the beginning a large number of teachers will have to be recruited by means of the Board’s Emergency Training Scheme for which, though it is of great interest to us, we are not responsible. Our business is the supply and training of the 1,000 teachers who will be required each year. How should they be recruited and how trained? [page 107]

376. Young People’s Colleges, some of which may be residential, will be self-contained institutions, each with its own staff. The colleges will be something quite new – save for a few experiments which have already been made-in that they will be full-time institutions with, for the most part, full-time staff, but providing for students who will attend only part-time, and that under compulsion. This situation will present many difficult problems of organisation and will complicate the planning of courses of study and activity. It does not, however, mean that some entirely new type of teacher, of whom we have taken no account in other parts of our Report, has to be recruited and trained.

377. The uniform characteristic of the students will be that they are at work earning their living or, if not at work, are living at home or elsewhere in a state of semi-independence compared with the restrictions imposed when they were in full-time attendance at school. This change of status must obviously be taken into account in the staffing of young people’s colleges, as it must be in the staffing of technical colleges and youth service. Its significance should not however be exaggerated. A boy may change when he moves from school to work but he does not thereby become a different person. He may be glad to throw off the restraints of school but he does not suddenly cease to be interested in the things which have previously absorbed him. It is unwise to regard “youth” as some mystery which is sandwiched between, and is unrelated to, childhood on one side and adulthood on the other. Such an attitude on the part of their elders is calculated to make young people self-conscious and to lead ultimately to their disillusionment.

378. We have already recommended that specific arrangements should be made for entry to the teaching profession of those who have had experience in some other profession or occupation; and in doing so we had in mind the needs of young people’s colleges for persons with a wider experience of the world than is usual among the main body of teachers. It must not be forgotten, however, that the colleges will require teachers with good qualifications in English, history, science and other so-called academic subjects; specialist teachers of music, art and physical training; and highly skilled teachers of technical and commercial subjects. It would be very foolish to regard the colleges, as institutions in which there was no place for the teacher with normal secondary or other school experience, or as institutions which required a kind ‘of music or physical education wholly different in character from that to be found in other types of school or college. The staffing needs of young people’s colleges can be met only by mobility of staff throughout the whole educational system, including youth service, the need for which we have so frequently urged.

379. We wish, however, to ensure not only mobility amongst teachers but also a common field for their education and training, and so avoid the segregation of particular groups of persons in training. We have already recommended that the area training service should undertake the training of the mature entrant to the profession of technical teachers and of youth leaders. The area training service which we have proposed brings a wide variety of educational institutions within its ambit (universities, technical colleges, colleges of art, colleges of music and all types of training college) and it will have local education authorities and representatives of industry and commerce associated with its work. We are confident that this service can also undertake the training for teachers for young people’s colleges. The Board will, no doubt, watch the development of these institutions with great care and will from time to time advise training authorities about their staffing needs. We confine ourselves to a single recommendation.

380.We recommend

that the training of teachers for Young People’s Colleges should be undertaken, like the training of all other teachers, by the area training services.

How to cite this piece: Board of Education (1944) Teachers and Youth Leaders. Report of the Committee appointed by the President of the Board of Education to consider the supply, recruitment and training of teachers and youth leaders, London: HMSO. Part 2 is reproduced in the informal education archives,

This piece has been reproduced here by the informal education homepage under licence from Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.

© Crown copyright 1944 (Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen’s Printer for Scotland.)

First placed in the archives: March 2003. Updated June 2019.