Ask a young person why they stay in scouting, and they will probably say because it's fun! But this is only possible because of the adults that get involved. Every Scout Group relies on the support and help of volunteers to enable it to thrive!
One of the key roles in every Scout Group is that of the Group Scout Leader (GSL). Ideally all groups should have a GSL because the part they play can really help a group develop and enable more young people to get the most they can from their time in scouting.
Don’t panic! You do not do this on your own, you are part of and are supported by the District Team. As well as the support that you can expect to receive from your district our county also has a support and development team which can provide hands on support and advice.
What Is a Group Scout Leader?
You are the manager of the Scout Group and provide leadership and support to every adult and young person involved with it. You support adults to make scouting a success and help make sure that the group provides a welcoming atmosphere to all. Scouting happens most often at group level so your role is vital in ensuring that the best possible scouting is available for young people in your area.
The main tasks of a Group Scout Leader is to:
- Ensure that the Scout Group thrives and has the best systems in place to support adult volunteers and develop the Group - including a Group Executive Committee and Section leadership teams;
- Provide line management and support to the Leaders in the Scout Group, including setting objectives for their work and holding regular reviews and one-to-one meetings;
- Ensure that the Scout Group has an adequate team of supported and appropriate adults working effectively together and with others to meet the Scouting needs of the sections and Group;
- Ensure that a challenging, exciting and balanced programme is offered by the Leaders to the young people in the Scout Group;
- Work with the District Commissioner and other Group Scout Leaders in the District to ensure that the District thrives and mutual support exists.
Let’s look at these areas in more detail:
The official stuff
- Maintaining effective communication with others whose advice and support can be of use to the Group.
- Acting as Chairman of the Group Scouters’ Meeting and encouraging co-operation among the Scouters of the Group.
- Nominating the Group Chairman and maintaining an effective Group Executive Committee.
- Matters relating to the admission and membership of young people to the Group.
- Building and maintaining a good relationship with the Group’s immediate community and, in the case of a Sponsored Group, with the Sponsoring Authority and the community it represents.
- Make sure that sections are running fun and progressive programmes.
- Encourage sections to build on the skills learned in the previous section.
- Ensure that section leaders are continually reviewing their programme to keep it progressive.
- Through regular meetings make sure that Group Scouters know what the other sections are doing.
- Understand the balanced programme.
- Ensure the smooth transfer of young people from one section to the next at the relevant age.
- Encourage joint activities across sections.
- Try to create a family atmosphere across the Group.
- Make sure that young people in the Scout section have the opportunity to move on to the local Explorer Scout provision at the appropriate time.
Managing the adults in the Scout Group is one of the key parts of the role of GSL, and can also be broken down into further sections.
- Ensure that there are sufficient adults in a section to guarantee its effective and safe operation.
- Make sure that all adults with the Group are ‘fit and proper’ for their role.
- There is a laid down appointments and checking process for all adults in Scouting. Make sure it is adhered to at all times.
- Make sure that all adults in the Group feel valued and are properly inducted.
- A good induction will help a new adult to develop their role and make them feel that they are capable of carrying it out.
As line manager to the adults working with your Group it is important that they are supported by you. This means:
- Agreeing their role description;
- Communicating with them;
- Ensuring that they have the appropriate equipment and resources;
- Being an approachable source of advice;
- Encouraging and motivating them.
- Provide a regular opportunity for all adults within the Group to discuss their role and ‘what happens next’.
- Make sure that adults not happy in their role have the opportunity to change.
- Provide feedback to the District Appointments Advisory Committee on the formal review of appointments.
- Have both formal and informal discussions with the adults in your Group
- The Group Executive exists to support the Group Scout Leader in meeting the responsibilities of the appointment. The Executive Committee is responsible for:
- The maintenance of the Group’s property and equipment;
- The raising of funds and the administration of the Group’s finance;
- The insurance of persons, property and equipment;
- Group public occasions;
- Assisting with the recruitment of leaders and other adult support.
The Group Chairman (who is nominated by you) is a crucial partner in the management of the Scout Group.
Finance, equipment and accommodation
These can be complicated and time-consuming issues for Groups. To enable you and the Executive Committee there are some important things you need to think about.
- An effective treasurer is essential in the smooth running of a Group.
- Fundraising Team. A good team can relieve a lot of pressure from the already busy leadership team.
- A simple, up to date list of all of the equipment owned by the Group and sections is essential to ensure that you have adequate insurance cover.
- Owning your HQ. Do you have all of the relevant deeds and insurance documentation? Are you adequately insured? If you hire out your meeting place are you complying with all the necessary requirements?
- Renting your HQ. Do you have a proper hire agreement? Can you negotiate rent increases? Do you have adequate storage for Group equipment?
Some of the tasks for which the Group Scout Leader is responsible may be delegated to others in the Group.
What the role of GSL isn't...
Often there are many misunderstandings of what the role of the GSL is, so here are a few points to note:
- The GSL doesn't run the weekly meetings of the sections - in fact, they may have very little contact with young people;
- The GSL need not go to Cub camp, go on the Scout hike, canoe or play dodge ball with the Beavers;
- The GSL does not run the Group single-handed - they are not solely responsible for the Groups' development plan, equipment, buying of badges or running a fundraising event;
- The GSL need not be out doing Scouting every night of the week (or even every week).
What if the group has only one or two sections?
Even small Groups can really benefit from having a Group Scout Leader and in this situation it may be that a "cluster" of small Scout Groups could be supported by one GSL. For example, this may lead to seeing two Beaver Colonies and a Cub Pack from two different communities ‘sharing’ the one GSL. This has worked in several locations and both Groups benefited from the support given.
Make sure that you have the following:
- Group / district / county contact details;
- District / county / country websites;
- E-Newsletter mailing lists in the district and the county;
- The Policy, Organisation and Rules of The Scout Association (POR).
Things to do
Once your appointment as GSL is confirmed as ‘full’, you will be able to access Compass our membership database this holds all the membership details and information about all the adults working with your group and your groups youth members. All information is added and edited locally, so it is worth familiarising yourself now.
Introduce yourself. Go out and meet all of the sections; adults and young people. Getting to know them all now will make things easier in the long run.
Appointment and training of GSLs
As GSL you will have met with your District Commissioner (DC) and talked through the role and the priorities of the District. Your appointment will have been made on fixed terms and should be subject to review by the DC at regular intervals.
The formal GSL training requirement will be met by the completion of a Personal Learning Plan and the appointment of a Training Adviser. As with all training, the system is modular and you will need to validate the modules relevant to you.
The role of GSL is key to the efficient organisation of Scouting in your area. It is not a glamorous appointment and it calls for sensitivity and a wide range of management and communication skills. You are not expected to be an expert in everything overnight. You will already have many of the skills required and other skills and ideas you will pick up as you progress through your role.