Scout groups are made up of Beaver Scout Colonies, Cub Scout Packs and Scout Troops. Although the challenges with each group will vary its function is equally important in all situations.
As a Group Scout Leader you lead a team of volunteers in your Scout Group. This includes the Section Leaders, Assistant Leaders, other adult volunteers and Young Leaders.
Your role is key to ensuring that effective link opportunities exists between the sections to enable young people to move smoothly on between the sections of the group as this is a crucial to the retention of young people in scouting.
As GSL you should also inform and encourage young people in the group to move on to Explorer Scouts when the time comes. With this in mind it is important that you maintain a good link with the District Explorer Scout Commissioner and their team of Explorer Scout Leaders.
There are many things you can do to encourage links and effective communication between the sections. For example, through chairing the group leaders meetings you can encourage the links between the sections; encourage group social events and joint events between sections to create a family atmosphere within your group. Further information on how to develop effective communications can be found later in this handbook.
Each section leader within your group is responsible for planning and implementing a balanced programme for their section. However, this is subject to the general supervision of the GSL. You also need to be aware of the Association’s rules and safety guidelines and ensure that the leaders in the group understand and abide by them.
You should help to ensure that section leaders are encouraged to develop and introduce new ideas and activities. Above all, you should help each section, and indeed the group as a whole, to continuously review its programme to ensure that it is:
- Relevant and attractive;
- Easy to understand and operate;
- Progressive and accessible;
- Appealing to a wide range of young people;
- Meaningful and fulfilling;
- Safe and enjoyable.
The Assistant District Commissioners for each section (or District Leaders for each section), will be able to assistant with this too, as their role is to develop and support the sections across the district. A good working relationship with them will prove to be helpful.
In partnership with the Group Executive Committee, recruitment of adults is a key part of your role. Identifying vacancies and ensuring that there are enough adults within the group to effectively operate each section. This is vital to the success and development of your Scout Group. Our County Development Service can also help you with the recruitment of adults.
As GSL you are the line manager for all the adults that carry out a role in the group and as such it is the GSLs role to provide support to them. Support in this context means:
- Agreeing their role description;
- Regularly communicating with them;
- Ensuring they have the appropriate equipment and resources to carry out their role, being a source of advice;
- Encouraging and motivating them;
- Provide them with continuing support for their personal development and any further training.
The Group Executive Committee and trusteeship
As an ex officio member of the group executive committee, you are a charity trustee. Charity trustees are responsible for carrying out their role with due regard to the purpose of the charity and acting as a reasonable person. In some circumstances, trustees can be liable for financial loss incurred by the charity and so must consider their decisions very carefully. In reality, trustees are unlikely to be liable if they act reasonably and work within the guidelines provided in POR, and take proper and appropriate advice when they do not know enough to make the decision or when required to do so by law.
The group executive committee exists to support the GSL in meeting the responsibilities of the appointment. The members of the group executive committee must act collectively as charity trustees of the Scout Group, and in the best interests of its members.
The Group Chairperson (who is nominated by the GSL), is a crucial partner in the management of the Group. A good working relationship with the Chairperson will make the role much easier.
Ensuring the provision of good scouting within the scout group
As GSL you have a responsibility as part of the district team to help the District Commissioner ensure that all sections operate above the minimum standards as outlined in POR. This requires that each section must have an appointed leader and sufficient adults at each meeting. The minimum number of adults required to run any section will depend on the number of young people present. At all times the minimum number of adults required is two (of which one must be an appointed leader or assistant leader).
Each section must provide a balanced programme following the guidelines laid out in the Association's official publications. These are available for all sections and are full of great ideas for programmes and awards. Each section should offer its members the opportunity to attend a nights away experience each year, While the district's role is to help all sections reach these minimum standards, if a colony, pack, troop or unit fails to reach the standard for three consecutive years (despite support from the group and district), the rules allow the district commissioner to close that section.
Building a team
No matter how efficient you are, you cannot fulfil all the functions of a Scout Group management team on your own. You will need to find and appoint a number of colleagues to work with you to provide the right level of support for the group.
Section leaders are integral members of your team. It is vital to your success to ensure that every section is managed effectively. They may need to be persuaded that their responsibilities are wider than just their own section and that they have a collective responsibility for development and programme delivery across the sections within the group.
The traditional model is to appoint a Section Leader for each section. However, you may be able to look at alternative methods of management, for example, having a Scout Leader manage several troops within one group, working with different teams of assistants or having sections operate as remote satellite sections from your group You may feel an Assistant Group Scout Leader would be helpful to you. They can take on some of the workload and help to run the group.
Young leaders can be a great asset to any section, particularly where there is a shortage of adults. They will need opportunities to complete the young leader training. This is managed by an Explorer Scout Leader with special responsibilities for young leaders, Young leaders cannot be used in place of appointed adult leaders. Young leaders are all members of the District Explorer Scout Unit for young leaders and not the Scout Group. As such, they should have the opportunity to take part in the District Explorer Scout Programme.
How you need to do it
Working as a volunteer with other volunteers is a special relationship, especially when you are in a managerial role. Although people are volunteers, it does not mean that they do not need to behave professionally. Scouting needs to deliver the highest standards of youth work and child safety. Our Scout Promise talks of doing our best, so we expect that people undertaking a specific role will do it well and to the best of their ability.
One of the joys of being a volunteer in a Movement such as ours is to feel part of a team, contributing freely of your time and talents to achieve something worthwhile. While this can be deeply satisfying to the adults taking part, to the young people involved this can be lifeaffirming, if not life-changing. Part of the culture or atmosphere that you may want to promote within the group is one where people help and support each other. You may need to periodically remind people how important this is.
You will have the opportunity to have a significant influence on the atmosphere of your group. You may not be able to change things overnight but it is important that you are content with the way things are organised and arranged within your group. Is there a need for a stronger structure or more informality? How easy will you be to contact, by email or phone, and how readily will your team communicate and share information? Are there long-standing problems within the group that need resolving? How will the scouting community know your priorities and how will leaders and administrators feel valued for the contribution they make?
Training and support
Your District Commissioner is your line manager and will provide you with lots of support and advice along with the other members of the District Team. You will also be invited to take part in our County GSL induction which covers all the key aspects of the role.
Another way of getting information is through Scouting magazine, which is published bimonthly and sent directly to the door of every adult member of the Association. Support is also available online through our national website www.scouts.org.uk and our County website www.avonscouts.org.uk If you have asked to, you will also receive national and county e-mail newsletter and communications respectively.
The GSL’s formal training needs are met through the agreement of a Personal Learning Plan with a Training Adviser. As with Section Leader training the scheme is modular, and each of the relevant modules can be delivered in a variety of different methods to suit you. On completion of your training you will be awarded a Wood Badge to mark your achievement.
In addition, regular District meetings of all the GSLs held by the District Commissioner enable GSLs to exchange ideas and help each other manage Scouting in their Scout Groups. Such contact can be an invaluable source of help and support, especially to new GSLs.
As a GSL you are responsible for the effective day to day running of your Group and ensuring that your Group had a development plan to work towards providing an even better Scouting experience for more young people in your area.
As GSL your influence and contribution to Scouting and the development of both young people and adults in particular, will be proportional to your own enthusiasm for the role. So why not help make a real difference.