Re: UK facts and figures for 1992 (200+ line answer)
David D. Miller +49 6221 594535 (DDM@DHDIBM1.BITNET)
Thu, 1 Apr 1993 11:01:18 -0600
> > Scouts 157,766
> > Venture Scouts 32,845
> Why are there so few Venture Scouts compared to Scouts?
That is a question that has been asked many times since Venture Scouts
were introduced in the United Kingdom in 1967. Raising the national
profile of the section was one of the primary targets of the late
Jock Barr, Headquarters Commissioner for Venture Scouts in the mid-80s.
Significant events, like chartering a giant North Sea Ferry for a
weekend cruise to Denmark, and scaling the height of Everest for
charity (I did my 3000 ft of climbing in Edinburgh!) were part of the
plan. A new slogan: "Venture Scouting Works!", and a revised
advancement program both helped to increase awareness from outside,
and also to raise moral within the section.
And yet, the numbers speak for themselves. There is only one Venture
Scout for every five Scouts. Why?
The Scout Section is the core of the Scouting programme, in many cases
run with lots of active adult support. Scouts are supposed to run
their program: in a good Scout Troop they believe they do - but the
real direction comes from the adults. Beavers (6-8) and Cubs (8-10)
know that the guidance comes from adults.
Venture Scouting is a different kind of programme altogether. Venture
Scout Units are completely self-governing, with the adult leaders there
as advisors only. Older Venture Scouts can vote, drive, have sex,
get married, and drink alcohol legally - and sometimes expect to
combine these (legal) activities with Venture Scouting.
Venture Scouts are often misunderstood within Scouting, and unknown
outside Scouting. As an example, one local source of uniforms had
Venture Scout Uniform parts labelled as Assistant Scout Leader parts.
They didn't know that Venture Scout and ASL were two different jobs -
many Venture Scouts work as Junior Scout Leaders, and become ASLs on
turning 18. After the Chief Scout's Award as a Scout, I wanted to
work on the next rank. The Venture Award needed membership of a Unit
of Venture Scouts. My Scout Leader and District Commissioner between
them couldn't tell me where my nearest Unit was. I was on my own for
two years until the next batch of Scouts (about 8 of them in the same
year) found themselves in the same boat. At that point a Unit was
Leaders have to be attuned to the needs of Venture Scouts. Many leaders
can cope better with Cubs than with Scouts, and very few can make a good
job of running a Unit. Many older leaders can't bridge the generation
gap, or can't keep up with the activities. They can't cope with young
people of today. Many younger leaders (early twenties) are overgrown
Ventures themselves, and get too involved in running the program for
themselves rather than letting the Ventures do their own thing. As the
membership of a Unit changes, so should the activities that the Unit
does - former members who come back as leaders often can't accept this.
Those in the middle often have too many other commitments, like
family, or end up working with Cubs or Scouts instead.
While most Groups are active in supporting their Scout Troops to get to
summer camp, and very supporting of Colony and Pack activities, many
couldn't really care about the Venture Scout Unit. When my Unit was
formed in 1985, the Group it was part of gave it a starting account of
just 40 pounds. The two Scout Troops were running an annual budget of
1500 pounds each at this time, with the balance never below 400 pounds.
(I know: I was a leader with both Troops at the time.)
The Group never really acknowledged the Unit as being a member, even
though for several years the Unit raised more money than the rest of
the Group put together. The Unit was always seen as being 'optional'
in a way that the other sections weren't.
The biggest difference between the Troop and the Unit is the degree of
support from the parents. Up to around age 13, the parents of the Scout
are the driving force behind the Scout being in the Pack/Troop. From
age 13 upwards, and especially age 15/16 upwards, this support is lost,
and the individual must work to remain an active member.
(If you look at a breakdown of the Scout section according to age,
you'll find most of the Scouts are aged 10-12, with far fewer in the
lower teens than you would expect.)
External pressures are also increasing in the mid-teens. The most
important examinations in school come at the end of the 10th grade
(about age 15-16) - the last year of compulsory schooling. Those who
stay on for an additional two years face increasing academic pressure;
those who leave either take further education elsewhere, or enter the
workforce. My former Unit had to program to take into account the
exams: during the exam weeks, attendance often fell below 25% of normal,
with some members simply not returning afterwards.
Sports have some effect, but in the UK sporting achievement is not
seen as being important. I played rugby for my school for two years
(in the 'B' team), and then played (field) hockey for two years in the
'A' team. Sporting achievement and academic achievement are two
different things: my sports don't get included on my resume.
The sports and hobbies that most seem to affect Scouting are the
quieter, more individual things, like fishing, sailing, or D&D.
Sailing can become a Unit activity, but the other two are less easy
to integrate without destroying the soul of a Unit.
Those leaving school at the end of grade 12 - in many cases the more
active members of a Unit - almost invariably move elsewhere to go to
college. Instead of being a member for five years, they leave after
only three. Those who stay in the community are finding a new circle
of friends in their workplace, and don't like to be associated with
Since Venture Scouts do the activities that most Scouts simply dream
about, Unit activities are consistently more expensive than Troop or
- Scout Troops build model hovercraft and race them down the length of
the hall: Each costs a couple of pounds (a styrofoam dish, model
airplane propeller and an elastic band). It's a good Troopnight
inter-Patrol activity. Venture Scouts build real hovercraft:
2-person, 30kt, powered by a 250cc 2-stroke engine and a 1m diameter
9-blade ducted fan - at a cost of 500 pounds and ten weeks work to
put together. (Running costs are higher too!)
- Scout Troops go camping in the Scottish highlands - a weeks camp
for 35 pounds. Venture Scouts go hiking in the French and Italian
Alps (200 pounds), or camping in Brazil (1000 pounds), dig wells in
Sri Lanka or build schools and clinics in Nepal (2000 pounds upwards).
- Canoes, climbing gear, caving gear, etc., all cost a lot of money.
In many cases, the Group will only fund equipment used by three or
more sections - activities restricted to Venture Scouts have to be
funded by Venture Scouts.
With the increasing costs, many people cannot keep up. My Unit was
very much a "pay as you go" Unit, and those without money had to pick
and choose from activities.
One of the largest problems in Venture Scouting is alcohol. Under-age
drinking is extremely common in the United Kingdom, with youngsters of
14 and up frequenting pubs. When I went to college, the students'
guidebook listed the pubs to avoid because of the excessive number of
obviously under-age drinkers. Many Unit meetings close, and then
reopen at the nearest licensed establishment. When the leaders try to
enforce the law on drinking, or create a rule about no drinking in
uniform, the members leave. The most successful policy is for the
leader to make an occasional reminder about the law, and leave it up
to the Ventures to police themselves.
Girls are just not a real problem. As in Italy, girlfriends can join
the Unit as full members, and this has been so in the UK since about
1977. With no female Scouts, all the girls in a Unit have been either
sisters or girlfriends of Unit members. As the next generation of
Scouts (with girls) transfers into the Units, there could be a dramatic
change in this - with girls bringing their boyfriends in. (Defining
personal relationships with others is included in advancement for
The legal age for driving in Britain is 17, with many Venture Scouts
passing their test and regularly driving while still in the Unit. If
anything, this enhances what the Unit can do. A good unit, with active
members who can drive, can go places much more easily: Ice Skating or
Swimming or Bowling are all about 20 minutes drive from my home town;
with one in four members driving, they can get there easily. (Learning
to drive, and passing the test is one of the possible activities for
Venture Scout Advancement.)
One other problem, mentioned in other postings is part-time work.
I've only known a couple of people who have had to drop out of Scouting
altogether because of work. With enough advance planning, most people
can be accommodated. One former Venture doing evening work had one night
off per week and one weekend per month. He never missed an activity
if he really wanted to attend. (Exploring potential careers, and
gaining an understanding of what real paid work is, is also an
important part of Venture Scouting.)
The average lifetime of a Venture Scout Unit is just three years. Once
the original membership moves on, there is often little the leaders can
do to keep the program running as it should. There are exceptions: my
former Unit lasted 8 years, although we nearly lost it after three, and
again after six. The Unit leader resigned two weeks ago, after the
committee structure broke down, and regular attendance was only 10% of
"fun event" attendance.
Average membership of a Venture Scout Unit is around five; not enough
to sustain an active program. A good Unit can have 30+ members, and
the most I've heard was around 170 (Druid Venture Scout Unit - Jock
Barr's own Unit). With that kind of numbers, you can do most
activities "in-house" with Venture Scouts trained as instructors
in many different activities.
The potential for the Venture Scouting is enormous:
Venture Scouts can raise funds in ways unavailable to Scouts, and
do so successfully enough to give much of the money away. My Unit
often did a three way split: 1/3 to the Group, 1/3 to local mentally
handicapped, and 1/3 for Unit activities. The Group's share is still
being used to extend the Scout Hut, with a new meeting room, new QM
store, new heating for the whole building, and wheelchair access.
(One of our new Assistant Cub Leaders uses a wheelchair. He insists on
climbing the stairs. :-(
Venture Scouts can also do service projects that are beyond the scope
of any of the other sections:
- like standing on a street corner rattling tins for other charities
- running a fortnightly program of Scouting-type activites and games
for a group of mentally handcapped people
- running a Christmas Card delivery service for a town of 14000 people
(and delivering up to 5000 cards a day)
- pushing wheelchairs for a group of elderly ladies visiting the town
From a Scouting magazine cartoon: "Cubs and Scouts are OK, but
Venture Scouts give the best acceleration and top speed!"
- go and dig wells and build schools in developing countries.
Venture Scouts can do fun and challenging activities not possible for
younger Scouts: the freedom of having most of the membership as
legal adults is phenomenal. The ability to just get-up-and-go is
simply not available to a Scout Troop. "Hi guys! Anyone want to go
and see the sunrise from the top of Lochnagar on Saturday Morning? The
weather forecast's good." (Lochnagar is about 3 hours of hard walking,
on scree and boulderfield. In summer, sunrise at the summit is around
3AM local time, with temperatures around freezing, and winds of 25kts.
If you're early, burrow into a sleeping bag, in a survival bag, sing
songs and drink coffee. It's fun! Honest.)
David D. Miller
Scouting in Europe - A Unique Experience
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City