A Surrey primary school has cancelled Friday afternoon lessons in favour of running a scouts club, using school funds to cover the Scout Association’s yearly membership fees.
Weyfield academy, a member of the Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT), is one of the first primary schools to become an official scouting school – which means activities such as building campfires and exploring will take place during school hours.
Instead of Friday afternoon classes, Weyfield pupils across two year groups will work towards badges in areas such as Entertainer, Digital Citizen, International and Athletics.
The average annual cost of a scouting group can range from £50 to £100 per child, plus the cost of any additional trips, but Weyfield has absorbed the cost.
We’ve removed that barrier of participation by integrating the activities into the school curriculum
The school is currently looking to apply for extra grants from local sources and supermarket chains that offer funding and voucher schemes to make the club a permanent fixture across all year groups.
Mei Lim, Weyfield’s headteacher, surveyed 350 children at the school and found that less than ten had been involved previously with brownies, guides or scouts. She says scouting activities in the curriculum gives pupils “no reason to opt out”.
“If you ask them what they do at the weekend, they’re sitting in front of their computers. We’ve removed that barrier of participation by integrating the activities into the school curriculum. They don’t have to go after school.”
The initiative will run every Friday until the end of the summer term.
Ofsted rated Weyfield good in 2015 after an inadequate rating in 2014.
Rachel Wolf, from the Parents and Teacher for Excellence group, says it’s up to the school how it uses its time, but warns that schools should first make sure that pupils have mastered the subjects they need to succeed in secondary school.
The Scout Association’s co-curricular programme has been running for 18 months on a trial basis and is still under development, with the official website saying it is not currently being promoted or its delivery supported until there are “appropriate policies in place to effectively support this provision”.
A spokesperson for the group described the co-curricular partnership as a “different way of providing educational experiences” rather than taking time off from learning.
“It’s not saying we are stopping learning and doing scouts, it’s that we are using scouts to enhance and encourage learning.”
Seven schools are piloting the provision. The spokesperson claims one head has reported “more attentive and engaged” pupils after incorporating scouts into the school day.
Woodside primary academy in east London – a member of the REAch2 Academy Trust – has implemented a similar framework, but has structured timetables so formal teaching hours are not impacted.
Shane Tewes, Woodside’s head, says that incorporating activities into the school day have benefited “staff retention and recruitment” as well as having a positive impact on pupil behaviour.