The Scout Association

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The Scout Association
The Scout Association
Headquarters Gilwell Park
Location Chingford nr London
Country United Kingdom
Founded 1907,
incorporated 1912-01-04
Founder Baden-Powell
Membership 500,000
Chief Scout Peter Duncan

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The Scout Association is the World Organization of the Scout Movement recognised Scouting association in the United Kingdom. Scouting began in 1907 through the efforts of Robert Baden-Powell. Due to the rapid growth of Scouting and a desire to remove control from the publisher of the Scouting magazine, The Boy Scout Association was officially formed in 1910 by the grant of a charter by the United Kingdom Parliament.

A Royal Charter of January 4, 1912 incorporated the Boy Scout Association throughout the British Empire with "the purpose of instructing boys of all classes in the principles of discipline loyalty and good citizenship". The Charter was granted by George V of the United Kingdom.

In 1967 the name was formally changed to The Scout Association. Girls were admitted in 1976 to the Venture Scout Section, and the rest of sections on an optional basis in 1991. Since 2007 all Scout Groups in the UK must accept girls as well as boys, although religious preferences can be accommodated.[1]


Birth of the Movement

The Scout Association of the United Kingdom, and the World Organization of the Scout Movement, have their roots in the fame of Robert Baden-Powell following his exploits during the Second Boer War.

In 1907, "B-P", as he is known to all members of the Movement, ran a camp on Brownsea Island for teenage boys of varying backgrounds. This camp is now considered to be the start of the Movement.

The following year, Baden-Powell wrote a series of magazines, Scouting for Boys, setting out activities and programmes which existing youth organisations could make use of.

The reaction was phenomenal, and quite unexpected. In very short time, Scout Patrols were created up and down the country, all following the tenets of Baden-Powell's book. By the time of the first census in 1910, there were 100,000 members of the Movement although' in 1909, Battersea Scouts district withdrew from the Boy Scouts Association and formed the British Boy Scouts (BBS), out of a concern that Baden-Powell's association was too bureaucratic and militaristic. The BBS was launched on Empire Day, May 24th 1909.[2]

The Boy Scout Association was created in 1910 in order to provide a national body which could organise and support the rapidly growing number of Scout Patrols. It was also the wish of Baden-Powell to wrest control of Scouting from his book's publishers.

1910 to 1920: Growth

Almost immediately, the Boy Scout Association was presented with a dilemma. Many of the boys in the Scout Patrols (at the start, Scouting was for boys between the ages of 10 and 19) had younger brothers who also wanted to participate. There were also many girls who wanted the same thing as well - Baden-Powell came across a group of Girl Scouts at the The Crystal Palace Rally in 1910.

The solution for the younger boys was simple - the Wolf Cubs section was created in 1917. However, Edwardian principles could not allow young girls to participate in the rough and tumble, and "wild" activities of the Scouts, and so the Girl Guides were created to provide a more "proper" programme of activities.

Scouting was now a global phenomenon, with a Royal Charter of January 4, 1912 incorporating The Boy Scout Association throughout the British Empire with "the purpose of instructing boys of all classes in the principles of discipline loyalty and good citizenship". The Charter was granted by George V.

It was also immensely popular in the United States, where the Boy Scouts of America had already formed before the Boy Scout Association.

Many of those who had grown out of Scouts still wanted to be a part of the Movement, so another section was created in 1918 - the Rover Scouts.

The first World Jamboree for Scouts was held in Olympia, London in 1920, and was a celebration and conference of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement.

The 1967 Programme Change

Scouting in the UK underwent a major review, known as the Advance Party Report, in 1967. The name of the organisation was changed to be the 'Scout Association'.

Major changes to the sections and their respective programmes were made - the youngest section were now Cub Scouts, Senior Scouts became Venture Scouts (for 16-21 year olds), and the Rover Scout section was disbanded.

The Scout Uniform was also changed - most notable with the inclusion of long trousers for the Scouts (previously they had been wearing knee-length shorts).

In 1969 a pressure group was formed within The Scout Association, known as The Scout Action Group. They did not agree with elements of the changes proposed by the Advance Party Report, and asked that Groups wishing to maintain a more traditional approach to Scouting should be allowed to do so.

In mid-1970 The Scout Action Group published The Black Report, which outlined their views[3]. As a result of the discussions, the whole organisation factioned into two groups on 20th September 1970 - the Scout Association and the Baden-Powell Scouts' Association - neither being able to claim the other was more or less scouting than the other. [3]

Changes between 1967 and 2003

Several developments were made over the following years, including the introduction of co-educational units of boys and girls. Initially, this was restricted to the Venture Scout section in 1976, but from 1991 Scout Troops, Cub Packs and Beaver Colonies were allowed to become mixed as well.

Parents involved in Scouting in Northern Ireland also began to organise activities for their children who were too young for Cub Scouts. This eventually led to the creation of the Beaver Scout section, officially starting in 1986.

Despite these changes, and many other minor ones, Scouting started to fall into a decline through the 1990s. This spurred a major review into the causes of the decline, followed by a programme change which took effect in 2003.

Scouting has found itself competing for young people's time against longer school days and other extra-curricular activities. There are also concerns from the adult leadership with regards to the growing litigation culture in the UK. Scouting has also been challenged by a negative stereotype of being out of time - Scouters in uniform are still met with people shouting "DYB-DYB-DYB", despite this not being in general use since the 1960s, as well as not actually understanding what it means.

2003 and onwards

The programme change in 2003 sought to overcome the growing challenges facing the Movement and saw changes at all levels of UK Scouting - the most apparent being the suspension of Venture Scouts. To replace this senior section, the Scout Association created the Explorer Scouts for 14-18 year old members, and the Scout Network for 18-25 year olds.

Leadership training was also heavily revised. Until 2003, there were only 2 parts to the training, which required several weekends with overnight attendance. The new scheme has a greater choice of modules, each one suited to specific roles within the Movement, allowing for a more flexible approach to the programme.

There have been many critics of these changes, mostly citing problems with the implementation, although recent census figures show a general upturn in membership.

From 2007, all levels of the organisation will be required to be mixed - a full thirty-one years after girls were first allowed into the Venture Scout section.

The UK will be hosting the 21st World Jamboree for Scouts and Guides in 2007, which is being celebrated as the Centenary year for worldwide Scouting.

Scouting in the UK continues to promote Principles and Methods developed from those written by Baden-Powell in Scouting for Boys almost 100 years ago.


The Chief Scout is Peter Duncan and the Chief Executive is Derek Twine.

There is a team of Commissioners who are responsible for the Scouting programme in their respective divisions. These currently are:-

  • David Bull, International Commissioner
  • John Asplin, Chief Commissioner of England
  • Tim Kidd, UK Commissioner for Adult Support
  • Andrew Welbeloved, UK Commissioner for Programme

The Scout Association is divided into four mainland national groupings: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Each of these divisions are further broken up into local Counties (England) or Areas (elsewhere), which generally follow the boundaries of the ceremonial counties of Great Britain. They are listed in the template below.

Each County/Area is headed by a County/Area Commissioner, who can have a team of Deputy and Assistant Commissioners who manage the Scouting programme for the various sections (age groups), along with other responsibilities, such as 'development' and 'activities'. The County/Area consists of a number of Scout Districts, which are made up of Groups.

Like the County/Area above them, the District Commissioner and his Deputies and Assistants support the programme in their respective Districts - although this support is more direct. Districts comprise of a number of Groups.

At all levels, Scouts are governed by an executive of non-Scouting trustees - generally, these are volunteers from the local community who have had ties with Scouting, either themselves or through their children. The executive normally consists of a Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, and a number of other officers. Their role is to ensure that the best interests of the young people and the community are served by the Group, District, County, or National organisations.

Senior volunteers in The Scout Association are called 'Commissioners'. Commissioners (especially District and County Commissioners) receive strategic support from Field Development Officers in England, who are employed by the national HQ and deployed locally in furtherance of the Association's objectives. Commissioners in the other regions receive support from Field Commissioners, employed and directed differently.

Scout Groups

The Groups are the local organisations for Scouting, and are the direct descendants of the original Scout Patrols. The rest of the structure above the Groups was created to support them when it became apparent that Scouting was extremely popular shortly after its start in 1907.

Scout Groups can have any number of Beaver Colonies, Cub Packs and Scout Troops, depending on the numbers of young people and leaders available. Scout Groups are numbered in order of their creation. This system can be a little confusing, as some groups take names from their District and also from a local town/village/suburb (for example, 80th Reading (2nd Tilehurst) is a Scout Group in the suburb of Tilehurst, in the town of Reading). The numbers also appear to skip, as Groups have folded and new ones started in their place over the years.

Some Scout Groups are linked with local organisations such as churches or schools, and are sometimes given some form of sponsorship in return for their support of events at the sponsoring organisation.

A Group is managed by a Group Scout Leader (GSL) who has overall charge of the group and acts as the intermediary between District and Section, and supports the Section Leaders. The three Sections in the Group each have a leader, who holds a warrant to show that they have applied for the appointment and are undergoing or have undergone training for their position. They are aided by one or two (or more, if they are lucky) assistant leaders, who also hold warrants for their positions.

Other adults (parents or other non-warranted) can support at various events and activities. These include Young Leaders - Explorer Scouts that have been trained to assist other leaders, a Quartermaster (see Scout quartermaster) and members of the Group Executive Committee - often made up of parents, leaders and friends of the troop and includes a treasurer and secretary.

Sections Within Groups

The three junior sections are a part of the Scout Group, and consist of:

  • Beaver Colonies - for 6-8 year olds - their unofficial motto is "Have Fun".
Leaders: BSL / ABSL - Beaver Scout Leader and Assistant Beaver Scout Leaders.
  • Cub Packs - for 8-10 year olds - Cubs are introduced to scoutcraft and activities.
Leaders: CSL / ACSL - Cub Scout Leader and Assistant Cub Scout Leaders.
  • Scout Troops - for 10-14 year olds - this section continues the development of Scouting skills.
Leaders: SL / ASL - Scout Leader and Assistant Scout Leaders.

Explorer Scouts and Scout Network

In 2003, the Scout Programme was given a shake-up after a review had been made. The outcome of this review was the end of Venture Scouts, and the introduction of Explorer Scouts and the Scout Network.

The Explorer Scouts (for 14 to 18 year olds) are managed by a District team (whereas the Venture Scouts were part of the various Groups) - although some Districts have multiple Explorer Scout Units, some of which maintain close ties to specific Groups. Explorer Scout Units are lead by an Explorer Scout Leader (ESL) and Assistant Explorer Scout Leaders (AESL).

The management of Scout Network was given to the County team, although various so-called Local Networks have been setup. Because of the age range of Network members, they are expected to be more self-reliant. Prior to a review in 2006, they did not need to have leaders attached to them; however there is now an increased focus on the appointment of County Scout Network Leaders.

Sea Scouts

In the United Kingdom there are approximately 400 Sea Scout Groups, of which about 25% are 'Royal Navy recognised.'

Ordinarily, Sea Scouts are only in the age range of 10-14, but Cub Scout and Beaver Scout Sections can also be a part of the Group. There are also a small, but growing, number of Units for 14-18 year olds taking the epithet Explorer Sea Scouts.

Major National events

Major events in UK scouting are run either by the National Association via their National Centres or by individual Counties.

National Centres Events

Other Major Events run by counties

The Sun Run is a massive event for Explorer Scouts in the United Kingdom held every year in July. Over a thousand Explorers camp in a field in Gloucestershire. The main event of the weekend is a 26.2 mile night hike (a full marathon) through the surrounding hillsides.

The Malvern Challenge is a similar event for Scouts (UK ages 10-14) the weekend before.


Most scout campsites are run by their scout districts and counties, however there are four which have been made National Scout Centres, by the Scout Association. These are the main campsites in the UK and receive extra support off the association, they are Baden-Powell House, Downe Scout Activity Centre, Gilwell Park and Youlbury Scout Activity Centre.

Famous Former Scouts

The Scout Association has had many notable members in the past, with the following selection being the most well known. A more complete listing is available at List of notable Scouts.

  • Richard Attenborough - Actor, Film Director/Producer
  • David Beckham - former captain and midfielder of the England football team
  • Tony Blair - Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
  • Richard Branson - Entrepreneur
  • John Major - Former Prime Minister
  • Paul McCartney - singer/songwriter/bassist of the Beatles and Wings
  • George Michael - Singer/Songwriter
  • Cliff Richard - Entertainer
  • Keith Richards - member of the Rolling Stones

The Scout Association elsewhere

Non-sovereign territories with Scouting run by The Scout Association include

Sovereign countries with Scouting run by The Scout Association, as they are without independent Scouting organisations, include

The British Scout program is also offered to British citizens living outside of the United Kingdom. British Scouts in Western Europe serves Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands while British Groups abroad covers the rest of the world (including Ascension Island, the Falkland Islands and Saint Helena).

Other Scout organisations in the United Kingdom

Other Scout organisations in the United Kingdom include an independent branch of Związek Harcerstwa Polskiego/ZHP, a Polish emigré Scout organisation, nonaligned to a supranational organisation and not connected with ZHP/Poland.

The Baden-Powell Scouts (BPSA) was formed in 1970 following the programme review in 1966/67, and more closely follows the traditions of the original Movement.

See also


  1. "Rule 3.6: Mixed Membership" (html). Policy, Organisation and Rules. The Scout Association. 2005. Retrieved 2007-02-14. 
  2. "The BBS Story" (html). Dorset, England, UK: The British Boy Scouts and British Girl Scouts Association. 2002-06-18. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Traditional Scouting Site United Kingdom

External links

Notable Scout groups

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