In spite of all the challenges of the COVID 19 crisis, 2020 has been an eventful year for youth work in Plymouth and elsewhere in England. As we approach National Youth Work Week in the first week of November (#YWW20) it’s worth looking back at the some of the developments that Youth Focus South West and Plymouth Training have been involved in.

The National Youth Agency (NYA) has created a new national curriculum for youth work with a really helpful short film to explain what it means. Gill and Juliette from Youth Focus South West have both been involved in the group that has worked on producing the finished document and we are really pleased to be associated with this development. It will be really helpful to have a tool to help explain youth work to those who may not have experienced it, as well as a framework to help plan youth work projects and programmes so that young people can take part in youth work which will enrich their lives and support their personal development. The new curriculum embeds the key principles of youth work – Empowerment, Education, Participation and Equality – with process, practice and praxis which build on these, and identifies key themes such as health and wellbeing, leadership, civic engagement and participation, creativity and fun, and global citizenship which youth workers should explore with young people. For Youth Focus South West, the new curriculum will inform our direct work with young people and our support for the wider youth sector. For Plymouth Training, it will underpin the delivery of our youth work qualifications.

It has also been a busy year for youth work qualifications – the UK-wide National Occupational Standards were updated in 2019, followed by a policy brief to put them in the England context (bearing in mind that youth work policy is devolved to the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).

The National Occupational Standards form the basis for youth work qualifications, and the Level 2 and 3 youth work qualifications that Plymouth Training deliver have been reviewed and updated to reflect current youth work practice. The revised qualifications listed below have been agreed by all participating Awarding Organisations and have been in place since 1st April 2020:

  • Level 2 Award in Youth Work Principles
  • Level 2 Certificate in Youth Work Practice
  • Level 3 Certificate in Youth Work Practice
  • Level 3 Diploma in Youth Work Practice

One project that kept both Youth Focus South West and Plymouth Training particularly busy this year has been the introduction of bursaries (funded by the government and administered through NYA) for relevant learners undertaking Level 2 and 3 qualifications in youth work. Youth Focus South West is the regional co-ordinator for the scheme, and Plymouth Training was allocated 15 bursary awards, with learners starting their qualifications in February 2020. This has not been an easy process, largely because lockdown from late March meant we had to stop face to face teaching and assessment and move online, while many learners found their work or volunteer settings were closed for a number of months. Despite this, several learners have now completed their qualification while many others are back on track. Hats off to the learners, line managers, tutors and assessors who have kept going through challenging times!

We hope that further bursary schemes will be available, though there is no news yet about 2021, so our fingers are crossed.

In the meanwhile, however, the good news is that the long-awaited Level 3 Apprenticeship Standard for Youth Work has now been approved, and Plymouth Training is keen to start delivering on this. The Standard will include the Level 3 Diploma in Youth Work Practice as an embedded qualification. Plymouth Training has had a number of enquiries from employers interested in placing apprentices on this Standard and hopes to be delivering as soon as it is formally available. Work also continues on developing a Level 6 (degree level) Youth Work Apprenticeship Standard, though, like a lot of other occupations, this is proving a more challenging process, and is likely to take quite a while longer.

So, in all, there is much to celebrate about youth work in 2020 – youth workers are back in action, supported by COVID guidance produced by the NYA and are doing some amazing work with young people who are amongst those most likely to suffer in the long term from the economic and mental health impact of COVID. Let’s celebrate youth workers and all they do in National Youth Work Week 2020 and look forward to unleashing youth work’s full potential for young people in Plymouth, the South West and everywhere else.

Gill Millar
Youth Focus South West
October 2020