Good youth work in schools can play a part in improving attendance and behaviour, boosting home and community links, and can have an impact on attainment.
These are the findings of an independent commission into the role of youth work in education.
Led by former children’s minister Tim Loughton MP, the commission was set-up by the National Youth Agency and it has published its findings after a six-month investigation.
The report – The National Youth Agency Commission into the Role of Youth Work in Formal Education – contains an array of school and local authority case studies showing how youth work can make a positive contribution to educational outcomes.
It notes that areas where youth work is seen to have a particular role to play in schools include the delivery of PSHE and sex and relationships education, re-engaging young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET), citizenship education, and volunteering.
Other areas include health, counselling work, and leisure activities.
However, the commission also concludes that more must be done to promote “strong collaboration” between teaching and youth work if the good practice it has seen is to be spread to more schools.
It says that despite the successes, there are “significant barriers to schools collaborating with youth workers”, including financial pressures, access to youth workers, and misconceptions about the nature of youth work.
Mr Loughton said: “Over this summer we have seen some amazing examples of youth work in schools – and a host of headteachers, tutors, governors and other practitioners from education institutions gave us evidence that youth work improves the attainment of their students.
“(However), we uncovered a lack of understanding of youth work by many school staff – some teachers feel youth work is ‘fluffy’ and not a profession in the way teaching is. We need to challenge these misconceptions for the sake of thousands of students who could benefit from youth work provision in schools.”
The commission believes Ofsted has a role to play in encouraging more and better collaboration between schools and youth work.
It also calls on local authorities to act as “enablers” to bring together school and youth work partnerships.
Fiona Blacke, chief executive of the National Youth Agency, backed the calls for Ofsted to include youth work in its inspection regime.
She said: “We’ve seen some inspiring examples of how youth work delivered in, or commissioned by, schools can support young people to achieve their full potential. Sadly most of it remains unacknowledged.”
The commission’s report is available via the National Youth Agency website at www.nya.org.uk