Welcome to my first AC’s report. You’ll see the last few months have been a bit of a baptism of fire for me!
Refreshed one-page Area Development Plan
Our previous previous Development Plan was quite unwieldy at 15 pages long and needed a refresh. In November, the Area team got together and we gave our strategy a much-needed makeover into a far simpler single ‘plan on a page’ which will enable us to deliver The Scouts Skills for Life Strategy 2018-2023. This will now be used to build/update District development strategies. The Area Commissioner and District Commissioners will be introducing the plan to you via a series of webinars in the new year. This will be aimed primarily at District teams and GSLs but is open to anyone.
Adult Appointment Processes
We are growing quickly, especially in the RoW and Middle East Districts. This is great but it is also highlighting issues with our Adult Appointment’s processes where we have seen way too many roles remain in Pre-Provisional status for far too long. This is now being addressed by GSLs with the assistance of DCs. This also includes Disclosures where BSO lags about 3% behind the rest of the movement. Tim Kidd (UK Chief Commissioner) has sent a personal email to me requesting that we do everything we can to improve Disclosure compliance. If we are to grow, we must have the basic Adult Appointment processes covered including completing the Getting Started modules inside 5 months, completing and contacting references, completing and submitting local/UK DBSs and attending a District Adult Appointments Committee. Module 1 provides the bare minimum of Safeguarding training/knowledge. I do not want to see any of our members being suspended due to safeguarding breaches because they don’t have any awareness of our rules. Getting these basics correct is currently top of my priority list and I request that DCs and GSLs put it at the top of theirs too.
On the 12th October Matt Lightfoot (Deputy AC) and myself attended the Top Awards conference in the East End of London. It was a really productive and enjoyable day where we looked at Chief Scout Platinum/Diamond, QSA, DofE UK and Scouts of the World Award (SOWA).
The organisers provided some metrics on BSO’s attainment of top awards which gave us some home truths that we need to work on:
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These statistics do not include DofE which was only provided by DofE UK and did not take into account that many, if not most BSO Groups undertake DofE International Award (IA) and not the DofE UK version.
Even so, when comparing the above stats with other UK Counties, it shows that we are significantly underperforming and hardly delivering any top awards which should be the ultimate aim of every BSO Leader and young person in our care.
A long-term, ongoing issue is the incompatibility of Assessors between both the DofE UK and DofE International Award which remains an area of contention and is preventing our young people in achieving the top awards. We held a meeting with TSA, DofE UK and DofE IA shortly after the Top Awards meeting which failed to resolve this issue. I’m not one to give up easily and have since followed this up with a lunch meeting with the Chairman of the IA and last week I had a one-to-one meeting with the DofE IA Director of Operations in London. I am delighted to say we now have a definite way forward and this will be communicated across the Area shortly via a revised strategy document to engage and enrol our YP in the DofE scheme. This should enable the achievement of many more Queen’s Scout Awards which should be our ultimate success indicator.
Up till now we have purposefully kept our Area team small and given our DCs a wide remit covering more than one role. BSO is growing and I think we are now at a stage where we need to focus on a few functions that need a dedicated person to lead so the role has more impact. At the moment, the most important of these is Growth where we’re seeing large and current growth in the Middle East and RoW Districts. We also need to identify growth opportunities in the other two Districts which are stable but not seeing much growth.
We also currently have a lot of Scout Network at UK universities. I would like us to engage with them to ensure they don’t simply drift away from BSO and Scouting. It would also be good to engage the wider BSO Network and give them opportunities to link up across the whole Area. Scout Network has been a bit neglected in recent years and needs a bit of TLC so we can hopefully increase our retention and keep them for the longer term.
llowing a competitive selection process including paper sifts and interviews, I have had the massive pleasure of appointing three new members into Area roles:
- Scout Network Commissioner – Gillian Dick
- AAC (Growth & Development) – Claire Maynard
- DC for the Middle East – Jane Warne
All three have different but ambitious objectives which can be found in the Area Development Plan. I have included their biographies at the end of this report.
We will shortly be advertising for a new Area Treasurer to replace Ben Balaam who is stepping down after five years. Ben has seen huge expansion of the role and (much of this is down to me – sorry!) has seen a massive uptick in the amount of funds passing through BSO accounts to pay for BSO events, camps and World Jamborees. He has been a strong guiding hand and is rigorous in his challenges to ensure robust financial governance. I’m sure you’ll join me in thanking Ben for all his hard work on our behalf. If you know anyone with the required skills to lead and shape BSO’s finances, please keep an eye out for the advert and encourage them to apply.
Over the last couple of months, we have had a number of enquiries to start off new Scout Groups across the Area. DCs, new AAC(G&D) and myself are in discussions to ensure viability before we progress. Possible new Groups include:
France & Iberia:
- Cadiz, South West Spain
- Dubai (up to three more Groups)
- Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
- Zuos, Eastern Switzerland
Rest of the World:
- Beijing, North East China
- Shanghai, East China
- Guangzhou, South East China (near Hong Kong)
- Tokyo, Japan
No defined District:
- Nicosia, Cyprus
- Varese (north of Milan), Northern Italy
Middle East District Camp 14-16 November
Probably the biggest highlight of the last couple of months was only last weekend when I attended the Middle East District camp. I enjoyed camping and meeting with hundreds of Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Explorers and an absolutely amazing bunch of leaders who made this all happen. It was great time watching all our young people participating in loads of exciting activities.
I was especially happy to meet our new DC for the Middle East – Jane Warne and most of her great District team. We held some very useful talks during this time. A massive thanks to Shelly Burrows for inviting me to the camp, hosting me at her house and for being the camp chief. Very well done to the whole team for bringing it all together and giving our members such a brilliant time. The Middle East District is in very good hands and I’m really excited for its future.
Oman/UK Scouts sign a Memorandum of Understanding
On the 11th November, Peter Dawes (BSO Vice President), Tim Kidd (UK Chief Commissioner) and myself spent the day in London with the visiting senior Leadership of the Oman Scouts.
The UK Scout Association have signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding with Oman which will foster greater links between both Scout Organisations. This should also ensure BSO in Oman is supported and encouraged by the Oman Scouts and also has access to all the Oman Scout facilities. The friendship between the two countries was started by the work of BSO leaders in Oman more than 10 years ago and the visit is a brilliant and powerful outcome. It also demonstrates the importance we should place in building links and bonds with our host country’s Scout organisations. I hope this motivates our Scout Groups to start building bridges into their own local Scout organisations. If DCs hear of this happening, please let the AAC(I) and myself know. This strategy is on the Dev Plan and I’m very keen we expand our friendship into host NSOs.
JOTA/JOTI 18-20 October
I had a great time meeting with lots of our young (and older!) members during the JOTA/JOTI weekend. It was truly amazing and empowering to see lots of BSO Groups talking to each other. I met with 1st Abu Dhabi, 1st Majadahonda (Madrid), 1st Falkland Islands (talking from the top of a mountain) and 1st Hague (who were camping).
I’d like us to put a bit more importance on this event next year and encourage many more Groups to participate even if this means BSO Area supports leaders in how to deliver this event for a day, 24 hours or even the whole weekend.
Congratulations to Jan Miller from 1st Falkland Islands who was presented The Silver Acorn by RoW DC Jon Gill whilst visiting the UK in September. The award is highly deserved and recognition of Jan’s distinguished service to Scouting over many years.
Congratulations also to Shelly Burrows of 1st Dubai who has been awarded the Award for Good Service. I had the pleasure of presenting this last weekend at the Middle East District Camp. Shelly was the camp chief at the Middle East District Camp and has been a key person in several of our BSO Area camps.
If you know of any awards I’ve missed, please let me know.