OA 2024 Issue 05



When you started in the 1970s there were over 100 boys involved on a weekly basis. Why do you think scouting was so popular? There were certainly far fewer co-curricular activities those days and scouting had a significant profile; all the Scouts wore their uniform to school and the staff who ran the troops wore theirs to teach. Scouting was very visible. The activities we offered were also very appealing: making camps, lighting fires, cooking your own food on open fires or by Primus (a small portable stove), pioneering with staves and poles, and numerous team-building exercises. In fact the fundamental Scout programme has not changed much at all since the 1970s. The challenge is not in getting youngsters to enjoy the activities once they turn up, it is more about getting them away from their phones and streaming services in the first place! One day of each term was given over to a Field Day where Scouts and the CCF went off and did their own activities. The Scouts could put into practice all the skills they had learned at Dulwich and take part in activities that were more adventurous, including overnight camping, sailing or kayaking. Summer camps were another real highlight, giving us the opportunity to spend up to 10 days in beautiful and sometimes quite remote parts of the country. In any one summer there would be up to 19 Patrols ‘on camp’ and looked after by what would, by today’s standards, be only a handful of primarily Dulwich staff. What has changed the most over the last 50 years? One of the most obvious changes has been the stepping back of College staff. At one point it looked as though scouting would stop completely as it was getting harder and harder to recruit leaders. Today we only run one Troop, not the three that used to exist. With the loss of teaching staff involvement, the visibility around the campus has also been reduced, with the obvious knock-on effect on recruitment from within the College. Today we rely very heavily for help on OAs and parents. A much more positive and hugely beneficial change has been the move towards having girls join the Troop. That both the girls and boys have to work together to solve problems in teamwork exercises is much more reflective of what they will experience in the world outside scouting and in the world of work. Another positive change was the opening of the Cub section (for school years 4 and 5) which is celebrating it's 10th anniversary this year.

How popular is scouting at Dulwich at the moment? Scouting is extremely popular, perhaps as much as ever. The Cub Pack is full and we have a waiting list for both the Cubs and the Scouts which, with 60 in the Troop, is bursting at the seams. We also have a thriving unit of 50 Explorers, which is very healthy indeed. Overall, about 30% of the membership are College pupils and 50% come from Foundation Schools; our Cub Pack is particularly well supported by Rosemead and other local prep schools. We are actively looking for ways to increase the number of Dulwich students participating. If we could encourage more College staff to be involved it would help hugely in raising the profile of the movement and getting scouting embedded back into the College community. How relevant is scouting today? My view is that scouting is as relevant as ever, if not more so. We certainly teach important life skills. There are not many organisations that give 14-year-olds the opportunity to run a patrol at summer camp where they can manage a budget to buy food and then cook on wood fires. More broadly the scouting movement has looked to make itself more relevant. The appointment of Peter Duncan, the former Blue Peter presenter, as the Chief Scout certainly helped to raise the profile of scouting, as has the current holder of the post, Bear Grylls. Social media has also been a powerful tool in raising awareness. What have you personally got from your time in scouting? I have made many good friends and had so many great experiences. I have travelled all over the world and been fortunate to visit South America four times through scouting trips. How do you see your involvement in scouting over the next five to six years? I have been Group Scout Leader of the 25th Camberwell Scout Group for over 20 years but it is time to step back now. I intend to stay involved and will continue to run the Explorers. There are also some exciting projects in the pipeline, not least a trip to Southeast Asia in 2025, with which I would like to be involved. It would be good to get somebody younger to pick up the overall co-ordination of Dulwich Scouting and to grow involvement within the College.

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