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Tuesday 19th January, E513, Checkland, Falmer, 4 – 5.30pm
The Education Research Centre and School of Education present: Janet Batsleer, Manchester Metropolitan University
Educating for a disappearing profession? And why we are still here. The case of youth and community work.
Youth and Community Work education and training seems to be in a perpetual crisis. Currently it is under threat in consequence of the abolition of Local Authority Youth Services, and the distinct professional grades and pay structures which were associated with them (the JNC) . Nevertheless there is a sustained presence in about 40 University courses in the UK, with developing links to courses across Europe and internationally, especially through the Commonwealth. This is despite never having achieved parity with teaching and social work in terms of funding for students, for the development of professional placements or professional infrastructure. Whilst,under New Labour, there was significant investment in ‘Services for Young People’ these were often based on a targeted approach far removed from a wider engagement with strategies of community education.
Youth and Community Work is also subject to a permanent ‘crisis from within’, with a range of debates from profoundly conflicting perspectives, concerned with the attribution of a ‘professional role’ or a ‘professional identity’ in this sector. For many of the most critical writers, youth and community work is best understood as aligned with movements for progressive social change (including those inspired by faith) and therefore is best understood as a form of activism, volunteering or vocation, rather than bureaucratised (and of course rewarded in pay and conditions) as a profession. Whilst there has been some consensus surrounding the definition of the role as that of informal educator, this in itself is widely defined and understood.
This paper will seek to delineate this crisis, through an analysis of the struggle over the cultural value of youth work, which mirrors struggles concerning the value or abjection of the young people who are the ‘primary clients’ of the practice. It will also enquire into what is emergent in spaces where Local Authority based youth work programmes have closed down. One of the most significant questions to be addressed will be whether youth work as informal social education can survive through an ever closer alignment with schools or whether a stronger alignment exists with explicitly alternative models of education. The paper will also seek to draw on new theoretical resources to make this analysis, specifically those associated with the thinking of Jacques Ranciere on Dissensus.
Janet Batsleer has worked as Principal Lecturer in Youth and Community Work at MMU for many years and currently has the role of Head of Centre for Childhood Youth and Community. Her books and articles have focussed on themes in informal education (for example ‘Informal Learning in Youth Work’, 2008; Youth Working with Girls and Young Women in Community Settings. A Feminist Perspective 2013; ‘Youth work, social education,democratic practice and the challenge of difference: A contribution to debate.’ (Oxford Review of Education 2013). She is currently leading the UK contribution to ‘Partispace’: a European Horizon 2020 enquiry into the spaces and styles of young people’s participation.