[T]he Youth Service is at present in a state of acute depression. All over the country and in every part of the Service there are devoted workers. And in some areas the inspiration of exceptional individuals or organisations, or the encouragement of local education authorities, have kept spirits unusually high. But in general we believe it true to say that those who work in the Service feel themselves neglected and held in small regard, both in educational circles and by public opinion generally. We have been told time and time again that the Youth Service is “dying on its feet” or “out on a limb“... No Service can do its best work in such an atmosphere. (Ministry of Education 1960: 1)
The Albemarle Report (1960) has attained special significance within youth work in England and Wales. It is seen as a watershed whose significance went well beyond the boost it gave to the resources available to the work. Bernard Davies, for example, presents it as seeking to adapt youth work’s image, style and philosophy to a new age and especially to a new youth culture (1986: 99). The Albemarle Report is sometimes presented as heralding a golden age of youth work, where workers and trainers were confident in their actions, where resources flowed into buildings and staffing, and where there was some intellectual debate about theory and practice. However, as Tony Jeffs (1979: 46) has argued, the immediate influence of the Albemarle Report was probably far more symbolic than real, providing the government with a public raison d’être for policies that were largely pre-ordained and an approach to basic structural problems that was suitably depoliticized. In this article we briefly review the background to the report; its main arguments and recommendations; and the report's continuing significance.
A number of factors came together to create enough pressure for the appointment of a Committee to review the work of the Youth Service in England and Wales. For some years there had been various campaigns in the media (particularly the popular press) around what was perceived as an emerging 'youth problem'. With what appeared to be a significant growth in adolescent and teenage delinquency; the emergence of a more obviously 'teenage' culture linked to fashion and music; and the growing significance of 'teenage consumption' (see, for example, Abrahams 1959) questions were being raised as to what should be done. The Albemarle Committee, for example, was worried about 'a kind of selfishness which will not yield itself to any demand outside its own immediately felt needs' (1960: 33-34).
In addition, National Service was coming to an end; and there had been a substantial increase in the numbers of young people (following the 'bulge' - the rise in births after the Second World War). Just a few months prior to the appointment of the Committee there were riots in Nottingham and London (especially in Notting Hill and Brixton) centred around 'race' - and involving large numbers of younger people. Unsurprisingly given all the media attention, there was also growing disquiet among MPs and concerns about the government's performance. For example, a Select Committee (reporting in July 1957) was critical of the Ministry of Education's apathy toward, and lack resources for, the Youth Service (Seventh Report from the Select Committee on Estimates: The Youth Employment Service and Youth Service Grants).
It is worth repeating here the judgements that the members of the Albemarle Committee formed on the current state of the Youth Service in England and Wales. As we have already seen the Committee found that the Youth Service was in 'a state of acute depression'. There were some significant strengths identified - workers and agencies had managed to 'hold the line' and keep alive various forms of youth work in which, the Committee estimated, made some sort of provision 'for the needs of one in three of the young people between 15 and 21' (1960: 10). However, voluntary attendance and voluntary help were seen to be the Youth Service's chief strengths.
Voluntary attendance is important because it introduces adult freedom and choice. Compulsory attendance is a feature of school and will be of the county college, but in contrast to some Youth Service experiments in totalitarian countries, young people here go to a club of their own free will. They are free to take part or not in its activities, and to leave if the activities fail to hold their interest. Their freedom of choice matches their independence and their growing maturity. Voluntary help is no less important. There are great numbers of people who are willing to give up their time to meet and talk with young people, and to help with the activities of youth groups, clubs and centres. The motives which have urged them to take up work in the Service are varied, but we are struck by the real concern for young people and the desire to help them at whatever cost which characterises most of these voluntary workers. It is vital for young people to understand that many of the older generation are genuinely anxious to make friends and to share their interests. (op. cit.)
Against this had to be set a range of problems and weaknesses: 'in policy, in machinery, and in performance'. Many of these stemmed from 'prolonged financial stringency and consequent lack of drive' (op. cit.). The Committee found the performance of central government and many local authorities over the previous ten years wanting. In this situation it was difficult to establish meaningful partnerships between the state and voluntary organizations:
Lack of sympathy for youth work in some areas—fortunately a minority—has not always prevented progressive work being done in them, but the lack of consistency in policy over the country as a whole, together with the uncertainty about the scale of future grants, has undermined the confidence on which any partnership on a national scale should have been founded. (1960: 12)
On the ground they found, 'some variety of method, but there is less willingness than we should have hoped to break new ground' (1960: 11). Leadership within the Youth Service had also suffered from shortage of money and lack of encouragement.
Leaders feel unsupported and unappreciated: they look for some sign that their work is nationally recognised as important, but find it neither in official expressions of policy nor in the rewards of a salary scale for those who are full-time which would put the work on a level with cognate professions. They seem to themselves to be in danger of becoming cut off from the march of social and educational advance. And there is a considerable volume of evidence that full-time posts fail to attract good applicants. (1960: 12)
Finally, the Committee recognized that there was a particular weakness around reaching the mass of young people and to address the social changes that impacted on their lives.
The Committee felt the need to work quickly. As a result, the Report was not based on any special or substantial research, and was 'ill-prepared' (Jeffs 1979: 43). Members of the Albemarle Committee appeared to have shared a concern regarding the behaviour of significant groups of young people, 'a concern that meant from the onset all parties predominantly saw the problem as one of social control' (ibid.: 39). Not having the benefit of proper research, the Albemarle Committee took many of the concerns around youth crime, for example, and simply ordered and reproduced them. There was no substantial analysis of the changing social context of crime, of the ways in which the media amplified concerns, nor of the actual trends and patterns. As a result, the Report talks of 'a new climate of crime and delinquency' and of 'the crime problem' being 'very much a youth problem' (1960: 17). Furthermore, this 'youth problem' was predominantly viewed as a working class phenomenon.
This said, key members of the Committee were able to offer a broader social analysis, some appreciation of the changing situation facing young people and some vision of the possibilities of youth work. Richard Hoggart, for example, had already published his influential Uses of Literacy (1957) - and was somewhat critical of some of the then current shifts in culture and of the activities of young people. Leslie Paul, the founder of the Woodcraft Movement in the UK had a contrasting and unconventional understanding of what the 'younger generation could contribute to their society' (Davies 1999: 39). Lastly, Pearl Jephcott (1942; 1943; 1948; 1954) had been involved in youth work for a number of years and had written insightfully on the experiences of young men and women (See Davies 1999: 37-40). Significantly, Richard Hoggart and Leslie Paul were responsible for drafting key parts of the Report. As a result it was critical of significant aspects of the work and orientation of many national voluntary organizations. Significantly, the Albemarle Report looked beyond clubs to more spontaneous forms of work in order to become attractive to larger numbers of young people. As Bernard Davies (1999: 45) put it:
... the Committee made proposals aimed at forcing the youth service to develop a contemporary, youth-friendly approach. In the course of doing this, though apparently not always intending it or completely succeeding, it came as close to expounding an unselective ('universalist') set of aspirations for the youth service as have ever been proposed.
As well as seeking to establish a basis for youth work, the writers argued for a significant expansion of the work. They also provided a clear exposition of youth work's strengths as an activity (via the notions of association, training and challenge). In doing this members drew upon accepted notions of maturity and participation but were able to communicate, and draw upon, an appreciation of youth work as an associational form that provided a special set of opportunities for the socialization and social education of young people.
The Youth Service is an integral part of the education system, since it provides for the continued social and informal education of young people in terms most likely to bring them to maturity, those of responsible personal choice. It is now an accepted commonplace in education that the infant learns by play, and nursery and infant school teaching is based on this concept; but recreation can be as educative to the adolescent as play is to the infant, and as important in promoting the physical, intellectual and moral development necessary to turn the teenager into the responsible adult citizen... Flexibility and tolerance are essential in the approach to young people in clubs and in the spontaneous, self-programming, single activity groups which we hope to see developed. (Ministry of Education 1960: 103)
In what follows we highlight some key elements around aims, practice and policy.
Aims and ideals. The Report began by endorsing John Maud's earlier statement of purpose:
To offer individual young people in their leisure time opportunities of various kinds, complementary to those of home, formal education and work, to discover and develop their personal resources of body, mind and spirit and thus the better equip themselves to live the life of mature, creative and responsible members of a free society. (Ministry of Education 1960: 36)
By placing this definition so centrally, the Committee emphasized continuity and a commitment to 'individualistic educational values and aspirations' (Davies 1999: 54). However, the Albemarle Committee members argued that for this to gain its full force, it had to be set against a background of significant social change and conflicting pressures on young people.
The aim of the Youth Service is not to remove tensions so as to reach towards some hypothetical condition of “adjustment” to individual or social life. It is to help towards ensuring that those tensions which are social accidents, often both fruitless and oppressive, shall not submerge the better possibilities of children during their adolescence.
To do this the Committee laid a special emphasis on association, training and challenge as aims (see below).
Principles and practice. In a crucial section of the Report, the members argue that it was important not to allow established and traditional ways of conceptualizing 'right behaviour' and human flourishing to dominate the youth work agenda.
... over a period of time there is a tendency for ethical impulses to lose their immediacy and drive, and to seem to young people unrelated to the situations in which they find themselves. Young people can today, therefore, turn away from many good enterprises especially designed for them, because the forms and phrases in which they are presented seem highfaluting or irrelevant. At a time when many young people feel tempted to reject adult experience and authority it is plain that the Youth Service should not seem to offer something packaged—a “way of life" - a “set of values", a “code",“as though these were things which came ready-made, upon the asking, without being tested in living experience. (1960: 38)
They still held to the significance of the spiritual in the work and the contribution of faith-based agencies and groups, but argued that on the whole it was better 'for principles to be seen shining through works rather than for them to be signalised by some specific spiritual assertion' (1960: 39). In a similar fashion they argued for a concern with citizenship:
... the beginnings of "citizenship” can be seen as much in the subtlety and tact of social relations in a good youth club, even in a tough area, as in straight-forward discussions of good citizenship. These qualities cannot be easily translated into the conditions of public life today, but they are a good foundation for such a translation.
The Committee was particularly struck by the language employed by many around youth work - and the extent to which ideas such as 'service', 'dedication', 'leadership' and 'character-building' were used 'as though they were a commonly accepted and valid currency' (op. cit.).
We in no way challenge the value of the concepts behind these words, or their meaningfulness to those who use them. Nor do we think that young people are without these qualities, or that they cannot be strengthened. But we are sure that these particular words now connect little with the realities of life as most young people see them; they do not seem to "speak to their condition". . They recall the hierarchies, the less interesting moments of school speech-days and other occasions of moral exhortation. (1960: 39-40)
This questioning of key ideas and beliefs met, not unexpectedly, with some resistance. For the Report's writers, variety and flexibility were to be applauded - but this did not mean an 'open gate' to any activity. Reference had to be made to objectives and standards (and just how this translated into practice was another matter). However, there was no sustained discussion of what might happen when there values in society come into conflict, and of handling the sort of ethical and cultural issues that arise when working within plural societies.
Association, training and challenge. The Committee believed that association, training and challenge of 'the right kind' should be seen as the aims of the Youth Service and that these translated into particular implications for the activities involved. 'To encourage young people to come together into groups of their own choosing is the fundamental task of the Service', they argued. Furthermore, they asserted that young people's social needs must be met 'before their needs for training and formal instruction' (1960: 52).
The Service should seek first to provide places for association in which young people may maintain and develop, in the face of a disparate society, their sense of fellowship, of mutual respect and tolerance. Such centres may also help to counteract the increasing educational and professional stratification of society. Those who are intellectually or financially well-endowed have as much to gain as others from the opportunity for mixed fellowship, as much to learn from as to give to others. It is very difficult to run a club whose members have mixed educational backgrounds, but it is exceptionally well worth trying. (1960: 36-7)
This interest in association, however, was framed within an orientation to fostering the capacities and meeting the developmental needs of individuals rather than as an all-out form of collective or communal education and endeavour. The Committee looked to youth work to provide 'social education of the kind that has long been valued in the corporate life of those pursuing formal education in schools, technical colleges and universities' (1960: 52). However, while there was a focus on the individual - and the Report's findings in this areas could be seen as 'an extension of the child-centred schooling tradition (Davies 1986: 100) - there was still a very real sense in which this vision of associational life connected with longstanding concerns around education for sociality and fellowship.
To association, the Committee added the provision of 'flexibly planned' an 'imaginative conceived and directed' more formal educational activity (rather surprisingly labelled 'training'). Such educational activity, the Committee believed, could 'both connect relevantly with the experience of the students and be tough and demanding' (1960: 37). The Report continues, ' We do not think most young people seek soft options, but that they do want a clear aim in their efforts'. Physical recreation, skills and interests, preparation for adult life (including participation in public affairs, employment and preparation for marriage and home-making) were specifically explored as areas of activity. They saw a place for courses but it had to spring from 'more informal youth work'.
The third element of the Albemarle trinity was challenge. This aspect was seen as informing the others. They made the following two points:
... that many adolescents have a strong need to find something they can do, individually or in a chosen group, which they feel to be deeply worth while beyond pleasure or personal reward; and that it is immensely important that young people, of different kinds and levels of ability, should have opportunities to display and to respect forms of pre-eminence in fields other than the academic.
Group and club life was seen as providing 'opportunities for challenges of all sorts to the young'. Meeting these can 'satisfy the sense of achievement for which all hunger and which so many have failed to find in school or at work' (1960: 61).
Resources and policy. The Committee made some 44 recommendations - but highlighted three:
1. An expansion in the numbers of, and training for, professional leaders. An emergency training programme was needed to ' to make good present deficiencies and prepare for the increasing numbers of young people in the early 1960s'. More long term developments in training were required to ' produce results in time for the second five-year period of development in the middle 1960s' (1960: 112). They also urged the Minister to appoint a negotiating committee for salaries and conditions of service in order to make the profession more attractive.
2. The creation of a development programme for the Youth Service. Given the particular situation and the prevailing ideology of welfarism it was not surprising that the Committee argued for both a rapid response and long-term planning and development. The Report called for the establishment of a Youth Service Development Council to provide the Minister with 'the best possible advice and help' (1960: 44). They also called on the Minister to:
... local education authorities without delay to bring their further education schemes up to date and expand, in consultation with the voluntary organisations, their arrangements for the training of part-time paid and voluntary leaders. We therefore recommend that these measures be taken immediately. (1960: 112)
3. The establishment of a generous and imaginative building and funding programme. The Committee looked for 'material improvements' that were 'planned and phased, in every sector of the Youth Service field'.
The Minister should at an early date urge local education authorities to see that their expenditure on maintained and aided services is sufficient to sustain the momentum of development; and at the same time he should expand his own aid to national voluntary bodies, particularly in the form of special grants for pioneering work of direct significance to an expanding service. In the first five years we hope to see considerable extension of premises and facilities for the Youth Service, improvised if necessary, but this provision will chiefly be of an experimental nature. We have indicated elsewhere that in the second five-year period there should be a substantial amount of carefully planned building. In our view, such development, if phased for the ten-year period 1960—1970, could be adequately serviced through the training arrangements we have already recommended. (1960: 112)
The Report was very much a product of its time. It drew upon established arguments and practices in order to make sense of provision for what were seen as the changing needs of new generations of young people. These were placed within then current social policy considerations and orientations.
David S. Smith (1999) argues that the following things happened directly as a result of the Albemarle Report:
The number of full-time workers more than doubled in the ten years that followed publication of the Report.
About half these workers received their training at the National College for the Training of Youth Leaders, the emergency college set up as a result of the Albemarle Report.
Central and local government expenditure on the youth service increased substantially.
£28 million was spent between 1960 and 1968 on 3000 building projects.
The Experimental Projects Fund was set up to encourage innovation in the voluntary sector.
The Joint Negotiations Committee was established to set terms and conditions for youth workers at the national level. (Smith 1999: 30-31)
To what extent these flowed directly from the activities of the Committee, and to what extent the Committee's recommendations provided a useful hook to hang a desire to shift policy within the Ministry of Education is a matter for some debate. There was also significant variation locally in the extent to which youth work was prioritized and developed.
Some commentators have fallen into the trap of seeing the Committee's proposals as a significant break with the past - especially when contrasting them with the activities of more traditional youth organizations. However, as Bernard Davies has commented, 'For all its pretensions to encouraging radical and innovative approaches to the "new" 1960s teenager, the Albemarle Report represented considerable philosophical continuity with the youth service's past' (1999: 54). The Report appealed to different traditions within youth work in order to construct its proposals. The notion of association flowed directly from boys and girl's club work: challenge was a strong feature of Robert Baden-Powell's vision of Scouting; and the picture of the educational and training could have come from the pages of one of Josephine Macalister Brew's (1943; 1947; 1957) books. The philosophy of the work that they put forward, and the critique of the orientation of some voluntary organizations was fairly commonplace - and had found its way into reports written for the King George's Jubilee Trust (e.g. L. J. Barnes work The Outlook for Youth). To this extent the Report provides an interesting and, at times, insightful, statement of the nature of 'modern' youth work. We find an advocacy of small group work, on the worth of social interaction, and upon the importance of the participation and self-organization of young people. Yet, to underline a point already made:
... the Albemarle prescription had little to say on the possible shared outcomes of its proposed programmes. The potential of group experience for motivating and preparing like-minded people to work together for collective outcomes which might, even marginally challenge the status quo was neither acknowledged nor, it would seem, even considered. (Davies 1999: 53)
The model remained essentially individualistic - members were concerned about the individual development of young people rather than about broader, communal change. However, it seemed to catch the mood of youth work at the time as was an influential portrait of the work. When combined with central government sanction and resources the Report did much 'to shift the service's structures and methodologies and to increase the volume and raise the quality of some of its material and human resources' (Davies 1999: 55).
One of the major disappointments in terms of the response to the Report was the extent to which youth services and voluntary organizations focused on club and centred-based models of provision (with the occasional nod to detached work). The emphasis in the Report on work with spontaneous youth groups, and upon what Bishop and Hoggett (1986) were later to call 'organizing around enthusiasms' did not become a vibrant focus for sustained activity. Given what we have subsequently come to know about the significance of hobbiest and interest groups in the formation of social capital and of healthy communal and individual lives this was a missed opportunity - and one that came home to roost in the late 1980s and beyond. The language of association gradually became a relic of another age. As young people drifted away from the sorts of larger clubs and centres that appeared as a result of the monies linked to the Albemarle Report, youth workers, managers and policymakers were missing a fundamental element of the rationale for the worker. The result was a focus, in the Report's terms, on training and challenge.
Perhaps the biggest impact of the Albemarle Report was on the balance of power within youth work. The report was a central lever in the shift from volunteers to paid youth workers and managers; from untrained 'lay-person' to trained professional; and 'most importantly, from charitable to state sponsorship' (Davies 1999: 55). There was a movement towards a growing involvement of the state and of central direction in youth work (although no call for further legislation with regard to the institutional basis for youth work); and toward a deepening professionalization and bureaucratization in youth work. While resources may have flowed, and skill levels risen, something was lost. Within a decade the critique that Ivan Illich developed around the professionalization and institutionalization of schooling could be applied with some force to youth work.
The Albemarle Report saw the youth service was seen as having two central functions: (i) the socialization and social education of the mass of young people; and (ii) the control and containment of a deviant minority (Jeffs and Smith, 1988). As with much that had gone before, the problems addressed were essentially seen as concerning working-class young people, although given the prevalent intellectual climate, they were not presented in this way. Writing in the mid-1970s, John Eggleston was able to judge that it was not too great an oversimplification that the Albemarle Report remained 'the most convenient and certainly the most reliable guide to the "official" ideology and values of the service' (1976: 63). Today, we could not make the same judgement. As has been argued elsewhere on these pages, youth policy in Britain while still being concerned with a somewhat similar version of the 'youth problem' has moved from many of the solutions advocated by the Albemarle Report (see, for example, young people, informal education and association - reclaiming the club). The current emphasis on surveillance and control, case management, and on individualized ways of working (for example in Transforming Youth Work) run counter to key characteristics of youth work that were exemplified in the Albemarle Report. There has been a shift from voluntary participation to more coercive forms; from association to more individualized activity; from education to case management (and not even casework); and from informal to bureaucratic relationships.
In conclusion, it could be said that many of the things that the Albemarle Report advocated in terms of policy would have come into fruition - the government, and more particularly, key figures in the Ministry of Education were looking for ways of responding to public and media concerns around 'the youth problem', and youth work was an obvious instrument. To some extent, the Report unthinkingly contributed towards a shift from youth work as a series of social movements to a professional grouping; and in the longer term helped to fuel a growing reliance on governmental monies and opened workers to increased central direction. However, the Albemarle Report provided an enduring picture of person-centred, associational work with young people. It's universalist concerns, its interest in spontaneity and flexibility, and its emphasis on informal relationship still repay attention today - and show just what has been lost in the dominant discourses around work with young people.
Davies, B. (1999) From Voluntaryism to Welfare State. A history of the Youth Service in England. Volume 1: 1939-1979, Leicester: Youth Work Press. 212 + xii pages. Chapter 2 is provides an interesting and insightful account of the work and significance of the Albemarle Report.
Jeffs, A. J. (1979) Young People and the Youth Service, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. 150 + ix pages. Chapter 2 provides an overview of the 'the Albemarle years'.
Ministry of Education (1960) The Youth Service in England and Wales ('The Albemarle Report'), London, HMSO. Extracts can be found in the archives.
Smith, D. S. (1997) 'The eternal triangle: youth work, the youth problem and
socialpolicy' in I. Ledgerwood and N. Kendra (eds.) The Challenge of the
Future. Towards the new millennium for the Youth Service, Lyme Regis:
Russell House Publishing. Smith draws upon his PhD thesis to make an assessment
of the continuing significance of the Albemarle Report. See, also, Smith, D .S.
(1996) Foundations of Youth Work - Albemarle and after, unpublished PhD
thesis, St Martins College/University of Lancaster.
Abrahams, M. (1959) Teenage Consumer Spending, London: Exchange Press.
Baden-Powell, Robert S. S. (1908) Scouting for Boys. A handbook for instruction in good citizenship, London: Horace Cox.
Barnes, Leonard J. (1948) The Outlook for Youth Work, London: King George's Jubilee Trust.
Bishop, J. and Hoggett (1986) Organizing Around Enthusiasms. Mutual aid in leisure, London: Comedia.
Brew, J. Macalister (1943) In The Service of Youth. A practical manual of work among adolescents, London: Faber.
Brew, J. Macalister (1946) Informal Education. Adventures and reflections, London: Faber.
Brew, J. Macalister (1957) Youth and Youth Groups, London: Faber & Faber.
Davies, B. (1986) Threatening Youth. Towards a national youth policy, Milton Keynes: Open University Press.
Department for Education and Employment (2001) Transforming Youth Work, London: Department for Education and Employment/Connexions.
Eggleston, J. (1976) Adolescence and Community. The Youth Service in Britain, London: Edward Arnold.
Hoggart, R. (1957) The Uses of Literacy. Aspects of working class life with special reference to publications and entertainments, London: Chatto and Windus.
Jeffs, T. and Smith, M. (eds) (1988a). Welfare and Youth Work Practice. London, Macmillan.
Jephcott, A. P. (1942) Girls Growing Up, London: Faber & Faber.
Jephcott, A. P. (1943) Clubs for Girls. Notes for new helpers at clubs, London: Faber & Faber.
Jephcott, A. P. (1948) Rising Twenty, London: Faber & Faber.
Jephcott, A. P. (1954) Some Young People. A study of adolescent boys and girls, London: George Allen and Unwin.
Jephcott, A. P. (1967) A Time of One's Own. Leisure and young people, Edinburgh: Olicer and Boyd.
Putnam, R. D. (2000) Bowling Alone. The collapse and revival of American community, New York: Simon and Schuster.
Smith, M. (1981) Creators Not Consumers. Rediscovering social education 2e, Leicester: National Association of Youth Clubs. Available as an e-text: Creators not Consumers.
Smith, M. (1988) Developing Youth Work. Informal education, mutual aid and popular practice, Milton Keynes: Open University Press. Available as an e-text: developing youth work.
To cite this article: Smith, M. K. and Doyle M. E. (2002) 'The Albemarle Report and the development of youth work in England and Wales', the encyclopedia of informal education, http://www.infed.org/youthwork/albemarle_report.htm.