A set of pages exploring the theory and practice of youthwork and youth development. 

contents: · upfront · features · introducing youthwork · youthwork pioneers ·  e-texts · historical shorts · events

Welcome to youthwork @ the encyclopedia of informal education. On this page we provide some links to materials concerning the theory and practice of youthwork held within the encyclopedia. 

introducing youthwork

introducing youthwork
What is youthwork? How has it developed? Includes a guide to further reading.

school-based youthwork
The growth of youthwork in schools and current practice reviewed + an annotated bibliography.

detached youthwork and project work
The background to the development of the work + a full annotated bibliography concerning theory and practice.


young people, informal education and association: Mark K. Smith argues for the recovery of association as a central theme in youthwork, and the need to re-embrace the notion of the club.

summer camps, camp counselors and informal education: We survey the development of organized camping and examine proposals for youth summer camps in England.

The problem of 'youth' for youthwork
The full text of the Youth and Policy 63 article by Tony Jeffs and Mark K. Smith that argues 'youth' has become a deeply problematic notion and that just as 'youthwork' appeared at a particular moment, so it will disappear. Jettisoning the obsession with age-specific activity allows workers to focus on education and association and, in so doing, helps all to create for themselves, in the words of Margaret Simey, ‘a life worth living’.

Lily Montagu
A pioneer of youthwork, one of the founders of the National Organization of Girls Clubs (now Youth Clubs UK) and a key figure in the development of Jewish youthwork. A short biography and bibliography prepared by Jean Spence

youthwork pioneers

Robert Baden Powell
the founder of Scouting.

Josephine Macalister Brew
pioneer of informal education and of youthwork.

Lily Montagu
a pioneer of youthwork.

Charles Russell
Writer of a classic text on boys' club work and innovator in practice.

Tom W. H. Pelham
Writer of one of the first texts on boys' club work and and an important figure in the development of the work.

Maude Stanley
A key figure in the development of girls' club work.

historical snapshots

Baden-Powell, Scouting, Guiding and Covent Garden

boys’ club work in central London

the clubhouse

London Connection

Lily Montagu and girls' club work

Emmeline Pethick and work with girls and young women

St Annes, Soho and the development of youthwork

St Christopher’s Boys’ Club

Maud Stanley and work around the Five Dials

Maud Stanley and the Soho Club and Home

West Central Jewish Youth Club and Settlement

YMCA, Central


Youth's Christian Institute


Jeffs and Smith - the problem of 'youth' for youthwork
Article argues that 'youth' is now a deeply problematic notion and just as 'youthwork' appeared at a particular time, so it will disappear (1999).

Smith - creators not consumers. rediscovering social education
Full version of this 1982 youthwork text

Smith - developing youthwork. informal education, mutual aid and popular practice
The full text of the 1988 edition is now on line.

Stanley - the way to start and run a girls' clubs
Maude Stanley’s (1890) handbook Clubs for Working Girls was the first substantial exploration of what was involved in girls’ club work. Here we reproduce Chapter II. In it Stanley sets out her view of some of the key characteristics of such youthwork

Stanley - 'night schools'
This piece provides an insight into the way in which parish visitors approached their tasks – in particular, how they related schooling and club work to outreach. Taken from Chapter IX of Maude Stanley’s (1878) Work About The Five Dials, London: Macmillan.

Sweatman - youths' clubs and institutes
Arthur Sweatman’s (1863) groundbreaking paper was the first to describe and advocate club provision for youths. It provides a particularly helpful insight to some of the activities of early clubs and institutes.