Young flock to join Scouts for adventure

Numbers soar close to 500,000 as schools turn away from outdoor pursuits.

Elderly ladies stranded on the wrong side of the road can breathe a sigh of relief. The UK now has more Scouts than at any time in the past 40 years. Membership of the group has reached almost 500,000, show figures published today. More than 16,500 people have joined since January last year, the fifth consecutive annual rise.

Contrary to the commonly held belief that Britain's youth is an increasingly sedentary bunch, the Scout Association said a major reason for the surge was down to record levels of interest from teenagers. Some 65,000 teenagers are now involved in Scouting, a rise of more than 26 per cent since 2001.

So why are so many people signing up? For Kate Lloyd, a Scout leader at the 100th St George's Newcastle troop, the answer is clear. "People are coming to the Scouts because of the activities they offer," she said. "Rock climbing, canoeing, abseiling and other outdoor activities. Schools are turning away from them because they're concerned about health and safety. The Scouts are carrying on with these just the same. People turn up to our Scout group because they want to do these sorts of things."

Among activities undertaken by Scouts in the UK are zorbing, water skiing, abseiling and adventure glider flights, not to be found on the curriculum of many schools. But the growth in membership has also come after a keen publicity drive by the group. Ms Lloyd says several of her troop's new members have come because "their parents have seen Scouting advertised and encouraged their kids to join".

In a PR coup in July last year, the adventurer and television presenter Bear Grylls was appointed Chief Scout. He hoped the growth would inspire more people to join. "It's fantastic to witness such a huge surge in Scouting," he said. "It is proof that Scouting is appealing more and more to teenagers. Scouting is empowering, wild and fun, and offers so many adventure-based activities for young people and adults alike. My goal is for every young person who wants to be involved in Scouting to be able to be so. I hope to inspire even more adults to volunteer and help this happen."

Adults, too, are joining in increasing numbers. Some 2,800 people are signed up to the leaders' programme, up 3.1 per cent on 2009. But waiting-lists to join the movement remain at an all-time high due to the need for more adult volunteers. Although more than 13,500 new places were created this year, thanks to 2,871 new adult volunteers, some 33,500 young people are still on the waiting-list.

Not all adults who volunteer work with young people; other jobs include gardening and general DIY, organising events, doing the accounts and writing press releases. Only 27 per cent of volunteers are parents of children involved in Scouting, and many volunteers have no previous connection to the movement. "The element of giving something back, to do something beneficial, attracts people," said Ms Lloyd, who by day is a project manager at the Sector Skills Council. "And then people just get hooked. It's hard work, but it's really good fun. And kids get such a bad press these days when for the most part they're fine individuals. Lots of adults get involved in Scouting because they think kids deserve a fairer deal."

The Scout movement was founded in the early 20th century by the military officer Robert Baden-Powell. Its handbook, Scouting for Boys, remains the fourth highest-selling book in history. Worldwide Scouting now has 28 million members, both male and female, and operates in almost every country. In the UK, the number of Scout volunteers is higher than the combined workforce of McDonald's (67,000) and the BBC (24,000).

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?