Demos is Britain’s leading cross-party think tank and has just published a paper called  “ Non-formal learning could help to build character and close the attainment gap” - LEARNING BY DOING. In the paper the researchers state that educating for the development of character is back on the agenda and is likely to define the education debate in the UK and Europe. This means Australia will follow as is usually the case.

The research into whether non-formal learning is sufficiently embedded into the British education system is revealing. This fascinating piece of work  shows that large numbers of young people in the UK – particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds – do not have enough opportunity to take part in non-formal learning and are therefore at risk of not developing key skills important for success. Moreover, an overwhelming majority of teachers see non-formal learning as vital, and want to see it more strongly embedded into the education system.


Highlighting 5 different case studies, the researchers reveal the attitudes towards partnership from the perspective of non-formal learning providers, different models such partnerships can take, and some of the challenges in forging these partnerships. The insights from these  are  highly applicable for education policy-makers, school leaders and the wider non-formal education sector.

Page 78 shares the final case study and the only international one. 

Model 5 Scouts assisting with Initial Teacher Training (Victoria, Australia) 

Our final case study model comes from abroad: the State of Victoria in Australia, where Scouts are piloting volunteering as a Scout leader as a form of teacher training. As highlighted in Demos’ report Scouting for Skills – and echoed in the research we undertook for this report – many adult volunteers believe that taking part in Scouting helps to build valuable character skills. Moreover, our teacher survey showed that teachers saw a lack of training in delivery for non-formal learning as one of the biggest barriers to its integration into the education system. 

In Victoria, the Quality Teacher Programme aims to address this with Scouts Victoria working with the state government and Monash University to improve teacher quality by including non-formal learning activities as part of initial teacher training.56 

As part of the programme, student teachers become Scout leaders and help to deliver ‘learning by doing’ activities, including working in Scout camps and outdoor trips, as part of their training. Those working with Venture Scouts plan and deliver accredited Victorian Certificate of Education learning for at least 80 hours per year as part of the Scouting programme, in addition to their scheduled teaching rounds in schools. 

Quoting Chief Commissioner Scouts Victoria, Brendan J Watson the researchers finish up this case study with-

 'As we argue in the next chapter, similar partnerships should be explored in the UK between The Scout Association and teacher training colleges. The emphasis on character education – and the importance of non-formal learning pedagogies – requires significant changes to teacher training. If the Victoria Programme proves to be successful, then it will demonstrate the role that non-formal education providers could play in improving teacher training in this space.'

Scouts Victoria is leading the way worldwide with this initiative that is now gaining international attention. What is even better is that it is working and we are having success at a local level. The 'quick fix' patches to better prepare undergraduates can not make up for quality programs that very few organisations can actually deliver such as the Quality Teacher Program from Scouts Victoria.

Download the full research paper here: