Effectively plan new programmes and activities and create measures for tracking and reporting programme outcomes.

A girl wearing a Reach hoodie holds a basketball while smiling at someone

Effective youth work takes place in a wide range of settings, but across all of these it works to help young people learn about themselves, others and society through non-formal educational and experiential learning activities.

To learn more about what youth work is and its three core principles, visit the Getting to Know Youth Work page.

To keep everyone safe, it is important to collect some key information, including emergency contacts and medical information, from all young people joining your youth group. You can use this form as a template:

As you plan special events and residentials, you may want to seek additional information from all young people participating. You can use this form for guidance:

It is good practice to develop a balanced programme of activities which does not allow any one activity to dominate. Involve the young people in as much of the planning as possible to ensure that the offer reflects their needs and interests. Some examples include:

  • Arts & crafts –  themed arts, cards and gifts, graffiti art, face-painting, glass paints, hair braiding, puppets, origami, carnival arts, fashion
  • Drama – role play, circus skills, drama workshops
  • Digital Media – web-design, video production, podcasting, animation
  • Dance – street dance, hip-hop, Bollywood
  • Games– team games, non-competitive games, puzzles, quizzes, computer and internet games, team-building activities
  • Sports – traditional sports, unusual sports, circuits and competitions
  • Cooking – pizza making, pancakes, cake decorating, non-alcoholic cocktails, health foods
  • Issue based activities – drugs and alcohol, sex and sexuality, relationships, anti-bullying, anti-racism, environmentalism, global citizenship
  • Residentials – outdoor activities, team building, leadership skills. (For more information on planning residentials, see the next dropdown.)

Some activities will take longer to plan than others and a well thought out programme will contain a mix of regular, occasional and major activities.

Most young people remember residentials as the best times of their youth work experiences.  Being away from home, sometimes in quite different locations to their usual environment, can literally change the lives of some young people. However, they do take careful planning.

See our Residential Information Supplement and consider the following:

  1. Accommodation: If you have a mixed gender group you will need separate rooms or dormitories (or tents!). If your group won’t be the only staying you might want to make enquiries about who else will be there and plan a site visit to help you prepare activities and think about risk assessment.
  2. Transport: Minibuses are one of the most popular options, but you will need to consider the regulations regarding minibus licenses, which depend on when the proposed driver passed their driving test, if the driver is a paid employee of your organisation or a volunteer and how old they are. You’ll need to obtain a ‘minibus permit’ if there are any charges associated with the use of the minibus or use a registered organisation that has minibuses that come with licensed drivers. Contact your local authority or local Community Transport Association for guidance.
  3. Activities: If you’re thinking about outdoor activities, you may want to use a specialist provider rather than attempt to master rock climbing or kayaking techniques yourself. Providers of adventure activities are required to hold a licence for some activities, and you should check that the organisation you approach holds the appropriate licence by looking at the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority section of the Health and Safety Executive website. Some activities or organisations are exempt from holding a licence, so you may want to satisfy yourself that they have appropriate Health and Safety procedures in place. For any activity you’ll also need to think about the weather, any necessary safety equipment, other clothing needed and the level of mobility required from participants.
  4. Down-time: Even if you pack in activities from morning to night there will inevitably be periods where young people are not participating in an organised session. It’s important that these are planned and co-ordinated so there are always workers supervising the young people. It should be agreed prior to the residential if workers are allowed to consume alcohol on their ‘off’ sessions. Good practice would not encourage this, as workers may be required if an emergency situation occurs.
  5. Consent: See our Sample Participant Consent Form. Consent and information forms are particularly important when you take young people away from home. Consent forms must come back prior to leaving to ensure that any issues (allergies, cultural or food requirements, medical information) can be discussed and addressed. It may be helpful to invite interested young people and their parents to a club evening to discuss the trip.
  6. Medication: Some groups agree to ‘hold’ medication for young people on a residential, and oversee the dispensing. This usually requires the parent or carer to provide the medication in a sealed, labelled and safe storage container. Some groups also take general, over the counter medication and ask parents to complete a form detailing which of the brand medicines can be given to their child if required. Other groups decide not to do this and, if a young person is ill, appropriate professional medical attention is sought.
  7. Volunteers: Additional volunteers for the residential will still need to go through normal recruitment procedures in advance (including PVG scheme membership). Think about any specific skills you might want to recruit for the residential (are any parents a nurse or minibus driver?) and the gender balance of the group.
  8. Payment: Financing the trip can be problematic. It helps to have payment in advance so deposits can be paid, and to plan for payment by instalments to reduce financial burden. You can see your local Council Education Dept for information about trust funds that may be able to assist economically disadvantaged families. Be sure to maintain confidentiality around this.
  9. Involving young people: Involving young people in decision-making should get the residential planning off to a good start. You’ll need to try to strike a balance between where young people want to go/what they’d like to do and a plan that is compliant with your Health and Safety Policy.
  10. Evaluation & Review: It’s more than likely that your residential will be a huge success, but it’s always useful to spend time as a group reflecting on the experience and using this to inform the next event.

We encourage youth groups to involve young people  in programme planning and in decision making within the group, as doing so:

  • helps young people to build their skills and confidence and is a practical example of how you can support young people’s right to participation
  • helps to ensure that you have a programme which matches young people’s needs and interests
  • keeps your membership at a healthy level (young people will often vote with their feet and if your programme is stale or repetitive, they may simply not turn up to what is on offer)

Make time to develop a list of programming ideas from young people or to ask them to identify their favourites. You will need to be clear and open with the young people that not all the ideas will be able to be realised right away and that some activities such as residentials or trips may need a lot more planning.

There will be times when you need to address challenging behaviour within the youth group. This might involve conflict between young people or confrontation with youth leaders or those in authority.

For more information, see our induction page Understanding and Addressing Challenging Behaviour

Knowing what effect your work has had on young people, volunteers and the community is invaluable. It allows you to report to external agencies such as funders and also to assess where you have gone right and which areas of your work could be improved.

Access a series of practical mini toolkits for your youth group, created in partnership with Evaluation Support Scotland. There are four workbooks in total, on the themes of:

  1. Setting Outcomes
  2. Measuring Outcomes
  3. Analysing Outcomes
  4. Reporting on Outcomes

They are free to download and use within your group.

Awards can also be a powerful tool for tracking and reporting programme outcomes. To learn more, see our Awards page or check out Amazing Things: The Guide to Youth Awards in Scotland, produced by the Awards Network and published by Youth Scotland.

If you have received grant funding for a programme and need to report your outcomes, you can also see our Small Grants Evaluation Toolkit which is designed to guide youth groups through a mini-evaluation of their project and completion of an end-of-project report.

Note: this pack was originally developed to support projects funded through the CashBack for Communities Small Grants Scheme. We have used funded CashBack projects as an example to illustrate different sections within the pack.