I have been watching on various Leader forums, and that certainly does seem to be the most popular viewpoint amongst those commenting. None of that “wait and see how it pans out” nonsense.
So far, the only clear information we have had on what activities the new programme will actually contain - comes from the activities which some units tested (mainly in the early days when these were very much ‘what if’ options being tried out, some of which were popular and some very far from it) and from the taster pack of a dozen activity cards per section which were sent out in the autumn. (These seem to have had a slightly more positive reception from the girls, perhaps more so than from the leaders – a lot of leaders found the activities familiar, which was inevitable given they were ideas submitted by other leaders – for there are no new ideas under the sun, just old ideas in a new guise).
I did make sure my units volunteered to take part in the testing. Partly because I tend to the view that if you get the opportunity to participate in the decision making and choose not to, you shouldn’t then criticise the results which emerge from those who do, given you opted to let that ship sail. But also, for these ideas to be tested in as wide a range of real situations as possible, headquarters need to have a lot of volunteers from across the country providing a wide range of different unit and leader circumstances for each activity, without overloading any one unit. After all, we want the new programme’s activities to work for all possible circumstances – including (perhaps especially) our own peculiar ones. Of the activities my own units tested, some we gave reasonably positive feedback to, and some, very negative feedback indeed. But such is inevitable with testing early prototypes. They were drafted with the intention that they would be altered at least a bit, perhaps radically, dependent on the feedback received . . .
We’ve also been given an idea of the programme’s overall structure – the 6 main themes, the structure of ‘Skills Builders’ which will be done on these topics to earn badges (which are effectively ‘staged’ across the age groups), and the Unit Meeting Activities (which we’ve had 12 samples of) to be slotted in to our schedules to give balance to our programmes and enhance the girls’ and leaders’ own activity ideas. The awards the girls will get for completing one of the 6 topics (these awards still to be named), and the Gold Award they will get for completing all 6 plus an extra challenge whilst in a particular section (Rainbow Gold Award, Brownie Gold Award, Guide Gold Award, Ranger Gold Award). Annual membership badges are coming back, though a name for them is yet to be confirmed, as is their format – so we will wait to see how they will run. And there will be interest badges for the girls to work on at home, each with three clauses – again probably different in design from the existing ones, but the format and subjects covered are yet to be confirmed other than that each will have three clauses, and there will be different numbers of interest badge topics for each section – and they will be part of Gold Award, ensuring that those who gain Gold Awards will have put in some of their own time, it won’t just be a ‘turn up and join in’ badge which regular attenders collect might collect ‘on the way past’ just by regularly attending and taking part in whatever activities the Leaders arrange at weekly meetings. We know how many interest badges each section will have – but we don’t know quite what topics they will be on, or what the three clauses will be like.
And we’ve been told that one of the aims is to have continuity and progression across the sections, thus developing the girls’ skills and experience in an ongoing, structured way as they move up through the age groups, with the idea that moving from one section to another should be the natural, perhaps near-automatic step for most members, and consequently see fewer girls drop out between sections.
Certainly, there are still quite a lot of details we have yet to find out about. What will actually be in the Skills Builders for each section? What topics the interest badges will cover and how much work they will require? How much work a Gold Award will take, and what sort of thing the extra challenge at the end might be? What badges and books will look like, and how comprehensive the books will be – will there be lots of sections to fill in, or will there be scope for them to be handed down? How big will the Skills Builder badges be, and how will they be done – will it be one topic at a time for a few weeks or months, or will the girls be doing bits and pieces across all of them, then tying up the loose ends of them all just before they move section? And where there are unknowns there is, automatically, negativity.
We will receive instructions in due course on how to transition the girls who are currently in our units from current programme to new, so they can get credit for the stage they have reached when the new programme begins. Naturally it will take time for each of us to work out how best to manage that transition for the differing stages each of our girls is at. But the guidelines will detail how we are to proceed, and we can try to ensure that each girl carries through on the current programme to a natural break point over the next term or so – to help Rainbows, Brownies and Guides to finish off the Roundabout/Adventure/Challenge badge they are currently working on, for instance.
And yet, for all the criticism – from what we’ve been told of the programme so far, many of those who have criticised the current programme - are to get what they have been asking for, from the new programme. Handbooks for each section. Interest Badges for Rainbows and for Rangers. A structured programme for all the sections which follows through from one section to the next. A ‘highest award’ to aim for in each section, not just for the older girls. All of these are things people have been asking for, and all of them are being delivered.
So what do I reckon about it? Well, I reckon that at worst, I just don’t yet know enough to judge. But ‘not enough to judge’ doesn’t just mean I can’t yet praise it - it also means I can’t yet criticise it. It could be brilliant for me and for my units, it could be dire, but it’s far more likely to be somewhere in-between. Where in-between, we can wait and see. There are bound to be some negatives for my units, yes, but also bound to be positives too, which may outweigh, possibly by quite a margin.
But, in the meantime, nervous about it as I naturally am, I have been through programme changes before. And I can honestly say that I expect there will at least be positives amongst it at worst – so no, I don’t think it will all be absolute rubbish.