Inclusion

Woodcraft Folk is committed to being open and accessible to all children and young people. Our Aims & Principles make it clear that we have a responsibility to promote inclusion, but also make it a focus of our educational work with young members so that they can be part of building a more inclusive society: 
 
As an educational movement, we believe that equal opportunities should extend to all aspects of activity and participation in the Woodcraft Folk. We will combat oppression or discrimination in our movement, whether on grounds of age, class, gender, race, sexual orientation or for reasons of disability. We will educate our members so that they may take these issues into the wider community.
 
As volunteers, ways to put our commitments to inclusion into practice can include:
 
Working to ensure that the composition of our groups reflect the communities they serve
Meeting the support requirements of children and young people with additional needs
Changing the way that we run a group or an activity to ensure everyone is able to participate
Ensuring that the cost of our activities does not prevent people from participating
Leading activities for our young members to explore and challenge stereotypes
Getting involved in social action projects to address inequality
 
 
Special Educational Needs
 
 Your group will contain young people with different skills and interests, and different levels of social, intellectual and emotional development. Co-ordinating a programme that meets these different levels of need, and encourages young people to work together to grow and develop can be challenging, but is one of the most rewarding parts of leading a Woodcraft Folk group.
 
It is likely that your group will contain some children who have been recognised as having some level of special educational need. Our research suggests that between 10 and 15% of young people who are part of Woodcraft Folk have some level of additional need.
 
It is important to ensure that you focus on the particular needs of the individual young member. Two children may have been diagnosed with the same condition (e.g. dyslexia), but have very different needs when it comes to being supported to participate in the group’s activities. Engaging with parents/carers and with the child to understand what they enjoy, what they find challenging and what helps them is the most useful thing that you can do as a leader to ensure that they feel welcomed and included in the group.
 
The Webinars available on our website include a presentation on dyslexia by Dyslexia Action, and one on supporting young people with autism, (delivered by the National Autistic Society).
 
One of the strands of the TREE project, which was led by young members of Woodcraft Folk between 2009 and 2014, delivered a strand of work on inclusion for young people with additional needs, and made a series of simple recommendations for groups. While these are designed primarily to ensure that groups are accessible to children and young people with additional needs such as autism, they are also good practice to support the active participation of all young members:
 
Send out the programme in advance
Help children and young people plan the programme
Set a routine for group night
Have a consistent approach (adults present, routine, role of adults, behaviour expected of young people)
Help young people set their own ground rules
Debrief / evaluate sessions with children and leaders
Leaders: bear in mind strengths and weaknesses when planning activities, e.g. who is patient
Adults’ self-awareness - reflect on their own roles and how they might be contributing to difficulties in the group e.g. shouting and thereby increasing conflict.
Know your environment and its limitations, e.g. halls with dreadful acoustics
Convey information in different ways, e.g. pictures, photos, written down instructions, flow charts
 
Young People with Disabilities
 
Woodcraft Folk has a successful track record in providing opportunities for young people with disabilities to participate fully on our activities. The Equalities Act of 2010 means that Woodcraft Folk has a legal responsibility to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to support participation of people with disabilities in our activities. Under the Act, disability can include not just physical and sensory impairments (e.g. paralysis, blindness), but also autism, learning difficulties, chronic illnesses and mental illness.
 
There are lots of ways that a group can make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to remove barriers to participation, and it is best to consider them on an individual basis, led by the needs of the young person. What is ‘reasonable’ will also vary from case to case, but the time and resources available is an important factor. Adjustments can be made to address:
 
The physical environment (e.g. meet in a more accessible place, or one with better acoustics)
The way things are done (e.g. choosing games that don’t exclude some members)
The support you provide (e.g. purchasing or borrowing additional equipment)
 
Woodcraft Folk has worked in partnership with other organisations, and individuals with specialist skills and knowledge, to provide support and guidance for groups. These include:
 
An Accessibility Checklist, together with some suggested group night activities, to help your group reflect on what can be done to improve accessibility for people with physical disabilities
Guidance produced in partnership with the National Deaf Children’s Society to support inclusion of deaf children and young people
A webinar led by SCOPE entitled ‘Communication for All’ to support volunteers working with young people with communication difficulties
 
Social & financial inclusion
 
Joining a Woodcraft Folk group should be made accessible and affordable for any child, and groups should work to make sure that their mix of young members reflects the wider community in which they work.
 
If your group relies heavily on word of mouth for promotion, this can mean that groups recruit from a small section of the community, leading to a lack of diversity. A more systematic approach to promoting your group can help to address this, for example:
 
Publicising your group using posters and flyers rather than word of mouth
Running outreach events in parks and other community spaces
Engaging with other organisations to spread the word to underrepresented groups
Using publicity materials translated into community languages
 
The programme for your group should also reflect the diversity of your local community, and make use of the different backgrounds, skills and experiences of your members. Exploring festivals and events linked to different faiths and cultures as part of your programme can help children (and adults) to understand more about their community. You should also think about whether any activities you plan could exclude some sections of your community, and what you can do to address this – ask for advice if you are unsure.
 
How your group is perceived from outside is also part of promoting an inclusive culture, and can be particularly important when working to promote greater ethnic diversity. If, for example, you are seeking to engage with families from the local Bangladeshi Muslim community, and your group currently consists entirely of white British children and leaders recruited from the local Catholic school, meets in the parish church on a Friday night, and holds planning meetings in a pub, you may find this more challenging!
 
Most Woodcraft Folk groups try very hard to ensure that their activities are affordable for all – however, especially in parts of the UK where venue costs are very high, this can present a particular challenge. It is usual for parents/carers to make a regular contribution to the costs of running the group, but you should discuss with other leaders how to ensure that this is not a barrier for low income families. 
 
There is not one approach that will be right for every group, but for group nights and other activities such as camps and residentials, your group may wish to consider:
 
Discounting or waiving group subs/camp fees for low income families on a case-by-case basis
Adopting a ‘give what you can afford’ approach (which also enables your group to claim Gift Aid from UK tax payers)
Having a waged and an unwaged/low waged rate
Setting up a more formal bursary scheme
Undertaking additional fundraising to offset the running costs of your activities
 
Many groups rely heavily on parents & carers to volunteer as leaders, and it is very common practice to ask families if they are able to support the group by contributing their time as well as their money. However, a group cannot be truly inclusive if parental volunteering is (or is perceived as) a condition of young people joining. Parents may be unable or unwilling to give up their time for a wide variety of reasons, but these will prevent a young person from gaining benefit from being part of our movement, and must not lead to them being excluded from Woodcraft Folk.
 
Gender
 
Woodcraft Folk was established as a co-educational movement at a time when this was unusual for youth organisations. Maintaining a gender balance is important to creating a successful and cohesive group, otherwise it can be harder to retain and recruit others. It may be necessary from time to time to adjust your approach to recruitment to address an imbalance, and this is perfectly acceptable practice. Ideally, there will also be a gender balance among leaders, although this isn’t always easy to achieve.
 
A good group programme should also actively address issues relating to gender and stereotyping. There are some excellent session plans, such as those contained in the Rainbow Resources pack, produced by IFM-SEI, that can help you to do this.
 
Leaders should challenge unacceptable use of gender stereotypes in the group (e.g. “you throw like a girl”), but should also be reading to reflect on their own practice, and on the behaviour that they model to young people. While it is obviously important to recognise the skills and interests of each volunteer, some districts have observed, for example, a that women tended to volunteer to be KP while men chopped wood and built campfires, and decided to take positive action to address this.
 
Leaders should understand that a young member’s gender may not be the same as their biological sex. The umbrella term Trans is used to refer to people whose gender identity, expression or behaviour is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. Woodcraft Folk has produced guidance to help support leaders to work effectively and sensitively with young members and volunteers who identify as Trans. In line with Woodcraft Folk’s commitment to empowering young people, being led by the need and wishes of the young person is central to this. It is also important that leaders avoid making assumptions about the gender, or indeed the sexuality, of young members.
 
Reviewing your practice
 
Woodcraft Folk has an Inclusion Working Group, which is made up of volunteers with experience of creating and sustaining diverse groups. The Working Group has created a series of questions for groups to consider as part of reviewing how they could become more inclusive. You may like to try and answer these questions for your group, and come up with an action plan to address any areas where you feel that you need to develop:
 
Representation
 
Is your group representative of the local community?
Are your leaders representative of the community?
Do the images you use in promotional materials represent the diversity of your local community?
 
Accessibility
 
Is your venue accessible?
Can young people travel to and from your venue safely by themselves?
Do you arrange shared lifts where public transport is limited or walking buses for children or young people unable to travel to your venue alone?
Is the space you meet in suitable for young people with disabilities?
Are facilities at your venue accessible? Can all young people access and use the kitchens, toilets and other spaces you use?
Is your meeting space on the ground floor?  If not, is there a reliable lift? 
Do you meet at a venue that might be off putting for some groups within your community? Is it in an area viewed local as unsafe? Is it a place of worship? Are there other activities taking place there that some parents might feel uncomfortable about e.g. alcohol consumption?
 
An inclusive programme
 
Can your activities be adapted to take into account different abilities and disabilities?
Do you explore themes of inclusion?
Do you acknowledge cultural events relevant to the community? Do you acknowledge awareness days and months, e.g. mental health awareness week, black history month?
Do you discuss issues that might impact different people within the community, e.g. sexuality, gender, poverty?
 
Affordability
 
Is your programme affordable for young people and volunteers?
Are you able to support young people and volunteers who may face hardship?
Do you request donations or charge fees?
Are parents and carers expected to contribute time or money to activities?
Do you offer a range of ways in which parent and carers can contribute to the group that takes account of working patterns, other commitments, and financial resources?
Do you offer assistance to parents and carers to make it easier for them to participate if they choose to?
 
Safety
 
Do you provide a safe environment for all children, young people and volunteers?
Have you risk assessed for any disability or special need your children and young people have?
 
An inclusive culture
 
Do you provide opportunities for parents and carers to learn about Woodcraft and how your group works?
Do you provide a welcoming environment for parents and carers?  
Do you provide opportunities for parents and carers to get to know each other?
Do you acknowledge contributions from parents and carers?