Organisation and Leadership of a Youth Club
In December 1968 a number of Chinnor youths were tried and indicted at Gloucestershire Assizes on charges of unlawful sexual intercourse and indecent assault. As a result of evidence given at the trial the following letter was written to the Chairman of Chinnor Parish Council by the Chief Superintendent of the Thames Valley Constabulary: ‘….The Learned Judge, Mr. Justice James, before sentencing, questioned the Officer in the case as to what facilities were provided for youthful activities in the Chinnor area. The Officer informed His Lordship that the local Parish Council had set up a separate committee to look into this problem. His Lordship then remarked that the appointment of a full-time Youth Leader to co-ordinate the activities of the young people at Chinnor could be an easy answer to the problem, and he requested that his remarks be brought to your notice. As requested by His Lordship, I am passing his comments on to you for the information of your Committee’.
These words, in the circumstances giving rise to them, carry considerable weight and they are certainly endorsed by the Probation Officers for the area and the local police. If, statutorily, Chinnor does not happen to qualify for a paid full-time youth leader then a means should be sought to overcome this by negotiation with the County Council as soon as planning for a youth club building has reached a realistic stage.
Having discussed with them all the problems involved and outlined in this report we have formed the unanimous view that the present Chinnor youth club leaders, Mr. Peter Pretty and Miss Beryl Cooksley, are highly effective as leaders, their lack of formal training notwithstanding. They have now over ten years’ experience in the locality and we find their style of leadership to our liking and from enquiries we have made, evidently to the liking of their members. The morale of their club is high and their success at the activities which they are able to undertake in very limited circumstances is outstanding. We consider that these qualities outweigh considerations of formal training, particularly as their lack of the latter may be due to circumstances beyond their control and can be remedied by them under more auspicious circumstances or with suitable support in one way or another. We consider that they should continue to form the nucleus of the youth leadership, other things being equal and if they should wish to do so, for the foreseeable future. We also feel that any other formal youth clubs in existence when a youth club building becomes a reality should be encouraged to use the facilities available. There should nevertheless be a definite leadership with whom ultimate responsibility for the building lies in consultation with the leaders of any other clubs using the building. We would hope very much that as facilities for the adolescents expand leaders will emerge for new activities from among the residents on the new estates who will bring in expertise from outside the ‘old’ village.
We are strongly against the suggestion of appointing a full-time youth leader shared with Thame. The distance and the lack of transport between Thame and Chinnor together with their different economic and urban status would make it probably that one place would benefit to the detriment of the other. It would be much better in our view for the two youth organisations to remain independently led and structured, each offering facilities not available to the other.