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Delivering a Quality Programme

Wednesday 7th March 2018

When it comes to talking about programmes, it is clear that from what we can see on social media, checking out websites or spending time reading the Gazette that there is some fantastic work going on across the Brigade. Great examples are being shared all the time. These include having new adventures, being challenged, learning new skills, engaging with their local community and a whole lot more.

In this issue of the Gazette we consider what we mean by a quality programme and how we can go about improving what we do.

Firstly, let’s be clear that there’s no one way to plan or run a successful high-quality programme, but there are some universal things to consider which will help you to ensure that you’re offering the very best experience to the children and young people you engage with each week.

Delivering on our vision

The starting point, before you set out on planning your programme is to consider what your vision is, what you are setting out to achieve. It’s important to think about what you want to achieve during the next year and set some targets. A purpose-built resource for doing this is the Company Development Scheme, which you can download from the Leaders website at leaders.boys-brigade.org.uk/pdfs/companydevelopmentscheme.pdf. Some additional questions that might help you create this vision could be, what you want the young people in your Company to be saying about their BB experience and how you would like your leadership team to feel?

Planning ahead

One of the most important things is planning ahead. Putting time into plan your programme will bring with it so many rewards. Those moments we find ourselves running around like a headless chicken (we’ve all been there) are probably those times when we haven’t done enough to plan in advance.

So, allow time to plan with your whole team, bringing everyone together including young people will help you shape the programme and ensure everyone is fully involved. Part of this involves spending time reviewing what you have done previously and learn from what went well and what didn’t. Ideally, you should be planning at least a term in advance, and also consider putting together an initial rough outline for the session, so everyone is aware of key dates and you can ensure the programme works around these.

“What more empowering a statement can we make to our members, than to allow them to shape their own journey in The Boys’ Brigade by offering them the opportunity to input, style and tailor a programme which matches their aspirations?”

Ross Galbraith of the 135th Glasgow

Activity Idea: Sorting the Programme

Try out this simple activity to get your children and young people involved. The ideas is that your young people show you what they like, dislike and give them the opportunity to suggest some new ideas.

To start, write these four headings onto separate pieces of paper and spread them out on a table or on the floor.

  • Never again!
  • Maybe not this year
  • Yes please
  • 100% have to do!

Alternatively, you could print out some emoji’s and use these to determine what the young people think. You will also need small strips of paper which have a wide range of activities written on them. To get a good range of activities it might be useful to look back at the last few sessions and write down the activities you have done. Also make sure you have plenty of blank strips of paper, so the young people can write down their own ideas for new activities.

Now get your young people to go through the activities and place them under one of the four headings. Encourage them to discuss this as a group and work together to decide where each activity ends up. Remind them they can add as many extra activities into the discussion as they like. Let the discussion between your young people flow and see what ideas come forward. The more youth led this activity is, the better! Once they have finished sorting the activities make sure you take a photo or write it all down, so you have a record of what has been discussed. Hopefully by the end of the night you will have plenty of suggestions and ideas to help plan an engaging, exciting and successful programme.

Involving Young People

Getting feedback and ideas from your young people is key to delivering a successful programme. Consider how you could create opportunities to do this, this could be built into your programme each term, so that you can then plan more effectively for the next term. The best way to engage the children and young people will differ by age group, but don’t just think it is just the older members (i.e. Company Section/Seniors) that will have ideas on what they want to do and views on what they’ve already done – include all age groups.

Once the children and young people have shared their thoughts and opinions with you, ensure you put their ideas forward and incorporate these into your next programme planning meeting. It’s important once you’ve done this, that you make sure that your young people are aware of how and where their ideas have been included. This will boost their confidence and make them feel included and listened to, and that their voice matters.

Check out a video we have produced on participation on our Vimeo Channel at vimeo.com/theboysbrigade/participation

Planning Termly

Planning a term at a time in detail will mean that preparations can made in good time. You may need to order items, find somebody with the right skills to come along or organise a trip away from your meeting place.

For each Company a term may be something slightly different, for some it could be the periods between starting the session and Christmas, Christmas and Easter and then Easter and the end of the session – for others something different, but for all of us it is a ‘defined period of time’, and one that we can use to make planning more manageable.

It will be handy to have a list of your meeting dates for the term you are planning, so you can start putting things against these as you go along.

It might work well at the start of this process to consider what key dates are coming up within the term including school holidays, Christian festivals, national days, awareness days, Church and Battalion events. Awareness days or weeks can provide a great basis around which to plan your programme, check out awarenessdays.com which contains a list of most of the UK and International awareness days, weeks, months and events.

We know that from past surveys of our young people that the activities they like best are camps, holidays, trips and visits. Young People also value gaining badges and being recognised for their achievements.

You could now move on to generating ideas, based on the key dates you have identified and other ideas that could be added in. At this point you are seeking out a key theme or activity each date you plan to meet within the term, some ideas based on this and identify links to awards.

Having worked together creatively to plan the next term, encourage members of the team to take a couple of the meeting night ideas away and plan these in more detail.

Sharing Ideas

At the very start it was mentioned that social media is a great way of us seeing what is going on across the Brigade. Use this to your advantage and take a look at what other Companies are getting up to, this will help you when planning your programme. If you see the value this delivers, perhaps you could try to share more of what you do to return the favour. Other ideas could include organising visits by members of your team to other BB Companies or even other youth organisations – we can learn so much from each other. Perhaps ask your Battalion to organise an opportunity for leaders to come together and share programme ideas, this type of things is already happening in some Battalions and is proving very useful.

Building relationships

We can sometimes get wrapped up in the programme and not make enough time to spend quality time speaking with and getting to know the young people. Making time in your programme, to chat with the children and young people, both individually and as part of a group to find out what they are doing at school or at home is really important. Consider how you could incorporate the right opportunities into your programme.

Young people also appreciate opportunities to ‘hang out’ with not too much structure, sharing some food together can be a great way of doing this.

Making use of Themes

Themes can be really helpful in planning your programme, with themes being linked to a key date you have identified (i.e. Fairtrade Week or Shrove Tuesday) or just something you look to use to build up a balanced programme.

If we are to take a theme and start to expand it, based on running an evening for Anchors you could look to include as many programme zones from the Anchors Programme as you can (Body, Mind, Spirit, Community and Creativity). This helps avoid your programme going in one direction and being too ‘Body’ focussed (physical, games, etc). Perhaps you want to set yourselves a target to cover at least 3 programme zones each time you meet.


Don’t try and do everything yourself. Get all your team involved and make it clear what everyone’s responsibilities are, so everyone has a clear role. Delegate out responsibilities based on the skills, knowledge and experience of the team. This will ensure that those leading activities have time to breath and are not running from one activity to the next. If you don’t have the right skills or knowledge within your team then you should look outside the team to find somebody suitable to come in and support you in leading a specific activity, whatever this may be. You should remember that in bringing somebody in who is not a registered BB leader that they should be supervised at all times.

“Ask mums, dads, relatives and the Church congregation if they have skills they could offer to share. For example cooking, woodwork, gardening, sign language. Ask them to come along and assist you.”

Darren Rigby, 1st Rainford

In advance of your next meeting

Now you completed your termly planning some time ago, and one of the team has gone away and put some more detail to the plan, it’s now important the final programme is shared with the whole staff team. Ideally a week before or just after your previous meeting you should share the programme plan for the next week, identifying who is going to be responsible for what on the night and what if anything needs to be prepared in advance.

On the Night

Whether you meet in the evening on a week night or on a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon, make sure you arrive at your meeting place with plenty of time to setup and prepare. Getting along early and setting up the spaces you will be using will ensure the programme flows well. Consider how you can best utilise different spaces, especially where you can setup activities in advance which you can come straight into with the young people ready to go. If you have a regular setup which works for your programme, perhaps you could see if there is a volunteer within your Church that could assist with this or make this happen before you arrive, so it’s one less thing you need to do.

“We plan our programme in three ways. We look together as leaders and discuss the regular parts of the programme over the year and consider anything we would like to add or not do again. We talk with the young people, usually on an informal basis about what they enjoy doing, what they would like to do and what not to do again! We plan our meetings a term in advance with a plan for each week with a fair amount of detail – we divide these up amongst the leaders so that as a team we share the responsibility. We try to lead aspects where we feel confident and have strengths. One of our leaders is particularly good with cooking and craft work, another with games and physical activities.”

Ian Rumbelow, 1st Martock & Hamdon


Remember that when planning the programme for a particular age group that it is helpful to have awareness of what is going on across the other sections in your Company. Progression is all to often overlooked, but is extremely important when we consider how we retain young people and transition them through the Company. Progression is ensuring that we are able to build on the opportunities, experiences and skills a young person has throughout their time in the BB. To do this we need to ensure that there are always things to look forward to, things that are not offered in other sections, or things that build on what has already been achieved in younger age groups. It’s about making sure the programme is not repetitive and that a young person is always developing and growing. Consider how you could work more effectively in your Company to do this, for example with certain activities you might agree that these are only offered at certain points or at a certain age. With something like residentials you could look at progression from Anchors going on a day trip to camp, Juniors having the opportunity to go on a weekend away, Company Section a week’s camp in the summer and Seniors an international trip. This same concept needs to follow through with everything we do in our programmes.

Keeping everyone Safe

Assessing risk is key to ensuring your programme is safe for everyone involved. As part of your process for planning your programme you should carryout risk/benefit assessments for activities. For regular activities these can be done through generic risk assessments that you use year on year, but for more specific activities you should create a new risk assessment for that activity. Don’t forget to identify the benefits as well as any risks – this will help you to build a balanced and high-quality programme.

Remember! Your programme is what brings children and young people to BB, relationships are what keeps them there.

Good luck in your planning!

Chris Norman
IT/Communications Manager

Get in touch with Chris by email at chris.norman@boys-brigade.org.uk

Follow Chris on Twitter at @chrisnormanbb

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