Camping and Permit Update

Firstly, a thank you to parents, Explorers, and everyone else involved for bearing with us this year with respect to camp. We know it was a bit of a shock to some when we announced that there would be no Summer Camp, however, we promised that we weren’t going to rest there so we want to share an update with regard to camps.

Issues recap

To recap our position from earlier in the year which we originally emailed out to everyone, the issues were a combination of lack of planning on my part because I dropped the ball and secondly and more critically, because as a leadership team we lacked a Nights Away Permit which is the ticket which demonstrates we are qualified and capable to run a camp within The Scout Association.  As we eluded to in our email from earlier this year, any camp we run this year has to have two objectives:

  1. to give our oldest Explorer Scouts the opportunity to go on a nights away experience
  2. to allow us to validate the necessary permit for us to more easily run our own camps in the future

Opportunity for the older Explorer Scouts

The first objective is important on a more personal level. At Phoenix Explorers I want everyone to have had the opportunity to go camping and to experience Scouting in the wild. Regrettably, for reasons that pre-date the involvement of me and others, some of our older Explorer Scouts have not had the opportunity to attend an Explorer Scout camp for nearly two years. Some of these same Explorer Scouts will be leaving us later in 2018 as they turn 18. To me, this is not a position we should ever have to be in and we need to rectify this by ensuring that these Explorer Scouts have had an opportunity to camp.

Permit validation

The second objective is validating the adult training to obtain a Nights Away Permit. In Scouting, this is all about demonstrating proper planning, cost prudence, appropriate safety, emergency precautions and, most important for the Explorer Scouts, that a programme has been put in place which is appropriate for their interests, age, and ability.

The great news is that last night, I had a meeting with my Nights Away Permit Assessor who has reviewed the planning and preparation that has gone into organising an Autumn Camp for 2018 and he is happy that we are doing the right things and is happy for us to proceed to share the information about the camp with yourselves. The other great news is that we have a Nights Away Permit Holder; somebody to act as the qualified person to oversee the camp; available for the weekend we are planning which enables us to go ahead with the camp.

All being well, following our Autumn Camp 2018, I will have successfully validated the criteria for a Nights Away Permit and we will be self-sufficient as a Unit and able to run our own camps without us being reliant on the availability of leaders from outside Phoenix Explorers to act as a permit holder and lead our camps for us.

Autumn Camp 2018

Combining the two objectives from above: opportunity and validation, we have decided that the first camp we run as a team will be an Autumn Camp for 2018. It will be held relatively close to home and will be run over a long weekend. We will be limiting the number of places available to Explorer Scouts to 12 and we will be offering these spaces first-and-foremost, to our oldest Explorer Scouts. We came to this decision for two reasons. The details for this will be sent privately via email to everyone concerned.

Firstly, we need to ensure that the older Explorer Scouts have an opportunity to camp with us and that they do not leave us in the coming months without that experience. Following this Autumn Camp 2018, we will be organising more camps for our Unit so there will be no shortage of experiences available for everyone else in the months and years to come, however, making sure that the oldest of our Explorer Scouts have had that same chance before they leave is crucial.

Secondly, the reason for limiting the numbers is that we want to under-promise and over-deliver. We want to make sure that what we do is done safely and done well to a high standard. If our first camp as a team and the camp we use to validate the Nights Away Permit is open to our entire Unit – about 35 Explorer Scouts in total, that is a big camp to organise out of the gate. By starting small for this first camp, it makes the event easier for us to plan, it makes the logistics of getting to and from camp simpler, and it means we can pay more attention to the finer details making sure they have a great experience on camp.

We understand that this head-count limit may still leave some of our members frustrated, however, in the interests of getting it right we feel it is the best approach. This is the start of a long-term journey for me and our team at Phoenix Explorers. Using what we learn from this camp we can scale-up our achievements to do bigger camps that are run over more days with more activities and are further afield. If we try to be too ambitious for this first camp we run the risk of being under-prepared which could result in a sub-standard experience for the Explorers. That is not what we want as it doesn’t give them what they come to Explorer Scouts for and it doesn’t give you value for money as a parent, guardian, or carer.

The future of camping

To set some level of expectation, I want our Unit, at some stage in our future, to be able to organise and run international experiences taking our Explorer Scouts overseas on international camps. This is a whole new level of challenge when it comes to planning, preparation and decision making for us as a leadership team, however, it’s worth having that vision and putting in the effort in my eyes. Taking part in an international experience is one of the pinnacles of adventure for Explorer Scouts and is an experience I would love for the young people to be able to have with us. Taking part in an international experience earns them the right to wear the Union Flag badge on their Uniform not only as an Explorer Scout but for the rest of their Scouting lives so it is truly something they can keep forever.