By Graeme Luke

WE are now at a crucial time in our history, and how we emerge from this crisis will be down to the decisions that we take over the coming weeks. There is one thing I know for certain; we must prioritise youthwork charities like the Scouts. I’d like to share my own story to help explain why.

I don’t remember my time in school as a happy time. At the age of 10, I encountered a group of people who decided that they didn’t like me. The bullying started quickly, and continued into secondary school – a critical time in any young person’s life. My studies were seriously affected, and my grades never really improved. I started to get the feeling that I was never going to amount to anything.

Fortunately, my dad was a volunteer in the local Scout group. I was sent to try it out and found the range of activities fun and interesting. I quickly adapted to this new way of learning and making friends.

My Scout Leader was really focused on getting the best from young people and realised that I had potential. I was encouraged to take part in things that I enjoyed, learned new skills and before long I was thriving in the outdoors as well as helping to teach and lead other young people through activities and camps. This gave me an amazing amount of confidence and self-belief.

For me, the next natural step was into leadership. At the age of just 18 I was leading a Scout group and giving young people the type of experiences that I got from my Leaders. My journey from there took me into almost every leadership role that Scouting had to offer. I opened Scout Groups in deprived communities, led an entire District in Edinburgh as the most senior volunteer and then managed the Adult Training of all leaders in Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders.

When I think back to my 10-year-old self looking at his future, bewildered, bullied and not focused at all, I can see that school and formal education was not where I could thrive. I left school at 17 with no qualifications and went to work as an apprentice with little prospects. With my education alone, I did not face a bright future.

However, thanks to Scouts and the support of committed volunteers, I’d made friends, learned skills and achieved regularly, which gave me the confidence to develop in a way that I never thought possible.

I have now been the full-time professional Head of Scouting Operations for Scouts Scotland since 2001. I lead the strategic direction of Scouting across Scotland, which means helping to support our membership of over 50,000 young people and volunteers across every local authority.

My story is not unique. This is the story of thousands of young people – girls and boys – from across the country. We must remember at this time, more than at any other time (certainly in my lifetime), not every young person will have academic success, and that the principles that the Curriculum for Excellence are built on can be found outside of the classroom.

I urge the Scottish Government to make sure that charities like us are given support now so that we are all still able to provide the opportunities and support that so many children and young people need. I truly believe that the future success of our society depends on it.

Graeme Luke is Head of Scouting Operations/Deputy Chief Executive, Scouts Scotland