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Priorities for Youth highlights the need for robust and proportionate quality assurance systems, and in this respect there is scope to cross-reference the Framework of outcomes with the quality assurance strand of ‘Developing youth work practice’. This strand of quality assurance provides a process for: identifying the needs of young people; a youth work development strategy that reflects the needs identified, and; measuring progress in personal and social development to inform programme development.
The Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) is responsible for visiting and assessing both formal and non-formal education services, including the provision offered by schools and youth organisations. They publish various inspection reports regarding youth work such as youth forums, youth centres, and outreach initiatives in order to provide evidence on young people’s achievements and standards, the quality of provision, and the quality of leadership and management, including the processes for self-evaluation leading to improvement.
In 2015, the ETI published Together Towards Improvement: a Process for Self-evaluation. Youth sector, a resource intended to support youth organisations to evaluate and improve the services they provide. The criteria for judging their provision are divided into three main categories and mention the needs of socially excluded or marginalised young people, as follows:
- the quality of achievements and standards, including the extent to which young people: acquire skills; develop an understanding of themselves and society; demonstrate motivation and enjoyment; identify barriers to their learning and achieve positive outcomes; demonstrate collaborative learning; are given opportunities to meet and work with individuals from a range of diverse groups; and demonstrate involvement in a range of volunteering roles
- the quality of provision for learning, including the extent to which the organisation and staff: plan programmes focusing on the needs of young people; plan for the development of knowledge and skills; develop purposeful relationships with young people; provide innovative and challenging programmes; target and meet the needs of young people who are vulnerable, disaffected or marginalised; provide effective outreach and detached youth work programmes; and provide a broad and balanced curriculum
- the quality of leadership and management, including the extent to which the leadership: demonstrates continuous improvement; engages young people in the management of the organisation; has a clear vision for the organisation; uses the views of young people when improving the organisation; and works effectively with partners to add value to the experiences of young people.
The document provides a framework for the inspection process, supporting organisations to identify their strengths and address areas of improvement.
ETI also carries out regular, formal inspections of each youth organisation, based on the three categories mentioned above. Depending on the outcome of this, providers are tasked with a list of actions for improvement.
Quality Assurance Framework for the Youth Sector in Northern Ireland
The Quality Assurance Framework (QAF) is the culmination of a collaborative approach by the youth sector to ensure the best possible outcomes for young people. It provides a support and development tool that enables youth work organisations to articulate, assess and improve their work within a structured framework. The framework has 4 stages – understanding the context, discuss and assess evidence; create an action plan and review the action plan.
There are various sources of research and evidence that supports the development of youth work in Northern Ireland. The Department of Education has their own in-house statistics and research team that conducts reports on a wide range of statements, consultations, and assessments regarding the youth development sector, including youth work.
The ETI also publishes various surveys and evaluations regarding the effectiveness of initiatives and targeting areas that require further improvement. Furthermore, they publish various inspection reports regarding youth work such as youth forums, youth centres, and outreach initiatives in order to provide evidence on young people’s achievements and standards, the quality of provision, and the quality of leadership and management, including the processes for self-evaluation to promote research-based improvement initiatives.
Participation is an integral part of youth work practice and is embedded throughout its delivery. The Model for Effective Practice has put the participation of young people at the centre of youth work and the extent and success of their participation is a major emphasis in any inspection activity. The Education Authority, in collaboration with key sectoral partners and young people, have developed a flexible contemporary model for strengthening participation in the youth service at a local, sub-regional and regional level. The Network for Youth provides a mechanism to build on and strengthen existing and engage new participative structures for young people, as well as providing support to enable young people to effectively articulate their views.
The Northern Ireland Youth Forum (NfY) was established with the goal of promoting the participation of young people in youth work initiatives. The youth-led organisation hosts regular events such as the Network for Youth Conference Workshop which ‘has been designed to allow key youth work partners and young people to develop a flexible contemporary model for strengthening participation in the youth service at a local, sub-regional and regional level.’
NfY also holds regular participation audits in order to ensure that youth work participation structures are effective in giving young people a voice in youth work initiatives.
For more information on how youth participation is promoted in general policy making, please see Chapter 5.4 on young people’s participation in policy making.
In 2016, the Screenagers International Research Project, which is a collaborative study on the use of information and communication technologies, researched the current use and impact of social and digital media as a tool to deliver youth work practice.
‘Participants described the developmental value of using social media in youth work, including: as a medium to support campaigning and citizenship, to enable young people to build and sustain peer relationships which had developed during programmes, and to support interaction and mutual understanding between young people from different communities or contexts.’
Furthermore, they found that ‘80% of respondents from full time and 68% from part time settings had used social media in their work with young people. Those from full time provision who had not used social media (20%) were almost exclusively from statutory settings. Respondents from full time voluntary sector settings were more likely to use multiple social media tools, with the most favoured being Facebook (67%) YouTube (60%) and Twitter (44%). Respondents from part time provision most commonly used Facebook (56%) but were less likely to use multiple tools. Key purposes for using social media were for “general communication with young people” and “promotion of youth group activities”.’
Young Enterprise Northern Ireland has also introduced the Digital Youth programme to 13 schools across the Causeway Coast and Glens area. Through this programme, students participate in Digital Masterclass events learning about the digital sector and developing their own ideas for business concepts incorporating use of new digital technology. The top student teams from each school come together at the final to showcase their learning gained through the programme and compete for the Digital Youth overall winner award.