History of the Adventure Service Challenge Scheme

Children in the streets of Marylebone

The streets of the 1960s..

The Adventure Service Challenge scheme was founded in the back streets of a run-down area of Marylebone, in the heart of London, in 1960. The meeting places for the inhabitants of this tight-knit but deprived community, the arena for drunken fights and gambling, and the playground for the children were the streets. Many of the young people were on the receiving end of education (in the narrow sense of the word) but most did not pass the 11+ and were regarded both by themselves and by their parents as failures. They were not stretched, nor did they see much life beyond the classroom. The limit of their horizon was the treeless steets of their home area. They obtained their "kicks" from the adventure of anti-social behaviour, their "adventure games" having the goal of "not being found out".

The idea of being concerned with the needs of others seldom if ever crossed their minds; it was "being soft". Concepts of right and wrong were defined by the opinions of their peers and the "values" of the adult society which surrounded them and there was no consensus regarding the source of such concepts or the meaning of the words. The idea of wearing the uniform of a recognised youth organisation was less than appealing to them; they had no wish to be organised by "them". In any case, potential leaders were scarce and hesitated before starting clubs with the limited, if not impossible, aim of "keeping kids off the streets". Many teachers, youth leaders and educationalists were aware of this as a general concern, which was by no means limited to Marylebone, but all needed help to deal with the problem.

Providing an adventure..

The answer was to provide the young people with a scheme of activities which was comprehensive, structured yet adaptable, and progressive with goals to achieve. If their natural desire was to seek adventure, then let the Scheme provide it. If they were prepared to accept a challenge, then offer it. If they felt the need to be valued and gain satisfaction from helping others, then let the Scheme open their eyes to such possibilities. Thus the "Adventure Service Challenge" scheme came into being.

What was started for a group of boys and girls in Marylebone was soon found to meet the needs of young people elsewhere - in youth clubs, schools, church groups and uniformed organisations - anywhere where young people asked "What can we do?" and leaders asked "What can I provide?"

Then and now..

The ASC Scheme has met, and continues to meet, a need. It offers a structured activity programme suitable for all young people, whether they be "average kids", high flyers, or have special needs, its adaptability allowing leaders to tailor it to their local needs. The members are not asked to pass set tests, nor to compete with others, but to gain, by their own efforts, experience in reaching the progressive goals of the Scheme. There are no uniforms to wear and no inspectors checking performance. The goals are set by the local leaders, who have knowledge of the young people themselves. The intention is that every member should be stretched but have goals which he or she can attain - if they accept the challenge.

"The 'Shield' Activity"

The 'Shield' is the section of the ASC scheme which works on the assumption that all human beings have values and beliefs, and no one is fully self-aware until they have thought about themselves, understood something about the society in which they live, and explored those shared values and beliefs which promote the uniqueness of all human beings.

The title for the 'Shield' section is taken from St. Paul's picture of "the shield of faith", and indicates that role that religious faith can play in every part of human life. On all sides, young people can see evidence of the influence which the Christian faith has exercised over Western history, culture and values; and the influence which other faiths have in their own communities and more widely in a multi-faith society. Whether drawing from the Christian tradition, from one of the other major faiths, or from another perspective, the 'Shield' activities should be seen as an integral element of ASC, and not as an isolated activity. For instance, the command to "love your neighbour" is expressed in the activities of the sections on Service, First Aid, Emergencies, and in the general building of relationships. The 'Shield' also provides leaders with the opportunity to present and promote social and personal moral values, and their source.

Leaders are given a large measure of freedom in dealing with this activity. It is recognised that some may find this a demanding section to undertake. Accordingly, groups sponsored by religious bodies may wish to follow their own courses, perhaps drawing on a nationally-devised or denominational scheme. Similarly in a national scheme, and in multi-faith areas, sponsors should feel free to substitute their own syllabus if they so desire, provided that it is in the spirit of the 'Shield' activities.

Currently, schools are statutorily required to have an Act of Collective Worship which can also be multi-faith. The Shield section can help as a generic resource for devising assemblies which are for all children and young people.

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