In the UK scouting is the biggest co-educational youth movement with around 450,000 members. In France it is not on such a big scale but scout groups do exist, including English-speaking ones which are part of British Scouting Overseas in Paris, Chantilly and Toulouse.
Gillian Barratt runs the scouts at Maisons-Laffitte in the Paris suburbs and says it is popular, with a waiting list for the beavers and cubs. She says activities are varied and based on values which mean that the children learn respect for others and themselves and the world around them: “They work in teams which helps them to work together and they learn a lot of skills such as first aid and how to read a map. A lot of activities are outdoors and involve adventure or sport and there are also creative activities where they might put on a play.”
There is something for all ages and scouts accept both boys and girls. There are beavers (6-8), cubs (8-10½), scouts (10½ to 14) and explorer scouts (14-18).
In 2015, a group of scouts from Paris went to the World Scouts Jamboree in Japan.
Mrs Barratt says that though the British Scouting Overseas groups in France hold their sessions in English, the children are a mixture of nationalities with many coming from families who have lived abroad and want to keep up their English language skills. If anyone wanted to set up a group elsewhere in France, Mrs Barratt thinks this would be possible.
The French organisation, Scouts et Guides de France is actively looking for people to set up groups. In the past 10 years their membership has increased by 30% and many existing groups are full. Their communications officer, François Mandil, says if any Connexion reader is interested they would get help, support and training regardless of scouting experience.
“I think our success is based on the fact that it is affordable, educative, there is a good team spirit and people trust our organisation to look after their children.”
Scouts et Guides de France is the biggest of eight associations – for historical reasons there isn’t just one movement as in the UK – affiliated to different religions: Protestant, Lay, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist and three are Roman Catholic, Scouts et Guides de France being one of them. However, they are all open to anyone, whatever their religion.