New to Guiding: What are the Five Essentials?

We don’t talk about them much, but they are at the core of everything we do.

Every meeting contains at least one of them.  Often more.

They are common to all sections, from the smallest Rainbow to the oldest Leader.

Without them, we are well on our way to becoming just another youth club.

What are they?

The Five Essentials

  • working together in small groups
  • encouraging self-government and decision-making
  • a balanced and varied programme
  • caring for the individual
  • sharing a commitment to a common standard

Why work in small groups?

Small groups give a sense of belonging.  Ask anyone who used to be a Brownie or a Guide about their Six or Patrol.

“I was an Imp,” she will proudly say, or “I was a blue tit”.

Rainbows and the Senior Section don’t have ready-built groups, but they still work together, splitting off as needed for whatever activity they’re doing.

Teamwork in action.
Teamwork in action.

It’s about teamwork, confidence, and responsibility.

My Brownies are forever asking “when will I get to be Sixer?”.  They want the opportunity to lead.  If there was only the one large group, they wouldn’t get that.

Doesn’t self-government lead to chaos?

Well… sometimes.

The important thing is that it is age-appropriate.  While Senior Section might be able to run their own programme with only minimal support from the leaders, Rainbows need to be presented with some options before they can choose.

Occasionally we get the Brownies to be in charge for an evening.   They need lots of support to plan activities, but usually do very well running them.

Sometimes not.  Hence the chaos.

A balanced and varied programme

Usually, if you let the girls plan the programme, this one comes automatically.  With so many of them, there are many different opinions on what to do.

Sally wants to do craft.  Janet wants to go abseiling.  Katy wants to cook cakes.  Lucy wants to raise money for some animal related charity.

The trick, as a leader, is keeping track of everything they want to do and making sure that it’s not too heavily slanted towards anything in particular.

Caring for the individual

It’s hard, sometimes, to care for all the individuals in your unit.  There is often one girl who is loud, rude, or unhelpful.  She’ll argue at everything you say and talk over everyone else.

And then you discover that she has six older brothers and a deaf mother, and if she wasn’t loud she would never get heard.

At Brownies, everyone gets a turn.  Nobody has to fight to be listened to, because everyone is valued equally.

It’s hard.

It’s hard to find the time to get to know all of the girls in your unit individually.  That’s one of the reasons I love Brownie Holidays – plenty of time!

Sometimes it's important to just sit and chat.
Sometimes it’s important to just sit and chat.

What’s often harder is to remember that it applies to the leaders too.  Don’t take your leaders for granted!

What is our common standard?

The common standard of Girlguiding is expressed in the words of the Promise, on which topic I have talked before.

Have a look at your programme for last term.  Did you include all of the five essentials?  Can you do better this term?


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