Scouting: Structure in the UK Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Scouting: Structure in the UK

1 Conversation

Over its long history the Scout association has developed a complex structure. This entry is an attempt to explain that structure for new members, confused practitioners or interested passers-by.

Many of the items mentioned below have parallels across the association. It is hoped that only one explanation for each piece will be necessary and that equivalents need only be briefly explained.

The Basic Structure

Let us begin with a summary of the structure starting at the top.

The World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM) is the governing body of Scouting across the world. Below that are 155 National Scout Organisations including the Scout Association which controls scouting throughout the UK. In the UK Scouting is divided into 114 Counties (or Areas in Scotland and Wales). Each county is sub-divided into districts. The next smallest sections are Groups, which often represent one Town or Village. Each group is made up of Sections. Each Section covers one of the Scouting age groups within a group. A Patrol is a group of five to eight Scouts who act as a separate unit within the Scout section. In Cub Scouts these groupings are known as Sixes and in Beaver Scouts as Lodges. A Scout is, technically, any member of the Scout Association but is commonly only used to refer to members of the Scout section. The other age groups are usually referred to by dropping the word Scout from their formal name, ie Cub Scout becomes Cub.

Let us look in more detail.


These are the ordinary young people who comprise the core of the movement. The term Scout can apply to any member of the movement but is usually, including the remainder of this entry, only applied to the members aged ten to 14. Here are the different age groups; however there is some flexibility in the age range.

Core Age RangeSection
5-8Beaver Scout
8-10Cub Scout
14-18Explorer Scout
18-25Network Scout


A patrol is a group of approximately five to eight Scouts that can act as an independent unit in activities and competitions. Patrols take their names from animals. There are several recognised patrol names that have formal badges. Failing that any name can be used and a blank badge issued.

A Patrol is headed by a Patrol Leader (PL). The patrol leader has a deputy, known as an Assistant Patrol Leader (APL). PLs wear two stripes on their left arm and APLs wear one.

Also, a troop may have a Senior Patrol Leader; this is usually the most experienced PL. They can either still be in a PL position or they can be taken out of the patrol system. They are used to guide the other PLs and pass on their experience. They can also be given a specific job within the troop. For example if one of the PLs is skilled in one area they could be in charge of training in that area and may be promoted to SPL. Also an SPL may have ceremonial duties. SPLs wear three stripes.

A Patrol may be set a task or challenge. The PL divides up and priorities the jobs that are needed. In conjunction with the APL the PL then supervises the jobs being carried out. PLs may also be called upon to train the other members of their patrol in certain skills.


Patrol LeaderCubSixer
Assistant Patrol LeaderCubSeconder

Patrols and PLs are expected to cope independently with more complex tasks than a Six and Sixer. For instance a Patrol may be told 'put up that tent' where as for Cubs the task may be broken down in to smaller steps, ie, they may be told 'put the pegs in to hold the tent up.'

Sixes and Lodges are named after colours, to keep it simple for the younger people. The Beavers and Cubs wear a woggle of their six/lodge colour.

The Patrol Leaders Council

The Patrol Leaders Council (PLC) consists of the PLs and APLs. They are allowed to influence how the Troop and Group are run. The intention is that the PLs represent the interests of their Patrol and through them each Scout can have a say. The PLC is unique in that it has no parallels in other sections. Also the members of the PLC are the only youth members given a vote at group meetings.


A Troop is a collection of Patrols, usually six or less. If the troop gets bigger than this, a second troop is often opened.

Responsible for the programme planning and the day-to-day running of the Troop is the Scout Leader (SL). The SL may be helped by Assistant Scout Leaders (ASL). All leaders have or are undertaking training within the Scout Association training scheme. This scheme aims to maintain high standards of programming, knowledge and Scouting principles.

The leaders may be supplemented in two ways. Firstly they can be assisted by adult helpers. These helpers are usually parents of the young members. They are often used to bolster the supervision or to pass on a particular skill. Secondly there is a young leader scheme. This is open to members of the Explorer section (see below). They are put onto a modified version of the leader training scheme with the aim that by the time they leave Explorer Scouts they will have completed a significant portion of the leader training. As part of their training they go to help other sections.


Scout LeaderBeaverBeaver Scout Leader
 CubCub Scout Leader
 ExplorerExplorer Scout Leader
Assistant Scout LeaderBeaverAssistant Beaver Scout Leader
 CubAssistant Cub Scout Leader
 ExplorerAssistant Explorer Scout Leader

The leaders of the Cub Pack are traditionally known by names from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. The CSL will be called Akela after the leader of the Wolf pack. Other leaders pick or are given names of other characters but never Mowglie as that is assigned to the Cubs themselves.


The group is a collection of one or more sections within a geographical area. This is usually a town, village or collection of small villages. There can be multiple groups in cities or large towns. A Group should always have at least a Scout Troop and most will also have a cub pack.

The group is headed by a Group Scout Leader (GSL). The GSL has direct control over the section leaders. The GSL may, in larger groups, have assistants (AGSL) who usually have specific responsibilities delegated by the GSL.

The Management of the group is also handled by the Executive Committee. The committee consists of chair, secretary, treasurer and a representative contingent of other committee members - the more the merrier. The committee is responsible for fund raising and the preservation of the Group's assets.

Districts and counties also have their own executive committees with similar responsibilities and structure.

Groups are named after the area they cover. This is preceded by an ordinal number. The ordinal number can be increased in one of two ways. If a group forms in an area where no group has been before it is the first. For instance, in the village of Nonesuch the first group to be formed would be called 1st Nonesuch Scout Group. If that group folds and another group opens later it takes the next highest ordinal number, ie, 2nd Nonesuch. Alternatively an area may be large enough to support two or more groups at one time so they gain sequential numbers, ie, 1st Bigcity and 2nd Bigcity. In this case they may also supplement their name with the suburb or Sub-area they cover or the street in which the headquarters is sited.

Some groups specialise in particular activity areas and are known as Sea and Air Scouts. There are also other specialist groups that often cover different age groups such as university and hospital groups. These groups aim to allow people to keep their Scouting links when a link to a regular group is not possible.


The district co-ordinates the running of several groups within a geographically defined area. The district is headed by a District Commissioner (DC). Duties are deputised to Assistant District Commissioners (ADC). It is common practice for each section to have its own ADC. Specific duties are often added to the job title in brackets, eg the ADC responsible for the Scout section may be referred to as ADC (Scouts).

Under the control of the district we also find the Explorer Scouts. Explorers are unusual in that they are like a section in size but like a group in structure. They are led by an Explorer Scout Leader and an Assistant Explorer Scout Leader. These however, act as guiding hands and to ensure rules are stuck to. The explorers almost autonomously decide what they do themselves.


Counties are usually the same as the local government counties although they sometimes differ for historical or organisational reasons. A County Commissioner (CC) who is helped by one or more Assistant County Commissioners (ACC) head them. ACCs will often be assigned specific areas of responsibility, including overviews of each section similar to their district counterparts.

In Scotland and Wales they do not have counties but use Areas in parallel.


The UK National organisation is known as the Scout Association, this is headed by The Chief Scout1. This role has, fundamentally, not changed since its inception. The Chief Scout determines where Scouting will go next and promotes its policies and benefits.

The Council of The Scout Association, consisting of nominated representatives from around the country, is responsible for appointing the Chief Scout.

The Chief Scout's Committee and The Chief Scout are jointly responsible for the appointment of County Commissioners.

Since May 2009, The Chief Scout has been the survival expert and outdoor adventurer Bear Grylls2.

The Chief Scout should not be confused with Chief Scout of the World of which there has been only one, Lord Baden-Powell.

1Full title: Chief Scout of the United Kingdom and Overseas Territories.2Another famous name associated with Scouting in the UK is the Duchess of Cambridge, who is to spend time as a volunteer with her local cub packs and beaver colonies.

Bookmark on your Personal Space

Edited Entry


Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry

Categorised In:

Written by

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more