THE PATROL SYSTEM
1. WHAT IS A PATROL?
Each Guide Unit is made up of two or more Patrols. Briefly, a Patrol is a small group of about 6-8 compatible girls between the ages of 9-11 years of age who work together in cooperation.
2. THE PATROL SYSTEM
The Patrol System is the means by which the responsibilities of the unit, its activities and its behaviour are shared by the Guides. The Patrol gives each girl the opportunity to be an active member – to speak, be heard and influence decisions. It also gives its members a sense of identity and belonging which, in turn, helps build confidence to try new things and develop leadership skills.
3. DECIDING WHO GOES IN WHAT PATROL
A Patrol has a greater chance of being successful if the members belong to the Patrol of their choice. This is probably the best criterion on which to decide who goes where:
When a new girl joins Guides she often has a friend with whom she wants to be. As long as the Patrol is willing, she may join her friend’s Patrol. Some units ask the girl to visit several Patrols before she makes a choice. In other units, the Patrol Leaders make the decision together.
It doesn’t matter if Patrols are of uneven size. A unit with Patrols of varying number of girls, where all are happy, is far better than an even division with some girls discontented. Eight, including the Patrol Leader and Second is the recommended maximum for a Patrol.
Most girls choose to stay with their Patrols but personality conflicts do occur. Girls should be aware they can move to another Patrol at any time if an intolerable situation exists.
4. HOW THE PATROL SYSTEM WORKS
The essence of the Patrol System is that a Patrol is a self-contained unit with a life of its own. It has an elected girl leader (Patrol Leader) and a Second who is chosen by the Patrol Leader. It has its own area in the meeting place (a Patrol Corner), usually a Patrol Box or Bag containing its equipment and other personal belongings such as a pennant or poster. Through the Patrol-in-Council and the Patrol Leader’s Council each Patrol practises democratic decision making.
Patrol Leaders are elected by the Guides themselves. They speak on behalf of the members of their patrol at meetings of the Patrol Leader’s Council which manages the affairs and plans the programme of the unit.
Before electing for Patrol Leader are held, the unit could have discussions on the qualities and responsibilities of a Patrol Leader. One way to do this is to give each Patrol the following task:
Make a list of the qualities of a good Patrol Leader. What sort of girl do you want your leader to be?
Make a list of the things a Patrol Leader has to do.
Make a list of ways in which you can help a Patrol Leader to do her job well.
After each Patrol has had time to discuss these and to write down their thoughts, gather the Patrols together for a general discussion. (Keep in mind that Guides will want the same qualities in their Patrol Leaders as the Patrol Leaders will hope to find in you.)
Patrol Leaders Responsibilities
Each unit will have a different set of tasks expected of its Patrol Leaders but this list gives anexample of what might be expected:
Keep Patrol corner, Patrol Box and equipment in good order.
Collect, record and balance Patrol’s weekly subscriptions (a Guider should keep an audit check on the accounts at regular intervals)
Lead Patrol Games.
Help members learn.
Keep Patrol members informed of future events and pass on messages from the Guiders as necessary.
Represent your Patrol at the Patrol Leaders’ Council.
Organize your Patrol routine duties.
Help new members feel at home.
Find out what Patrol members are interested in doing.
Wear the uniform properly and encourage others to do the same.
Be a good listener and make sure everyone has their say at Patrol-in-Council.
The best kinds of leader share their responsibilities with others. The Patrol Leader is responsible for seeing that the job is done; this doesn’t mean that she has to do it all herself. A good Patrol Leader shares leadership, particularly with her Second. The Patrol Second deputises for the Patrol Leader if she is absent, so each Patrol Leader choose her own Second. Make sure that the Second (and the whole Patrol) knows that when the Patrol Leader retires she retires as well and does not automatically become Patrol Leader.
What is Patrol-in-Council?
The Patrol-in-Council is a meeting of the Patrol to discuss matters which will be considered at the Patrol Leaders’ Council. It usually takes place during unit meetings at ‘Patrol Time’ in an informal way.
It helps the Patrol Leader to hold a productive Patrol-in-Council if she:
Has a special notebook in which to record her Patrol’s ideas
Knows the importance of listening to each of her Patrol members
Has a list (agenda) of possible topics.
It also helps if all the Guides know their responsibilities in making the Patrol System work.
What is the Patrol Leaders’ Council?
The Patrol Leaders’ Council (PLC) is the unit’s governing body and as such is a decision making council. Each Patrol Leader represents her Patrol at this meeting and speaks on behalf of her Patrol members.
The meeting is chaired by either the Guider (usually, but not necessarily the Guider in charge) or an elected Patrol Leader who has the ability to do so. The chairperson has a list of items to be discussed and this agenda should be given to the Patrols ahead of time so that the Guides can make their views known. The Patrol Leader bases her discussion of these items on the opinions of her Patrol.
A secretary is chosen (one of the Patrol Leaders or any member of the unit chosen by the PLC) to act as recorder of the discussion and of the decisions taken. It is good training for a girl if a Guider (not the chairperson) helps her take notes of the meeting.
The Company Treasurer (not necessarily a Guider, could be a Unit Helper) usually presents a brief financial statement. each Patrol Leader presents a report on her Patrol. Sometimes Brownie or Senior Guides Guiders or Ranger Guiders are invited if matters of joint concern are to be discussed.
The Patrol Leaders’ Council meets whenever several items of business need to be discussed. This may be termly, monthly or whenever necessary. An informal Council may be held to talk about something on which the girls’ opinions are needed. It is better if the PLC is held outside unit meetings and preferably on a different day to the Patrol-in-Council meeting. Some Guiders prefer to hold the PLC in their own homes; this provides a change of scene and informality which the Patrol Leaders will appreciate.