First Class/First Year Explained

First Class Rank in the First Year?

Nov 15, 2012 06:29 am | (Clarke Green)

Twenty years ago (or more) the B.S.A. concluded that Scouts ought to earn First Class rank in the first year based on a statistical ‘leading indicator’, a connection between when Scouts become First Class and how long they stay in Scouting.

Statistics can be a little ham-handed, they only reflect phenomena leaving us to interpret what’s really happening.

Accepting the premise that Scouts ought to earn First Class rank in the first year may drive a couple of different attitudes;

  1. Establishing a plan to get Scouts to First Class as quickly as possible, stepping them through requirements and moving them along because, well, Scouts ought to do this because that’s what we are told.
  2. Rejecting the idea as a statistically driven mandate that has no real effective purpose.

I don’t think either of these attitudes are particularly useful. It’s not a good idea to push Scouts to advance by creating a plan that moves them along a timeline. It’s equally shortsighted to think the B.S.A. just wants to drive numbers and they are asking us to do things to make the bottom line look better.

So why First Class in the First year? What does it matter?

If we unpack this ‘leading indicator’ we may begin to understand exactly what is being indicated and why it’s important.

  • To become First Class in the first year a Scout has to be a member of an active troop that goes camping regularly, that provides plenty of opportunities to learn and use Scouting skills, that effectively presents the full Scouting program touching on all the aims and methods. Scouts earning First Class in the first year are one sign of a healthy troop.
  • Scouting promises a number of things to a Scout and they are all associated with requirements up to First Class rank. A Scout earning First Class in the first year is an indication these promises are being delivered.

We can also contextualize the idea of a ‘leading indicator’ – it is just that; a reliable indication of what’s happening. It is not, however the only or necessarily the best indicator.

All that being said I think that Scouts earning First Class in the first year is an important aspiration and one that should be promoted. A healthy troop that is delivering the promises of Scouting will have Scouts earning First Class in the first year pretty regularly not because it is something they specifically drive towards but as a natural result of the health of the program.

What’s left to us is to look at our troops and see if we are getting Scouts to this benchmark. If we aren’t what should we start doing, stop doing or continue doing to make it happen?

Should Scouts earn First class in the first year?


Should we come up with a specific, time driven plan that makes this happen because it ought to?


What we ought to do is stop doing things that make this less likely and start doing things that make it more likely.