The Explorer Scout section follows on from the Scout section, and is in turn followed by Scout Network. Explorer Scouts meet as Units, and are organised and run at the District level. However, Explorer Scouts are expected to participate in "linking" activities with local Scout Groups. The section also runs a Young Leader programme which provides support for the junior sections.
Explorer Scouts are able to attain the Queen's Scout Award, which is the highest Scouting Award in The Scout Association. There are also a number of activity and skill badges which can be awarded to the young people upon meeting requirements in a variety of disciplines from horse-riding to first aid.
Explorer Scouts fall under the control of the Scout District, while Venture Scouts were part of a Scout Group. However, Explorer Scout Units (ESUs) can have formal partnership agreements with local Scout Groups. The most common partnership agreement is the use of a Scout Group's Hut or Hall for meetings, while more involved agreements, such as giving access to equipment and providing help for events and activities, can also be undertaken.
Districts are able to have as many Explorer Scout Units as they see fit. Explorer Scout membership is flexible within districts, allowing members of one unit to participate in the programme of any other within the district. In some instances, this flexibility extends to neighbouring Districts.
While the majority of units meet regularly to provide the core Scouting programme, districts can create specialised units. The programme and purpose of these additional units vary to meet specific requirements. For example, a climbing acivity unit can be created which provides climbing activity leaders and arranges for visits to indoor and outdoor climbing venues. Another specialised unit is the Young Leaders Unit. The implementation of the Young Leaders Unit varies from district to district, with some acting like a normal unit which also provides the Young Leader training, while others meet less frequently.
Ideally, each unit will have an Explorer Scout Leader (ESL), and a number of Assistants and/or Helpers. Membership varies greatly, but the average is between 10 and 20 members in the main units. Specialised units have much more variation in membership due to the nature of their programmes.
The units within a district are co-ordinated by a District Explorer Scout Commissioner (DESC), who reports to the District Commissioner and is supported by the Assistant County Commissioner (Explorer Scouts)and District Explorer Scout Leaders (DESL). The DESC is also supported by a District Explorer Scout Administrator (DESA), whose primary function is to keep track of Scouts who are nearing the age of admission to Explorer Scouts, and also once they have joined the section.
All members and leaders of Explorer Scouting undertake the Scout Promise when joining the unit, and renew it on St George's Day and when other new members come in. Explorer Scouts and Explorer Scout Leaders are expected to observe the Scout Law
The Membership Award is only actually received by young people new to Scouting, whereas those Explorer Scouts who have joined from a Scout Troop will undertake the Moving-On Award.
However, the Awards cover the same basic principles, and Units may have all new Explorers participate in the Membership Award, regardless of how they came to join the Unit.
The three stages of the Awards open to Explorer Scouts are (in ascending order):
Each level requires that Explorers demonstrate community, faith, self-motivation, personal discipline, and many other qualities.
The Duke of Edinburgh's Award works alongside the Scout Awards, and completion of certain sections of either Award can contribute to the other.
The Explorer Belt is a long-standing award for Scouts which has now been adapted for the new programme.
It is open to all members of Scouting between the ages of 16-25, and is aimed at promoting self-reliance, teamwork, and adventurous spirit.
The Explorer Belt requires participants to undertake a 10 day expedition in a foreign country, devoting some time to travelling around and exploring. Participants also have to undertake a major project of their own choosing, along with a number of smaller projects or challenges - some of which are not revealed to them until the start of the expedition.
Explorer Scouts were eligible for participation in the World Scout Jamboree 2007 - the largest gathering of Scouts from around the world, and the largest scout gathering in the UK since 1957.
Sun Run is a massive event for Explorer Scouts in the United Kingdom held every year in July. Over a thousand Explorers camp in a field in Gloucestershire. The weekend starts with a party on the Friday night, usually including a DJ and some cover bands. The main event, a 26.2 mile night hike (a full marathon) through the surrounding hillsides, starts with participants watching the sun set. The aim is to complete the route, arriving in time to watch the sunrise. There is also an half marathon race(13.1 mile) hike caled the Moon Run.
The event takes place at the home of UK Scouting, Gilwell Park campsite. It comprises a set of activities and challenges over a 24 hour period. In 2008, over 2300 Explorer Scouts and Senior Section Guides took part in Gilwell 24. Gilwell 24 2009 will take place on 11th of July 2009. One of the activities is the Gilwell Gauntlet, a series of challenges that takes place from 3AM, as teams from different explorer groups compete to win points by completing activities, such as Identifying song titles, logic puzzles and physical tasks.
Apex Challenge events are amongst the toughest of all adventure competitions in the UK.. The team from South Yorkshire Scout County run two National events every year. Each one attracts more than 200 Explorer Scouts and members of the Scout Network. There are dozens of adventurous activities on offer including rock climbing, assault courses, canoeing and off-road driving challenges.
5678 was first set up and ran on the 5th and 6th of August 2008 (Hence the name 5678). The course was a mainly a 30km bike ride from Bamburgh, Northumberland along the east coast ending at Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear. However along the way the participants partook in different activities from shooting, logic and team activities to surfing. It has been hinted that the event will be re-ran in future years.
This event is growing in popularity, with many categories for Scouts aged 12 and up.
The Explorer Scout Programme includes many other activities - too many to fully list. The most common activities are:
Many Explorer Scouts can become quite proficient in their chosen activities, and many attain instructor's qualifications as recognised by the activity's national governing body (for example, BCU coaches for kayaking).