Headquarters London
Country United Kingdom
Founded 1910
Founder Robert Baden-Powell; Agnes Baden-Powell
Membership 553,633
(at 31 December 2013)[1]
Chief Guide Valerie Le Vaillant
Chief Executive Julie Bentley
President Sophie, Countess of Wessex
Patron Queen Elizabeth II
Affiliation World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts

Girlguiding is the operating name of The Guide Association (originally The Girl Guides Association), the national Guiding organisation of the United Kingdom. Guiding began in the UK in 1910 as an organisation especially for girls run along similar lines to The Scout Association. The Guide Association was a founder member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) in 1928. At the end of 2013, the Association had more than 553,000 members and continues to be the largest girl only youth organisation in the UK.[1]

At present about one in four of all eight-year-old girls in the UK are Brownies.[2] Although, since January 2007, The Scout Association requires its registered Scout groups in the UK to accept girls, this has not affected the numbers of girls joining Girlguiding.

Girlguiding is a charitable organisation and adult leaders are not paid for their time. For this reason, and for its work aiming for the personal and social development of young people, Girlguiding is a member of The National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS).[3]


Girl Guides in camp, 1930

Following the origin of the Boy Scouts in 1907 many girls took up Scouting. A group of Girl Scouts were prominent at the Crystal Palace Rally in 1909. After Robert Baden-Powell formed The Boy Scouts Association in 1910 he formed the Girl Guides and asked his sister Agnes to look after the Girl Guides organisation. A few years later Baden-Powell's new wife Olave became involved and, in 1918, was appointed Chief Guide.[4][5]

The name Guides was chosen from Baden-Powell's military background, "Guides" had operated in the north-west frontier in India, their main task was to go on hazardous expeditions. These men had particularly influenced Baden-Powell as they continued training minds and body even when off duty. As a result, Baden Powell decided Girl Guides would be a suitable name for the pioneering young women's movement he wished to establish.[4]

In 1914 Rosebuds were established for girls aged 8–10, this name was later changed to Brownies. Two years later in 1916 the first Senior Guide groups were formed, in 1920 these groups became Rangers. 1943 saw the establishment of the Trefoil Guild for members over 21 (now 18) who wished to remain a part of the movement but couldn't remain active with a unit. The section for the youngest members of the association, Rainbows, was introduced in 1987 for girls aged 5–7 (4-7 in Ulster).[4]

In 1936 the then Girl Guides Association was one of the founding members of The National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS), which was created with the aim of promoting and supporting youth development work across England. Girlguiding has remained a member of NCVYS ever since.[3]

In 1964, a "Working Party" was established to review and update the whole programme of the association; their 195-page report was published in 1966 under the title Tomorrow's Guide. These recommendations were implemented in 1968 and included new uniforms, badges and awards across all the sections of the association. Land, Sea and Air Rangers were merged into a single Ranger section.[6]


Girls are organised into sections by age. These are Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and the Senior Section.

Rainbow Guides

Rainbow Guides or Rainbows are aged from 5 to 7 year old, except in Northern Ireland where girls can join from age 4. Activities are organised around work the four areas of the Rainbow Jigsaw – Look, Learn, Laugh and Love. In the UK the girls used to wear a tabard in one of the colours of the Rainbow, however the newer uniform is worn. There is a baseball cap, cycle shorts, hoodie, jogging bottoms, and polo shirt to choose from.

Each girl makes a promise on joining a Rainbow Guide Unit and must be able to understand and want to make this promise. This Promise is a simpler version of the one all members make.

The Rainbow Jigsaw is used in the unit via the Rainbow Roundabout. The Rainbows themselves choose an activity from one of each of the four Jigsaw areas. These activities are then carried out alongside the normal activities. When all four have been completed the Rainbow is awarded a badge showing the symbols of each of the Jigsaw areas. It is intended that each Rainbow completes 2 Roundabouts in their life as a Rainbow. Roundabouts have a theme, ones produced so far are Roundabout Festivals, Roundabout the World, Roundabout Rainbows, Roundabout Get Healthy and Roundabout Global Adventure. Rainbows can also receive other badges for activities that they attend (possibly with other units), and other activities they complete within their unit, maybe after a themed half term. During 2008, a special challenge book Olivia's Favourites was produced to commemorate the 21st Birthday of the section and a badge was produced.

At the end of the Rainbow programme, as the girls get ready to move on to the Brownie section, girls undertake the personal Pot of Gold Challenge.

Brownie Guides

Brownie Guides or Brownies are from 7 to 10 years old. Brownies work from the Brownie Adventure which is divided into three areas: You, Community and World.[7] Brownies can also work towards activity badges covering a variety of subjects.

Brownies units are called Packs. Packs are divided into Sixes, small groups of girls who work together. Sixes are traditionally named after fairies e.g. Gnomes, Leprechauns; however many Packs have adopted the new naming style, woodland animals. Each six has a leader called a 'sixer' and a seconder. The adult leader in charge is usually called Brown Owl. Other leaders are often named after different owls. These two elements are taken from the Brownie Story, in which two children visit the Brown Owl in the wood to learn how they can help doing the housework. It is becoming more common for Leaders to be named after different animals.

Brownies have mix and match clothing based around the colours of yellow and brown. Items include baseball caps, gilets, cycle shorts, hoodies, leggings, long sleeved tops, short sleeved tops, skorts, trousers and a sash. Brownie packs may also wear neckers.


Guides are from 10 to 14years old. Guides work from the 5 Zones: Healthy Lifestyles, Global Awareness, Skills and Relationships, Celebrating diversity and Discovery. Guides can choose to work on Challenge Badges, Go For Its, Interest badges and the Baden-Powell Challenge which is the highest award that a Guide can gain. They take part in indoor and outdoor activities that challenge them to do their best. Guides choose and plan most of their own activities, which can include themed evenings and trips.

Guide units meet regularly, usually once a week during school terms. There are often other opportunities for Guides to take part in special activities and events throughout the year. Many Guide units go away on holiday, to camp or on overnight sleepovers.

Guides work in small groups between 4 and 8 called a patrol. Patrol names vary between different units but include flowers, like rose and poppy, animals, like panda and parrot and famous landmarks, like pyramids. Each patrol is run by a patrol leader who is assisted by her patrol seconder. The Patrol Leader can be elected by her patrol, elected by the whole unit or chosen by the leadership team. The Patrol Leader is given extra assistance from the leader team to develop her Leadership skills.

Senior Section

For girls between 14 and 26 years old, there are a variety of schemes and groups to choose from.

This group choose to wear a hoodie, jacket, polo shirt, rugby shirt, or smart shirt. There is also a baseball cap.

Senior Section Awards and Qualifications


The Guide uniform has evolved over the years, from its first design by Baden-Powell and his sister: long dresses, neckerchiefs (like the Scouts) and wide hats. The current uniform was launched in August 2014.[9] The previous uniform was designed by Ally Capellino in 2000. There are no compulsory trousers, but Guides wear what is appropriate for the activities. Optional caps, gilets and other accessories can be bought from Guide uniform stockists as well as online. However, the gilet is often used to display badges, and is a popular uniform choice.


All members of the guide association make a promise upon joining, the current promises for each section are:[10]


I promise that I will do my best,
to think about my beliefs,
and to be kind and helpful.

Brownies, Guides, Senior Section and Leaders:

I promise that I will do my best;
To be true to myself and develop my beliefs,
To serve the Queen and my community,
To help other people and
To keep the (Brownie) Guide Law.

History of the Promise

In 1994, the promise was changed from 'To do my duty to God' to 'To love my God', in order to accommodate different faiths, and the word 'God' was allowed to be replaced with a faith's own word for their god (e.g. Allah). Some do not feel they are able to make a promise that mentions god, particularly atheists[11] and this has attracted criticism from the National Secular Society.[12]

In 2013 a nationwide consultation of the promise was carried out by Girlguiding. This took the form of a questionnaire with 44,000 respondents being asked for opinions on each line of the promise (not just 'Love my God'), and gave a number of options of different wordings.[13] Effective from 1 September 2013, the words ‘to be true to myself and develop my beliefs’ replaced ‘to love my God’, and the words ‘to serve the Queen and my community’ replaced ‘to serve the Queen and my country’. The rewording has been criticised by some Christian organisations.[14]

Brownie Guide Law

A Brownie Guide thinks of others before herself, and does a good turn every day.[15]

Guide Law for Guides, Senior Section and Leaders

  1. A Guide is honest, reliable and can be trusted.
  2. A Guide is helpful and uses her time and abilities wisely.
  3. A Guide faces challenges and learns from her experiences.
  4. A Guide is a good friend and a sister to all Guides.
  5. A Guide is polite and considerate.
  6. A Guide respects all living things and takes care of the world around her.[16]

Administrative Structure in the UK

For effective administration of Girlguiding, the UK is split into smaller areas. At the top level there are ten Countries and Regions.

The Countries are:

The Regions are:

Countries and Regions are split into Counties. These in turn are split into Divisions. Divisions are split into Districts. In some areas with few members, County, Division or District level may be omitted because effective communication occurs without it. Each area is led by a Commissioner.

Girlguiding outside of the United Kingdom

Girlguiding is also active outside the United Kingdom. In nine British overseas territories, there are branch associations with slightly different Guiding programmes adapted to the local conditions. Most of the branch associations use different uniforms or lighter textiles.

Branch Associations are active in

More details can be found in The Branch Association Members website:

British Royal Family in Guiding

Guiding in the UK has had a long association with the British Royal Family, in 1920 Princess Mary, daughter of George V became President of the Association, 1937 saw Princess Elizabeth, who would go on to be Queen Elizabeth II become a Guide, and Princess Margaret become a Brownie. Princess Elizabeth joined the 1st Buckingham Palace Unit, whose first meeting was held on 9 June. She became the Second of Kingfisher Patrol, and was enrolled by her Aunt Princess Mary, Association President, on 13 December. At the start of World War II the company was closed, and the Queen and Princess Margaret were attached to a Balmoral Company. In 1942 the Buckingham Palace company reopened at Windsor, the Queen became Patrol Leader of Swallow Patrol. In 1943 the Queen became a Sea Ranger undertaking usual activities including gaining her boating permit and taking out the Queen Mother in a dinghy. She became Chief Ranger of the British Empire in 1946. When she married Lieutenant Mountbatten two of her bridesmaids were former members of the Buckingham Palace company. In 1952 when she ascended the throne she became the association patron.[17]

When Princess Mary died Princess Margaret became the new President in 1965. In turn on the death of Princess Margaret, HRH Sophie the Countess of Wessex, wife to Prince Edward became President in 2003.[4] The highest award in Guiding, the Queen's Guide award was created in 1946, this is now presented by the Association President.

Centenary celebrations

Girlguiding started to celebrate its centenary in September 2009.[18] The historic maze at Crystal Palace was re-opened on 5 September, remembering the 1909 Crystal Palace Scout Rally.

The Centenary Camp was held from 31 July 2010 - 7 August 2010 at Harewood House.

The tall ship Lord Nelson made a 100-day voyage around the coast of the UK to celebrate the centenary. The Lord Nelson set sail from Glasgow on 7 June 2010.[19] She has called at Oban, Aberdeen, Newcastle, Boston, London, Chatham, Portsmouth, Falmouth, Milford Haven and Whitehaven.[20] At each port she took on new crew, many of whom had never sailed before.

See also


External links

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