Updated: Sep 9, 2021
We know from research that key skills and attitudes are formed in the early years of life. Already, Scouts around the world are exploring how they can work with children at a younger age. It's a critical time to master essential skills for progression in later life.
In Skills for Life, our new plan shaped by members, we said we would start exploring early years provision once we had secured external funding. Today, the Department for Education has agreed to help fund 20 pilots in England with groups from disadvantaged areas, it will provide spaces for 288 young people aged four and five, and their families.
Early years pilots
The pilots will allow us to test different models for four and five-year-olds to see what works best. We can also learn more about the impact and opportunities for local Scouting more generally. We are going to test and evaluate three models. The first will be similar to the Squirrels programme, run by a separate organisation working under a Memorandum of Understanding with Scouts NI. The second will be similar to the programme in Denmark and the USA (called 'Lions'). The third will be trialling Scouting in non-traditional locations, such as children's centres.
We will also test ways of recruiting more volunteers from different backgrounds. In America, 75% of new parents from their early years programme went on to become volunteers and 61% of members are families new to Scouting, so we're hoping to see positive results here in the UK too – which could bring more adults into the movement.
Speaking about the pilot scheme, Tim Kidd, UK Chief Commissioner said: ‘At the Scouts, we prepare young people for the future by equipping them with skills they need to succeed. We believe that this early years pilot will help us create a programme that will continue to support the development of the UK’s young people through this key, formative stage of their life.’
Chief Scout, Bear Grylls said:
‘The pilot will help us find the right formula for this work and I truly believe that young people aged four and five will benefit hugely from the fun, adventure and skills we develop in Scouting.’
At the end of the pilot period – which will last for at least a year – we will consult with those who took part and with our partners, before making a final decision on the potential of a wider UK roll out, or whether more testing is required. There's no official name for the proposed section yet - we'll be testing options for this too.
Opportunities to get involved
Groups interested in trying out different ways of delivering a new programme for four and five-year-olds are encouraged to use a form to express their interest. Groups in more deprived parts of the UK are particularly encouraged to take part in these pilots.
Scout Groups do not have permission to start early years provision outside of these pilots. Unofficial provision is against our rules, could affect the pilots and is not insured. The existing Squirrels programme, run under a Memorandum of Understanding with Scouts NI is not affected by these pilot schemes in England.