Inspiring a new generation with skills for life

9 September 2021

Today, we’re announcing Squirrels, a brand new programme for children aged 4 and 5 years old. As one of our keenest supporters, we wanted you to understand why we’re taking this important step now and what we are aiming to achieve.

Squirrels offers the best of Scouts – learning by doing and getting into the great outdoors – combined with early years best practice of storytelling, routine, and play. It’s a huge leap forward for us: our first new age range in 35 years. And it is a key part of our response to the challenges facing young people.

The first official Squirrels start this month in over 200 locations across the UK, and we’re prioritising those communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

We know that the most fundamental connections are made during the precious, formative years before five years old. What happens then - positive or otherwise - stays with them for life. Change the start of the story, and we change the whole story.

Giving children the best start in life

Research from Ofsted tells us that the young people hardest hit by the pandemic are not developing the basic skills and learning they need. Early years children have returned less confident and more anxious after lockdowns.

Squirrels offers skills for life when and where it’s needed most. This is our opportunity to help enrich the lives of young people, preparing them for a brighter future. We’re offering this brand new programme, with wellbeing, kindness and social action at its heart.

The journey so far This announcement is the culmination of more than two years piloting Scouts for early years in over forty communities. We have seen pilot groups thrive in Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, and areas of deprivation.

We’ve seen that Squirrels has helped young people to access new and surprising experiences. It’s also helped to bring families together across different communities. We’ve learnt so much about what does and doesn’t work – and this builds on years of pioneering work in Northern Ireland supporting this age range.

We have also seen how Squirrels pilots have reinvigorated districts, enabling us to welcome new volunteers and families. Many more, no doubt, will follow if we attract the right support.

Building closer families, stronger communities and a fairer society

Squirrels comes at a time when inequalities in our society are all too clear. So we’re:

  • Helping 4 and 5 year olds gain key skills like communication, teamwork and resilience through structured play and story telling

  • Giving them a sense of achievement with great role models and a positive environment encouraging kindness and aspiration

  • Strengthening the bond between parents or carers and their children by encouraging family volunteering

  • Creating closer, more connected communities with volunteering at the heart.

Why we need help to make this work

We’re a charity and a volunteer-led youth movement. Squirrels can only succeed in those areas affected by the pandemic with more investment. Anyone interested can head to or contact the Scouts Chief Programme Officer, Liam Burns,

Childhood doesn’t wait, and the sooner we can attract the funding we need, the more young people and families we can help to thrive in the areas where it matters most.

A great leap forward

This is all part of our wider Skills for Life strategy 2018-25 to give more young people the skills to succeed in life, and to make Scouts more inclusive, youth shaped, growing and contributing ever more strongly to our communities.

We hope you’ll agree this is a great leap forward for our movement, and a proud moment for the volunteers, staff and supporters who’ve worked so hard together. It’s the start of a new journey and a moment of renewal, providing great energy and optimism for the future.

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