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We want to reach young people who could benefit most from Scouts. Research suggests that the earlier a young person accesses non-formal education, the more positive the impact on their prospects.

Around the world there are various models of Scouts for four and five year olds, such as Meerkats in South Africa, Lions in the US and Family Scouting in Denmark. Here in the UK, Squirrels has been operating alongside Scouting in Northern Ireland for many years. All have shared positive feedback about this section.

We’ve been exploring Scouts for four and five year olds as a potential new provision, so that we can introduce Scouts to new young people and potentially new adult volunteers who we currently don't engage with. To understand if Scouting for this age group is possible and desirable, we conducted a pilot project that you can read about. 

Taking into account the extensive research, member consultation and the pilots undertaken over the last 18 months, the Board of Trustees has approved the concept of a new section for four and five year olds. We’re delighted to announce that this new section will be called Squirrels.

Our focus

We’re asking members to start to consider if they’re interested in opening Squirrels, but there won’t be any pressure to do so. We’re taking a staggered approach to roll out inviting Scout Groups, who have approval from their District, to join a cohort (1 cohort = 10 Squirrel sections) to start their planning. The cohorts will be supported with a coach, training and resources. We’ll be prioritising new provision that will reach underserved communities most in need. Only those invited into a cohort can start Squirrels at this time.

We want to make sure that members are well supported in their decision making, planning, and delivery, so we’re asking County Commissioners to nominate a Squirrels Adviser who we’ll train to support informed decision and planning.

We’ve been testing options for the Squirrels brand and programme with a wide range of young people and adults from all backgrounds both inside and outside the movement. At the same time we're consulting with experts in early years education and other relevant partners. We’ll share the final brand with the wider movement once the official decision is made by the Strategy Delivery Committee (a newly formed group of volunteers and staff) based on the outcome of the consultation.

To find out more about the research and the early years pilots that tested the impact and name for the new section, take a look at the key findings.

VACANCY: 60 Cohort Coaches needed

We’re looking for volunteers to take on coaching roles to support the first few Squirrels sections get up and running. You don’t need to be physically located next to a new Squirrels section as this role is intended to be an online coach, supported by our national Scout Active Support unit and HQ, using digital tools for discussions on successes, best practice and challenges. 

The role of the ‘Early Years Cohort Coach’ is to support adult volunteers to plan, open, recruit, share best practice, run engaging and safe programmes, that results in high quality Squirrels provision for 4 and 5 year olds.

  • New provision will benefit from support provided by their Scout Group and District team and in addition peer guidance and age specific expertise provided by the cohort.
  • You'll bring together your cohort of volunteers from 10 units geographically spread across the UK using digital platforms such as Zoom.
  • Through online meeting you will facilitate discussions to identify successes, challenges, sign posting available resources and training, sharing best practice on recruitment of adults and young people, particularly in under-represented communities.
  • You'll share insight from your cohort with the HQ Early Years team enabling continuous improvements to national tools, programme and processes.
  • You'll be supported by the HQ Early Years team who will provide a rolling programme of training, guidance, subject matter expertise, social catch up’s, and a cohort coach peer to peer programme.
  • The term of this role is 6 months. At the end of this period you may opt to coach another cohort.
Contact us to apply

Volunteer actions

Meet the board

The Early Years Programme Board is made up of a mixture of staff and volunteers. They've helped to guide the pilot programme to ensure that the Board of Trustees made an informed decision.

  • Andrew Bollington, Programme Sponsor
  • Liam Burns, Senior Responsible Owner, Chief Programme Officer
  • Alan Hands, Programme Delivery Manager
  • Niall Pettitt, Volunteer Head of Curriculum
  • Andrew Lloyd, County Commissioner
  • Jon Ellison, District Commissioner
  • Jacqui Berryman, Beaver Section Leader (+ NI Squirrel Association)
  • Marjorie Guiler, Northern Ireland Squirrel Association
  • Rebecca Dowds, Youth Commissioner
  • Barbara Edgar, Country Assistant Commissioner (Beaver Scouts)