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Early Years

Exploring Scouts for four and five year olds


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 two years of piloting, the Board of Trustees approved a new section for four and five year olds – now called Squirrels.

Our focus – starting Squirrels

We’ve asked volunteer managers to consider if now’s the right time to start Squirrels in their area as there’s lots going on at the moment with getting back together safely. We think about 250 Squirrel Dreys will start in Autumn 2021, including Northern Ireland Squirrels and the pilots – previously Hedgehogs. We'll continue to roll Squirrels out slowly over the next couple of years, focusing on communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

Squirrels can only start in areas where there's manager approval and we're prioritising new provision that will reach underserved communities most in need. Only those invited into a cohort can start Squirrels as this is a new age range, so it's important members are well supported in getting things setup safely. 

If you’re not currently involved with Scouts but would be interested in starting Squirrels in your area, head to our Group Finder to find your local group and let them know.

New Squirrel Dreys will be in a cohort of 10 Dreys that’ll be supported by a Cohort Coach. The Cohort Coach will bring everyone together to share ideas, resources and provide peer support, drawing upon national expertise and learning from early years pilots. An exciting new programme will be available for Squirrels in the cohorts this September.

We want to make sure that members are well supported in their decision making, planning, and delivery, so we've also asked County Commissioners to nominate a Squirrels Adviser who we’re training up to support informed decisions and planning.

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

Express your interest to open a Squirrels provision

If you've decided that you'd like start a new Squirrels provision and have completed the readiness checklist, please complete this form to express your interest. This should be done by Group Scout Leaders and the District Commissioner will then carry out a final review.

Ensure you read the readiness checklist before you complete the short form

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