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Early Years

Exploring Scouts for four and five year olds

To watch in full screen, double click the video


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 shared positive feedback about this section and so we started to explore Scouts for four and five year olds as a potential new provision in 2019.

We introduced Scouts to new young people and new adult volunteers who we didn’t previously engage with. To understand if Scouting for this age group was possible and desirable, we conducted a pilot project that you can read all about. 

Taking into account the extensive research, member consultation and two years of piloting, in July 2020 the Board of Trustees approved a new section for four and five year olds – now called Squirrels.

Our focus – rolling out Squirrels

Our focus is to continue to roll Squirrels out over the next couple of years across Scouting, whilst making sure the areas already running Squirrels are fully supported.

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 still a new age range., It's important members are well supported in getting things setup safely. You can find out more about how to open a Squirrel Drey on our Squirrels section webpages.

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.

All New Squirrel Dreys will be in a cohort of 10-15 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.

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 Advisor 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.

Express your interest to open a Squirrels drey

If you've decided that you'd like to start a new Squirrels drey 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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What we're learning about Squirrels

The roll out of Squirrels is being evaluated. These videos from the Centre for Research in Early Childhood (CREC) share what we've learnt from Phase 1.

Phase 2 is now underway and further findings will be shared as this progresses.

To watch in full screen, double click the video

To watch in full screen, double click the video

To watch in full screen, double click the video

To watch in full screen, double click the video