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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.

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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