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Blog | 03 December 2019

So, what are four and five year olds getting up to?


We’re piloting Scouts for four and five years old, but what are they getting up to? We took a look at the pilot programme, how it was designed, and how they’re getting on.

The Scouts programme for four and five year olds is based on the Scouts Method, but also informed by the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework, a compulsory standard across England (there are equivalent policies in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) supporting people working with children up to five years old.

These tried-and-tested principles encourage children to learn by playing, exploring and being active, and through creative and critical thinking both indoors and outside – very similar to Scouts but with less of the adventure, outdoor activity and responsibility than we provide. We support young people’s wellbeing and sense of community; inspire adventure, leadership and citizenship; and help to develop their skills of life.

Putting the Scouts Method together with what educationalists believe to be important for this age group could be very powerful. The pilots have been testing to see if this combination of positive principles works well.

The programme run within the pilot for four and five year olds combines the best of Scouts with the best of education expertise. Working with Action for Children, 52 weeks’ worth of programme materials were created and given in an ‘off-the-shelf’ format to a team of adults to run the section pilots.

Each meeting for four and five year olds has three key principles:

1. Storytelling

Research shows that storytelling not only inspires imaginations but also helps language development and helps us to read and write. Because storytelling inspires learning and gets young minds to focus, each meeting begins with a 5–10 minute introductory story that leads into the meeting’s theme and activities.

Because storytime is part of home and nursery environments too, young people are usually familiar and comfortable with it. But we use storytelling to reinforce the ‘learning by doing’ that’s about to come.

2. Routines set for comfort and learning

Routines help young people deal with the constant challenge of learning new things. This is because routines show us how and when to do things, which creates safe and comforting boundaries.

Getting into routines such as welcoming, saying goodbye, turn taking and group times, teaches us social skills and stimulates connections.

3. A focus on participation, play, exploration and independence

The Department for Education say that learning happens alongside playing and interacting. And so, although meetings are led by adults, the type of play and adventure that is inherent in Scouts is at the heart of the activities.

Activities in the pilot programme:

  • present tasks in imaginative ways that create opportunities for adventure and exploration. They may set off on a treasure hunt finding their way with the help of bug-themed clues, or heading into the local forest to make a tree troll out of twigs.
  • create open-ended things to do that help young people make choices and express their own ideas. For example, laying creative resources on a flat surface and allowing them to make their own decisions about how to use them.
  • use materials or storylines that children think of as play, like making jelly worms and then describing the squishy, slimy, sloppy feel of them.
    are full of hands-on activities that encourage them to get involved. For example, they get stickers for participating.

How do the meetings look?

Each meeting is built around themes of Adventure, Creativity, Helping Others, Outdoors, Skills, and Around the World. There are activity stickers, a safety checklist, helper guidance, and notes to help volunteers know the aim and purpose of each session.

There’s more than one hundred ready-made activities being used by the pilots. ‘Around the World’, for example, where the young people make Diwali hand dishes, an activity that helps them to develop a deeper understanding of their own beliefs and attitudes and have more respect for others, including those from backgrounds different from their own. Here, they learn about the people and communities that exist in the world around them.

At the end of each session there’s a reflection session. This helps the young people think about what they’ve just learnt. Amanda Wallace, a volunteer in Southampton said, ‘The reflection part of the programme is great as it uses their memory skills and gives leaders feedback from them [the young people] on what they like [about the meetings].’

At the end of every meeting plan, there’s a linked activity to do at home. This brings the home learning environment into it and encourages connections between the family and the young person’s learning. Pre-made letters are included in the programme to share with parents/carers. This takes the Scouts learning experience home (which helps the lessons to stick!) and has led to recruiting many more adult volunteers.

How are the pilots going?

We’re reaching even more children with the pilots than we’d hoped. We set out to reach 228 young people, but we’re reaching nearly 300 young people across England. And these are all in areas underrepresented in Scouts. And so, we’re giving young people in these communities the opportunity to learn and try things they’ve never done before.

At the Blackburn pilot they recently went to a football match (many of them for the first time). In Southampton the young people loved their visit to a local library. In Newcastle the young people learned about Diwali through loads of fun activities.

The programme is said to be well suited to four to five year olds. It’s also inclusive for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), and has been designed to be flexible to suit different ages and needs of the young people.

But of course, as the safety of young people is our priority, pilots are only going ahead once thorough DBS checks have been made. All volunteers, including those delivering Scouts in a partner setting, complete Scouts’ National Vetting Process, including a disclosure check, and other vetting checks, appointment advisory committee requirements and Scout safeguarding training.

Making sure it’s right for the movement

We want to make sure the new section would create even more interest in Scouts and bring even more volunteers to the movement, strengthening Scouts as a whole. Stay tuned for ongoing reports on how the pilots are going. You can read an interview with a DC who has a pilot running in his District here.

Please note that outside of the pilot programmes, Groups do not have permission to start Scouts for four and five year olds. Unofficial early year’s provisions are against our rules as they are not insured and could affect the result of our pilot programmes.

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