Reflections from the early years’ pilots
A decision about whether or not to go ahead with Scouts for four and five year olds at this time is being consider by the board in six weeks’ time. While we continue to assess the impact that this potential new section could have, we spoke to parents and volunteers who’ve been involved in the pilots – which have been called ‘Hedgehogs’ during this trial period – as they reflect on the young people’s experience. Here’s what they had to say.
‘We don’t come to hedgehogs to improve our writing or do school stuff. We are here for the Scout experience.’ - Phillipa Francis, parent of a child involved in the pilots.
Phillipa shares her thoughts: ‘My son is four, he’ll be five in July and is in school, but he’s the youngest in his class. He’s also autistic. At school he struggles with certain environments and situations. He finds lunchtime overwhelming so he eats in his classroom and not in the dinner hall. However, this same little boy bounds into Hedgehogs.
‘He has a brilliant relationship with the Group Leader, and he’s making new friends, who importantly, don’t go to his school. The sessions are enjoyed, but honestly, those more school type sessions aren’t as fun as the very brilliant den building or campfire s’mores sessions. We don’t come to hedgehogs to improve our writing or do school stuff. We are here for the Scout experience.’
My elder daughter is on the cusp of moving to Cubs. She’s one badge off her Bronze Award and her little brother sees what she does and wants desperately to do it too. Prior to starting school, we attended weekly Forest School which was all about taking risks in a safe environment. That is something that I really hope Hedgehogs will become.
‘Also, only negative comment relates to the stickers. They really are a bit rubbish. Young kids get stickers for everything, so they become rather diluted and lack importance. The badge system in Beavers is great and four and five year olds have the understanding that you can work towards something, and over a few weeks can earn a proper badge. They don’t need instant gratification all the time.’
‘We're lucky in Scouts [compared to school] that when the young people start losing concentration, we can get them to jump up and do a running around game.’ – pilot leader Amanda Wallace at 13th Southampton
From Amanda’s perspective: ‘If you have a shy child the project helps with their confidence and relationship building. If you start younger [than Beavers] how much better would it be for them, especially before starting school? They’ll be more confident for school and be used to team activities...
‘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 [during the meetings].
‘We're lucky in Scouts [compared to school] that when the young people start losing concentration, we can get them to jump up and do a running around game, we have that opportunity... The evaluators saw this and were impressed with how we kept that engagement in the young people.
‘We’ve had lots of help from the Hedgehogs pilot. Claire [a mum completely new to Scouts] has joined, Kelly [another mum] is taking over the Cubs along with another parent. She didn't want to help with Hedgehogs as she felt it was important to give her son who is a Hedgehog some independence, but she wanted to become a uniformed leader.
We’ve also had three adults join the Group Executive Committee, two of them cut the grass in the grounds during the Hedgehog meetings. We also have two new parents from the eight new young people [after numbers increased to 24] who’d like to get involved. One is considering going into uniform.’
‘A surprising amount of people [are] interested in how it’s getting on.’ – David Bowers, Commissioner at 13th Southampton
David says: ‘I’m really lucky that the team have taken on the pilot. They’ve been fantastic and have kept me up to date... their passion shows through.
‘The pilot has a very good reputation in the District and County with a surprising amount of people interested in how it’s getting on... It's been amazing, there’s a real appetite for it [the early years provision in Southampton].
‘Hedgehogs has led to an incredible change in Eleanor. She’s been able to make friends and join in with tasks. She’s absolutely flourished.’ – Emily Norman, parent and a 1st North Devon secretary
Thoughts from Emily: ‘For my daughter Eleanor, Hedgehogs is the highlight of her week. Our daughter was born quite deaf due to glue ear issues and she has always had a few issues socially, due to children not understanding her, or her not being able to hear them.
‘Hedgehogs has led to an incredible change in Eleanor. She’s been able to make friends and join in with tasks. She’s absolutely flourished. The leaders are incredible. They’ve brought together such young children and turned them into a patrol, into a group who interact well with each other, learn to listen, to sit still and to engage. This is no easy feat.
For Eleanor, Hedgehogs is a structured environment that teaches such important skills, but it also has an element of fun.’
For more info on the early years’ pilots, you can watch the webinar recording here. Though the Board will be making a decision in just six weeks’ time, we encourage you to watch the webinar and let us know your final comments as soon as possible.