View this email in your browser

Will a four-year-old near you start school next year?   

Dear <<First Name>>

In the coming weeks, as children are registered for school entry in 2016, many parents will anxiously wonder whether their winterborn child is ready to move from nursery to Primary 1. Should they apply to defer? The author of this month's guest blog hopes her family's experiences over the last couple of years will help others make their decision.   

Last month saw the launch of Upstart's first local networks, with three more launches due early in the new year. We hope that, by spring 2016, there will be networks across Scotland.  In the meantime, here's this month's round up of news, research and other items of interest:

    Unready at four... but ready at seven
    Upstart update – networking for change
    Upstart submission to NIF Education consultation
    Testing little children = throwing money down the drain
    Resilient children or tough tests?

    Research, events and news round-up
    Three videos to make you think
    Quote of the month

Unready at four … but ready at seven

Upstart's first guest blog, by a parent who found out about school deferral the hard way

"My son has always been a great talker and confident so – although he was born in December and only four when due to start school –  we assumed he'd be ready for it. He wasn’t, and we faced huge resistance in doing what was best for him. So much so that we wrote a blog to make other parents aware of their rights in relation to deferral.  

When we filled in our little boy's school form in December 2012, he showed no signs of wanting to read or write, but we assumed it would come. The nursery assured us he would be ready by August. However, as summer arrived and he was actively resisting any efforts to put pen to paper, we became increasingly concerned."  Read more

Upstart update – networking for change

Edinburgh and Lothians Network

Many thanks to the sixty people who braved the cold, wet November weather to attend the launch of Upstart's first local network. The event is described by Morag Pendry in this preview of her latest blog (not yet published) for the Reform Scotland website.

A summary of the group discussions has been posted on the E&L Network Forum, the first – we hope – of many on which Upstarters around Scotland can help to grow the campaign and plan for our national launch on May 16th, 2016.
Network launches for Glasgow, Dundee and Fife

Launches are planned these three local networks in January, but as dates and venues are not as yet finalised. Please contact if you would like to be informed as soon as details are available.

Highlands, Borders, Aberdeen and the rest?

There's growing interest in Upstart all round Scotland and we're keen to set up local networks in as many areas as possible. All that's needed to get a network up and running is someone to convene a launch meeting and act as a contact point with the national campaign. Please contact if you could spare a little time to take on this role in your part of Scotland.  

Upstart submission to NIF Education consultation

The Scottish government's consultation on its National Improvement Framework for Education closed at the end of November. Upstart submitted a paper, copied to Nicola Sturgeon, Angela Constance and Aileen Campbell, explaining how the four priorities:

  • improvement in attainment, specifically in reading, writing and numeracy

  • closing the attainment gap

  • improvement in children and young people’s health and well-being 
  • improvement in sustained school leaver destinations for all young people.
The Upstart submission explains that these could all be better addressed by the  introduction of a kindergarten stage, rather than standardised  testing. We have received a reply, which promises us a response from Angela Constance by 9th December.

Testing little children = throwing money down the drain

We hope the Scottish government is paying attention to the state of 'baseline testing' in England, where a major test supplier recently had to apologise to its customers for its failure to live up to expectations. As Upstart supporter Terry Wrigley, an expert in educational statistics, explains on the Reclaiming Schools website, none of the available baseline tests provide reliable or useful data.  

It's a familiar story. Standardised testing of reception children (the English equivalent of P1) was introduced in the early 2000s, and subsequently abandoned because it didn't work.    

In the current financial situation, Scotland can't afford to waste money by embarking on a similar early testing regime – not to mention the damaging effects such a course of action will have on practitioner morale, parental anxiety (see blog above) and children's education and well-being.  

Resilient children or tough tests?

An important aspect of long-term health and well-being is emotional resilience and a new research review from Play Wales sums up the importance of play in this respect. In the long run, resilient children are far more likely to be successful lifelong learners than those who are coached and cajoled towards early academic attainment (see the Evidence section on

Unfortunately, as another recent report from England illustrates, once standardised testing is introduced, it tends to proliferate. In the USA, after fifteen years of No Child Left Behind, a mother told how this school year began:  
"My daughter's first day of kindergarten [US equivalent to P1] – her very first introduction to elementary school – consisted almost entirely of assessment. She was due at school at 9.30 and I picked her up at 11.45. In between, she was assessed by five different teachers, each a stranger, asking her to perform some task. By the time I picked her up, she did not want to talk about what she had done in school, but she did say she did not want to go back."

If Scotland embarks on this route, we can expect the tests for young children to get steadily tougher, and the children to become progressively more fragile...

Research, events and news round-up

The Children's Wood Glasgow City Council have organised a site visit to this amazing 'outdoor community centre' in North Kelvinside before deciding whether to let developers move in and destroy it. If you agree with this film, please join the local community at the site visit on 9.30 a.m. on 12th January to show support for their campaign.
Driving change for children and young people through play. Unfortunately we heard about these free events (organised by Play Scotland and Inspiring Scotland) too late to publicise the first two and it's last minute notice for those in Inverness and Oban ... but there's still plenty of time to sign up for Dumfries or Melrose.

Seven things to consider before you buy into phonics programmes: enlightening information for P1 and P2 teachers.

Starting school at seven could improve concentration: the Daily Mail catches up with research featured in last month's Upstart Newsletter.

US kindergarten teacher resigns: this news story went round the world on Facebook.  If you haven't seen it yet, do read the letter, and pass it on. 

Three videos to make you think

A Creative Conversation

Chris Kilkenny talks to Upstart supporter David Cameron about growing up in poverty in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh. The teachers who attended this meeting are still talking about it.

Defending the Early Years

The speech by US educator Nancy Carlsson Page from which the mum's quote about kindergarten testing (see above) was taken.


Historian and psychologist Pam Jarvis (from Leeds Trinity University) describes the evolution of childcare and implications for 21st century social policy.


Quote of the month

'Christmas is about a child, of long ago and far away, and it is about a child of now.  In you and me.  Waiting behind the door of our hearts for something wonderful to happen.  A child who is impractical, unrealistic, simple-minded and terribly vulnerable to joy.'

Robert Fulgham, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

It's still a while to the festive season but, since this is the last Newsletter for 2015, the Upstart team wishes all readers a peaceful Christmas and a very happy, play-based 2016. Please help us spread the word about the campaign by forwarding this Newsletter on to any friends, colleagues and networks that might be interested.

Onwards and upwards!   

The Upstart Team

PS We hope you don't mind our sending this Newsletter.  If you do, please email asking to be taken off the mailing list.  

Copyright © 2015 Upstart Scotland, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp