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Dear <<First Name>>

What are 'the Early Years'? Scotland's Early Years Framework follows the UN definition (it's worth checking this link!) of  'birth to eight years of age'. Yet political – and, therefore, media – interest in this critical period of children's development is alarmingly limited, and split right down the middle. The first half  (up to 4/5 years) is all about funding for childcare; the second (due to our very early school starting age) relates to children's educational attainment, especially in literacy and numeracy. 

Upstart Scotland agrees with the UN that a coherent and holistic approach to Early Childhood Education and Care (0-8) is of vital importance for the long-term health and well-being of every Scottish child. It's therefore also important for the future of our country. The next three sections outline ways we're currently working to promote this approach... and ways you can help.

Scottish government consultations
Lighting the sparks
Piecing together the jigsaw
Upstart news
Blog:  Why 'Too Much Too Soon' won't close the attainment gap 
News and views roundup
Ideas and resources 

Scottish government consultations

Two national reviews have been launched recently: 'Creating Positive Futures' (about the forthcoming expansion of early learning and childcare) and 'Empowering schools' (a 'governance review' about educational decision-making). These reviews clearly reflect the outdated cultural mindsets described above.  

Upstart therefore urges all our supporters to respond to both from an EY perspective. We've prepared draft responses to the childcare review (closing date: 9-1-17) and the educational governance review (closing date: 6-1-17) which you may find helpful in making individual responses. These are now also displayed on the news section of our website and we’ll update them as they’re redrafted. We welcome any comments or additions via

Lighting the sparks

During 2015-16, Upstart has been involved in a project about the purpose of education, which has resulted in Lighting the Sparks an attempt to 'ignite education from the ground up'. We hope to participate in its launch during the Fire Starter Festival (23-30 January 2017) –  more details in coming newsletters. If Upstart local networks or individual supporters are planning events in the coming months, it would be worth linking them to this Festival which will hopefully generate national interest.  

Piecing together the Jigsaw  

Upstart is working with the Common Weal think tank on ideas for future EY policy in Scotland. During the SNP conference, we made many helpful contacts through our a stand at CW's Idea Space. An article on the Common Space website previewed our fringe meeting, which you can check out on video. Led by Professor John Davis of Edinburgh University , we're also contributing to three policy labs – Piecing Together the Jigsaw: the first was held in late September and Upstart hopes to be present in strength at the second, on

Upstart news  

Huge thanks to the anonymous benefactor who's pledged £100 a month to Upstart! We'd be similarly grateful to any supporters who could pledge a monthly donation – however small – to keep the campaign afloat. If assured of a further £150 a month, we could fund an administrator for one day a week, allowing our volunteer team to concentrate on campaigning work. 
Most of Upstart's activities during October are described in previous sections. In addition: 
  • We presented the Upstart case to the Scottish Green Party in Edinburgh (3-10-16)
  • Several national committee members attended RSA meetings about childcare and education (5-10-16 and 12-10-16). John Swinney, main speaker at the second meeting, showed that he is well aware of Upstart and reiterated his invitation to meet. We'll contact him once the Brexit chaos subsides and hope he continues to notice our message in the meantime. 

Forthcoming Upstart events

3-11-16  Kate Johnston and Moira Small will present a workshop about Upstart at the Children in Scotland annual conference: Well-being and the World of the Child (Cumbernauld).
17-11-16  Upstart will be putting the case for a kindergarten stage on the Twitter discussion group, ScotEdChat. If you tweet, please join us between 8.30 – 9.30 pm.
24-11-16 Sue Palmer will be part of a panel discussion on 'Early Interventions' as part of the Holyrood Conference on 'Tackling Child Poverty in Scotland' (Edinburgh).

Blog:  Why 'Too Much Too Soon' won't close the attainment gap

Sue Palmer, Chair of Upstart
Last Wednesday, via the wonders of live streaming, I tuned into a conference in the USA where a large-scale programme to improve disadvantaged four-year-olds' school attainment is getting the 'wrong' outcomes. Results were great after one year, but advantages then began to fade out and after two years had virtually disappeared. Indeed, six-year-old children who didn't follow the programme are now doing slightly better on some measures. 
'We know high-quality pre-school is good for kids,' the conference speakers agonised. 'So what's gone wrong?' 
It seems patently obvious to me what's gone wrong … and what could so easily go wrong in Scotland if we don't take notice of what's happening worldwide. Read more.

News and views round-up

School readiness 
This piece by Sue Cowley reflects concerns about the 'readiness agenda' in the blog above and a journal article by Dale Faran (of the Tennessee program) concludes that 'current available research raises real questions about whether most state pre-K programs do anything more than boost four-year-olds academic cognitive skills to where they would be by the … [age of six] anyway.' 

Mental Health 
Evidence of spiralling mental health issues among children and young people continues to rise, with experts describing a gathering 'tsunami' in England and a report that almost 12,000 children under five were in contact with CAMHS during the month of June. There’s also been a 35% rise in children reporting anxiety in calls to Childline over the last year. Unfortunately, politicians aren't yet listening to the arguments outlined here by play specialist Adrian Voce.  

News from down south 
During October, Keep Early Years Unique started a new petition with similar aims to Upstart, Professor Margaret Clark published more evidence against baseline assessment and phonics testing and NUT Conference delegates called for formal schooling to be delayed till seven.

Ideas and resources

Loose parts play
Lots of interest in this type of play since publication of the excellent Toolkit for Loose Parts Play by Upstart supporters Theresa Casey and Juliet Robertson. Our attention has been drawn to this academic article and a four-minute video from Canada illustrating how it's just as valuable for 5 and 6 year-olds.  

Video from Down Under
Great two-minute video from Tasmania about how too early schooling damages children. Pass it on!

Innovative ideas from Finland
As the international media continue to rave about Finnish education (this Irish Times piece focuses on their early years practice), Finland  prepares to celebrate next year's centenary of independence from Russia with HundrED, a website sharing educational innovation.   

Quote of the month

'The opposite of play isn't work; it's depression.' 
                                              Play theorist Brian Sutton-Smith (1924 – 2015)

As play is increasingly squeezed out of young children's lives by the twin forces of cool and school, mental health problems continue to proliferate. Please help us to stress the importance of nurture, nature and play for the under-sevens … and to reinstate play at the heart of early childhood.   
Please keep spreading the word about Upstart Scotland!

Onwards and upwards,

The Upstart team

Copyright © 2016 Upstart Scotland, All rights reserved.

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