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Dear <<First Name>>

Standardised testing for P1s, changing attitudes to deferment... politicians have shown lots of interest in Early Years over the last few weeks. Upstart's second Newsletter includes comment on these developments as well as notices of forthcoming events in Glasgow and Edinburgh.  Thanks to everyone who got in touch in the last month -- there was a great response -- and please keep the emails coming in.  We're keen to know who (and where) you are and any information you'd like to share with the Upstart community. And, if you're a Facebooker, please share any interesting links, etc, via

Meanwhile, here's our September update:
  • Testing... Testing...
  • Summerborns and winterborns
  • What would a socially-just education system look like? 8-10-15
  • Could you be an Upstart Evidence Hunter?
  • Glasgow Upstart meeting, 21st September
  • The best kindergarten you've ever seen
  • This month's quote.

Testing... testing ...

On 1st September the Scottish government published its draft 'National Improvement Framework', including plans to test children in P1, P4 and P7.  There's not a shred of evidence that frequent standardised testing improves children's educational 'attainment' in the long run –  and plenty of reasons for expecting these national tests (especially at P1) to widen, rather than close, the achievement gap (see the Upstart evidence base and the NUT Exam Factories report, published in July this year).  

So why does Nicola Sturgeon want to adopt a policy that's caused endless misery – and no progress – in England and the USA?  Why doesn't she look north to Finland, which has the best literacy results in the western world?  There's no national testing there till children are 17 – instead, there's a well-established  kindergarten stage for 3- to 7-year-olds and a trusted early years workforce that lays developmentally-appropriate foundations for all children's success in literacy and numeracy.   

Summerborns and winterborns

Astonishingly, on 8th September, the English Schools Minister Nick Gibb announced in Parliament that 'Children should not start school till they are ready!'  The bad news is: this wasn't because of a sudden Damascene conversion to the Upstart cause. The good news is: Mr Gibbs insisted English local authorities change their policy on deferment because of Parent Power. Read more in the blog

What would a socially-just education system look like? 8-10-15

Sue Palmer of Upstart will be on the panel at an ESCR seminar on the above topic, organised by Freedom to Learn, on 8th October at the Story-telling Centre in Edinburgh (12 noon to 5 pm) – details here. Admission is free – just  email to book a place.

A key point in Upstart's argument is that social justice starts with the nation's youngest citizens.  Until governments (and education systems) pay more than lip-service to early years – and the significance of play in children's development – the chances of narrowing the poverty gap are remote.

Whether you can make it  to the meeting or not, do have a look at the Freedom to Learn website.

Could you be an Upstart Evidence Hunter?

The evidence for the educational and social value of a 'kindergarten stage' comes from a wide range of sources.  Producing it has been a slow process of joining up dots between studies, surveys and different academic disciplines (and it's only been compiled because the Chair of Upstart happens to be writing a book on the subject!).  

So far we've found no research studies specifically comparing practice and/or results in early-start and late-start countries – probably because, after a century of so of habit, every country takes its school starting age for granted.  But there's bound to be much more evidence out there.  

And new studies (like What it is all about: topic choices in young children's play by Hoyte, Degotardi and Torr, in International Journal of Children's Play, 2013) are appearing every day.  So if you're browsing the internet and come across some, please get in touch via Any new discoveries will, of course, be credited to the Upstarters who discover them!

Glasgow Upstart meeting, 21st September

If you live in the Glasgow area, please come along to the meeting at 6.30 for 7 pm on Monday 21st September at the Lansdown Bar, just off the Great Western Road, G20 6NQ  It's an opportunity to find out more about Upstart and to meet other people keen to improve play and education for the under-sevens.  Everyone welcome and we're told there's plenty of car-parking space nearby!  

The best kindergarten you have ever seen
At this school in Tokyo, five-year-olds cause traffic jams and windows are for Santa to climb into. Meet: the world's cutest kindergarten, designed by architect Takaharu Tezuka. In this charming talk, he walks us through a design process that really lets kids be kids.

This month's quote

'There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children.'  (Nelson Mandela)

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

But If you agree with Upstart's aims, please help us spread the word by forwarding this Newsletter on to any friends, colleagues and networks that might be interested.   

Onwards and upwards!   

The Upstart Team

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