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Dear <<First Name>>

2016 ended with some good news. Just before Christmas, the Children's Wood in Glasgow won its long-running battle to save a treasured community space from developers. And just after Christmas, a Guardian report showed how support for the Upstart cause is growing around the UK (a letter from forty prominent UK educationists, academics, psychologists and other influential thinkers called – first and foremost, despite the Guardian headline! – for a kindergarten stage for 3- to 7-year-olds).  

We can build on this good news in 2017 by continuing to spread the word about Upstart Scotland's aims to parents and the general public. This month's blog sums up what a kindergarten stage is all about and our news round-up illustrates why it's so important. Please pass this information on via your own networks and by word of mouth. 

Blog: 20 things Upstart wants for Scotland's under-sevens in 2017!    
News round-up
Forthcoming events
Recent writing on child development
Quote of the month

Blog: 20 things Upstart wants for Scotland's under-sevens in 2017...

to help them become successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.

We are frequently asked what a kindergarten stage would look like so here's a 'starter list' of what it would involve. We'd love to know what you think – especially where you think we've got the emphasis wrong, and anything that's missing.

News and views 

PISA 2016
On 6-12-16 the international PISA charts for 15-year-old's performance in reading, maths and science made 'difficult reading' for the Scottish government. As Upstart expected, western countries with a kindergarten stage 3-7 continued to lead the field – Finland and Estonia in reading and science, and Switzerland in maths. Poland, where school also starts at seven, far out-performed Scotland. Lesley Riddoch mentioned Upstart in a comment piece in The National and Pam Jarvis wrote an excellent analysis of England's 'too much too young' policy in The Huffington Post. While Upstart is no fan of international league tables, it's increasingly clear that, among western nations, early pressure for academic achievement is associated with declining long-term performance.      

Mental health    
It is also associated with declining mental health among children and young people. On 9-12-16, the BBC reported 'frightening' increases in self-harm among children, and on 26-12-16 the Guardian highlighted the inability of health services to cope. It's no coincidence that, among the signatories to the Guardian letter calling for a kindergarten stage was psychologist Natasha Devon, who resigned from her post as adviser on mental health to the Department for Education because she believes that education policy is hugely exacerbating the problem.

Scottish policy in education and early years
December also saw the publication by The Scottish government of these leaflets for parents and teachers about the introduction of national assessments. Upstart believes they will ratchet up the adult anxiety that feeds pressure for early academic achievement, and thus the problems in education and mental health. Our responses to the government reviews on educational governance and childcare expansion, due in early 2017, are available in the News section of the website. 

Recent writing on childhood

Among articles recommended to Upstart in the last month are these on: 

Forthcoming events

11-1-17  Glasgow: Public lecture on 'Listen Who's Talking' at University of Strathclyde, 6-8 pm. 
18-1-17  Edinburgh: Upstart's Sue Palmer is speaking at a conference on 'Relationship-based practice in Scotland's social services'
30-1-17  Aberdeen: Play Council meeting to be attended by the Minister for Childcare and Early Years. Tickets free from Eventbrite.
3-2-17   Edinburgh: Children in Scotland workshop on 'Learning through play the Froebel way

Children's Right To Play 
On 6-12-16, IPA Scotland published a useful booklet on Children's Right To Play, written by Theresa Casey (President of the International Play Association and another signatory of the Guardian letter). 

IncludED in the Main?!
On 6-12-16 ENABLE Scotland published a report on its national conversation about educational inclusion. Only 3% of those surveyed think we're currently getting it right for every child. 

Quote of the month

2016 was a strange year, so let's start the new one with a hopeful message for the future:
    Ring out the old, ring in the new, 
    Ring happy bells across the snow:
    The year is going, let him go;
    Ring out the false, ring in the true!

    Ring out a slowly dying cause
    And ancient forms of party strife,
    Ring in the nobler modes of life
    And sweeter manners, purer laws.

                                  from 'Ring Out Wild Bells' by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Best wishes for 2017!

The Upstart team

Copyright © 2017 Upstart Scotland, All rights reserved.

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