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Dear <<First Name>>

Happy New Year! 2016 is already looking as if it'll be a busy year for Upstart, starting with three new local networks launches in January. In fact, we're hoping that, by the time of the official campaign launch in May, there'll be local networks of supporters in every corner of the country, helping to spread the word about the importance of play-based education and care for three- to seven-year-olds. Please forward this Newsletter to anyone you think would be interested and suggest they sign up to be kept in touch.

In the meantime, we hope you find this month's Newsletter interesting and useful.

To Boldly Go: OECD, CfE …. and Upstart
Three Upstart local network launches – Fife, Dundee, Glasgow
More network news
Upstart news
Arts from the Start work wonders... but parents don't get it yet
The state of play
Stirrings down south
More UK links
Messages from Down Under
Worth a look

To Boldly Go: OECD, CfE …. and Upstart

When it comes to education, the OECD believes in boldness. ‘Ambition’ doesn’t cut much ice for them any more – anyway, Scotland has already done ambition with the Curriculum for Excellence. ‘Vision’ is only useful up to a point (‘However visionary any curriculum is in principle, this makes little difference unless there is successful implementation in practice’). So now at ‘a watershed moment for CfE’, Scotland is advised – repeatedly – to be ‘Bold’...  [read more

Three Upstart local network launches

Please spread the word (e.g. by forwarding on this Newsletter to friends and colleagues) about the following launches of local networks:

  • Fife Network Launch, with Lesley Riddoch 
    Venue – Collessie Village Hall, Collessie, KY15 7RQ
    Time – 7.30 pm, Monday 18th January 2016
    More information from Cathy Bache (

  • Dundee Network Launch, with Suzanne Zeedyk
    Venue – Dalhousie Building,University of Dundee, Old Hawkhill, Dundee, DD1 5EN
    Time – 6.30 pm Tuesday, 26th January 2016
    More information from Brenda Keatch (

  • Glasgow Network Launch
    Venue – The Scout Hall, Kelbourne Street, Glasgow, G20 8PR
    Time – 6.00 pm Friday, 29th January 2016
    More information from Hilary Long (

If you live or work in any of these areas (or within travelling distance!) please come along and bring a friend – or lots of friends!

More network news

  • It's hoped to launch networks in Aberdeen and Inverness in February and we're keen to hear from anyone in these areas who'd like to help (please contact or to attend (please contact

  • Edinburgh and Lothians: The virtual forum set up after the November meeting didn't catch on! So we're looking at other ways of keeping supporters in touch and will email details in January. In the meantime, please put Monday 8th February, 7pm in your diary. Willie French is organising the second network meeting at The Watsonian Club, 79 Myreside Road, Edinburgh EH10 5DB. More information about this in the next newsletter.

  • If you live in an area of Scotland that doesn't yet have a network and could spare a little time to help organise a meeting, please contact Sue directly at the email above.

Upstart news

  • Sue met with representatives of Children in Scotland and they offered to set up a Round Table discussion in the New Year about Upstart's aims, for interested parties in Scottish children's services. 
  • She's also been invited on to Radio Scotland's Call  Kay programme  at about 11.30 on 4th January, hopefully the first of many opportunities to spread news  about the  campaign via the Scottish media.
  • The Scottish government Justice Department has invited Sue to speak about Upstart to policy-makers at St Andrews House, Edinburgh on Tuesday 2nd February.

  • Upstart received this response to our submission to the National Improvement Framework for Education. We've also submitted a paper to the Healthier Scotland consultation.
  • Sue will be speaking about Upstart at the Scottish Policy Conference on Education in  Edinburgh on 8th March.

Arts from the Start works wonders ... but parents don't get it yet

Between 2013 and 2015 a pioneering training programme helped Scottish practitioners emphasise play and exploration through the arts in their settings. Starcatchers' practical sessions of drama, movement, visual art, puppetry, music and storytelling – led by artists who specialise in Early Years – was a huge hit with children and practitioners.  But according to the report, published last month:

  • parents didn't see how these sessions linked to the development of literacy, numeracy and other key skills

  • many managers are therefore so keen to emphasise the three Rs that they're reducing their commitment to arts and creativity.

Upstart finds these signs of the times scandalous! One of the main aims of our campaign is to bring young children's developmental needs to public attention. The activities in the Starcatchers programme are an essential element  of high-quality early years provision.

The state of play

It used to be taken for granted that children played out around their homes.  Now it's a rarity. So please support The Children's Wood in Glasgow in their campaign to save this 'outdoor community centre' from the developers.  The site meeting that will decide its fate is now on 26th January at 9.15 a.m. and they need a big turn-out of supporters to illustrate the level of concern. Supporters will then travel to the City Chambers for the decision at 11 a.m. More information on the website or from Emily Cutts at .

For another shocking example of commerce contributing to the decline of outdoor play, see Why I'm going ape about the privatisation of children's play (the Guardian, 29/12/15).


Stirrings down south

In a TES report, 'social mobility tsar' Andy Burnham appeared to have noticed that disadvantaged children are not 'school ready' at five.  

In a BBC Radio 4 programme on the Early Years, David Willetts (Shadow Education Secretary in the early 2000s) actually said that English children start school too early. You have to listen till the last few minutes to catch it, but in the meantime the neuroscientist Sarah Jayne Blakemore talks about critical periods of brain development (she's also a mum who was keen to defer her son's entry to primary school).


More UK links

  • An excellent report from Play Wales on Play and Mental Health 

  • What About the Children? March conference on communication and connection 

  • This article in the January edition of Child Care, by childminder Penny Webb gives a practitioner's viewpoint on early schoolification.

Messages from Down Under

Once Upon Not-So-Very-Long-Ago, Australia had a  fairly laid-back attitude to early schooling, which (along with its enlightened EY policy) could account for its better educational record than other early start countries. But now things have changed and, in the words of childcare guru Steve Biddulph, the situation is 'dire, test obsessed and getting kids younger and younger'.

However, the Australian EY community is fighting back. These two articles, both published last month, are well worth reading:

Worth a look

Fair Play for Children

Useful website, where we recently found pieces on


The Land (2015)

Its American producers came all the way to Wales to make this film about 'risky play'. It's about a slightly older age-group than kindergarten, but the message is a great one.

Quote of the month

'The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.'

Marcel Proust

As the above links show, early schoolification is now a worldwide problem. Let's make 2016 the year that Scotland leads the way in 'reclaiming childhood' by raising public awareness of the importance of play-based education and care for the under-sevens.

Onwards and upwards!

The Upstart team

Copyright © 2016 Upstart Scotland, All rights reserved.

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