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Dear <<First Name>>

Thanks again to everyone who made Upstart Scotland's national launch such a success, as reported in the Newsletter Special on May 23rd and Upstart News (below). We're now preparing for our first Annual General Meeting, to be held in Perth on Sunday, June 26th (see below for detail) at which we will plan the next stages in the campaign.

Upstart activists are coming from all over Scotland to the AGM, which we hope will also be an enjoyable social gathering. To build on the campaign's success so far, we need ideas and input from as many of our supporters as possible – so if you'd like to help take Upstart onwards and upwards, and fancy a sociable Sunday in Perth, please join us.

Guest blog – 'Why play makes some grown-ups nervous' by Suzanne Zeedyk
Annual General Meeting, 26-6-16
Upstart News – general, local, media reports
The book that started Upstart
Play and children's right, employability, happiness and well-being and the arts …Why don't politicians get it?!
Play and mental health
News and views
Forthcoming events

Guest blog

This month's guest blog by Dr Suzanne Zeedyk follows up a theme she introduces briefly on the Upstart video. (If you haven't already seen the video, you'll find it here.)

It's striking to see how enthusiastically people are already being drawn to the Upstart Movement. The campaign is clearly tapping into a frustration that is lying just below the surface for many parents and staff. When they hear the case being made by Upstart, it seems straightforward to them: “Yes, our youngest children need more play.”

So what is the problem? Why does the case not seem obvious to the rest of ‘the everyone’ in Scotland? Why does the call for more play sometimes turn into a kind of battle? Read more

Annual General Meeting, 26th June 2016

Venue: St Leonard's Suite, Civil Servants Sports Club (CSSC), 11 St Leonard's Bank, Perth, PH2 8EB

We chose Perth for its central location. The CSSC has plenty of parking (car-sharing can be arranged through your local network Facebook group) and is about eight minutes walk from Perth railway station.

Time: Sunday 26-6-16, 1.30pm to 3.45pm.

Sorry for the early start but we have to vacate the venue by 4pm. We'll be there setting up from about 12.15pm. Since campaign funds are low after the launch, we're afraid we aren't able to offer refreshments but CSSC sells drinks and snacks.

The national committee, including many of the local network conveners, will be there and there is room for around 100 people. So if you'd like to come and help us plan the next stages of the campaign, please register here via Eventbrite. We'll email an agenda and related papers to everyone who registers for the AGM a week or so before the meeting. We'll also provide links to them on the website Events section– any updates will also be posted there and on the Upstart Scotland Facebook page.

Upstart News – general, local, media reports

The Upstart launch brought us many more supporters and a great deal of interest in the campaign. We hope you will be able to build on this during the coming months by sharing the video (4 minute clip or full 12 minute version), talking about Upstart with colleagues and acquaintances, and handing out leaflets (which can be downloaded here).   

In the last week, we've had productive meetings with the Scottish Parent Forum and the Scottish Storytelling Centre, and Upstart has acquired its first 'celebrity supporter', author and musician Pat Kane! We've also been developing a strategy for lobbying the new Scottish government – many thanks to former political researcher Alphedia Arara for her advice in this respect. You can see the letters we've sent to John Swinney and three other key ministers in the AGM section of the website (under Events).

Local networks

Local events have continued around the country throughout May. We'd love to publicise activities like this on the website and national Facebook page, so if you're organising something for Upstart, please send us details (date, time place) to as early as possible so we can let people know.

Since the launch there are plans to set up two more local networks, one in Shetland and one in Inverclyde, bringing the total so far to eleven (see the current list and contact details here). Anyone wanting to start a network elsewhere in Scotland, please contact

Media coverage

Following the media coverage on the BBC and in the national press, two articles about Upstart were published in Scottish online media – Child's play: are our kids being left unfulfilled because of our attitudes? on Common Space and Play, not tests, is the way forward on Bella Caledonia. There was also an article about the campaign in the TESS on May 20th. On May 27th, The National featured an opinion piece about Upstart by Pat Kane, linked to an article about the attainment gap. This quoted from an Open Letter to John Swinney from Upstart – we hope he has seen it and urge all our supporters to publicise the letter through their networks.

The book that started Upstart

In summer 2014, Sue Palmer began writing a book about introducing a kindergarten stage in UK countries. She found the evidence so compelling that, as it says in the final chapter 'As soon as Upstart's finished, I hope to be working full-time with like-minded parents and professionals to launch an Upstart Scotland campaign. We believe we can convince our countrymen and women to lead the way in early-years education.'

Upstart: the case for raising the school starting age and providing what the under-sevens really need (Floris Books, Edinburgh) was finished in December last year and will be published on June 16th. We hope it – and our vibrant Scottish campaign – can help concerned parents and professionals in all 'early-start' countries to fight back against the schoolification of early years education and reinstate play at the heart of early childhood.

Play and children's right, employability, happiness and well-being and the arts …Why don't politicians get it?!

This selection of writing that arrived in the Upstart Scotland office during May illustrates the incredible range of ways in which a play-based kindergarten stage would enrich  children's lives and contribute to 'a good society'.  

Play and children's rights

In this update on children's rights by Together, the Scottish Alliance for Children's Rights, Scotland is identified as being 'strategy rich' for UNCRC Article 31 (the right to leisure, play and culture) with regards to play, sports and youth work, but 'resource poor' when it comes to transforming these strategies into practice. This short animated video gives more information about Together.

Scotland's Children's Parliament is a children's rights organisation that celebrates playful learning. In its latest project children in Aberdeen become 'imagineers' to help make their city a happier, healthier place.  

Play and employability 

There's now copious evidence that play not only develops children's capacity to focus attention and collaborate with others, but also personal qualities such as 'stickability', self-control and emotional resilience. In the early years, plenty of opportunities for self-directed play lays down these positive 'habits of mind' which then stay with children lifelong. This list of characteristics from a City and Guilds document called Learning To Be Employable shows that employability is not merely a matter of schooling and test results.


Deprive children of play, nature, the outdoors -- then try to teach happiness?

Interesting article from the Director of the Political Economy Research Centre at Goldsmiths College, University of London.  When political economists start showing an interest in your subject area, you know you're getting somewhere!

The Arts are given lipservice, just like play … but then art is play  

This post from Heather Armstrong of Scotland's Arts from the Start discusses the problem of arts being seen as peripheral to education.  It links to Suzanne Zeedyk's guest blog, above and to a powerpoint by new Upstart Scotland supporter, Pat Kane.

Play and mental health

Early in May, psychologist Natasha Devon wrote in the TES about being 'dumped' as the Department for Education's Mental Health Champion in England. In a newspaper article she had criticised 'people who celebrate their ignorance by claiming that a brutally competitive curriculum prepares children for life' and pointed out that 'children need caring, communicative relationships with the adults who are responsible for them. They need to exist in environments that strike a balance between giving them clear boundaries and the space to think, process and play.'

Three weeks later, England's Children's Commissioner published further evidence of alarming increases in mental health problems among children and young people. We can only hope that, before introducing national tests for five-year-olds, Scotland's politicians will join up the dots between a high-pressure educational culture and long-term damage to children's well-being. 

News and views

Two more articles about the importance of play arrived from the USA last month – one about the need for young children to be active, and one about a long-term study of parental involvement in play.

Meanwhile, an alarming article in the Daily Mirror showed how vital it's becoming to provide opportunities for the UK's under-sevens to discover the joys of outdoor self-directed play .

'Early experiences affect lifelong physical and mental health – not just learning'

A new report from the Harvard Centre for the Developing Child was published on May 9th.

It can be difficult convincing some adults that young children don't think and learn in the same way as adults. This blog post from Pam Jarvis of Leeds Trinity University explains the differences.

Forthcoming events

Play Day 2016 and Play on the Longest Day, June 20th

Play Day – the UK's annual national celebration of play –  is on Saturday, 3rdAugust. This year's theme is Play Matters – lots of information here. Since Scottish schools will be on holiday in August, Play Scotland also promotes Play on the Longest Day. Upstart joins with them in urging schools to get children outdoors and active on Monday, 20-6-16.

If you're interested in organising an event yourself, there's plenty of helpful information on


Prioritising Play Conference, 22 June, Edinburgh

CEO of Play Scotland and Upstart supporter Marguerite Hunter Blair will be speaking at this conference about the progress of Scotland's Play Strategy. Details here


Empty Classroom Day, 6th October

Part of Persil's 'Dirt is Good' UK campaign is an international 'Empty Classroom Day' on 6th October. Schools are urged to get kids outdoors and active – sounds very Upstartish. Details here.


Making decisions about risks in play

This excellent blog post by Tim Gill is about the difference between professional compliance and professional competence in supervising 'risky play'.


Developing children's communication and language skills through outdoor provision

Useful-sounding course in Glasgow on June 10th, led by Jan White and provided through Children in Scotland.

Quote of the month

Margaret McMillan, an early years pioneer from Inverness, is best known for the lovely quote:

The best classroom and the richest cupboard are roofed only by the sky


but here are some more of her words of wisdom:


'Again and again we have seen how learning of any kind becomes barren under conditions that ignore the health and sanity of the learner. There is no reform that is not rendered more or less negative by the persistent tendency to ignore the needs of happy and continuously nurtured childhood'


Margaret McMillan 1929

Onwards and upwards,

The Upstart Team

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