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Dear <<First Name>>

It's almost a year since the national launch of Upstart Scotland on May 15th, 2016. We hope supporters around the country will mark the anniversary by getting outdoors with parents and children in the week ending 15th May. Edinburgh and Lothians group is having a picnic on Portobello beach and in Shetland supporters will be rallying at Lerwick outdoor playgroup. Let us know about any events so we can flag them up in the next newsletter.  

The under-sevens need play, not tests!
Health and Well-Being: how long before we join up the dots?
Guest Blog: Let's Get Moving!
Upstart news
News, views and useful resources
Forthcoming events
Quote of the month

The under-sevens need play, not tests

As Scottish schools await the introduction of national assessment (including tests at P1 and P3) in August, the DfE in England has finally acknowledged parents' and teachers' concern about the pressure on young children and announced a review of its early years testing regime. Meanwhile, a detailed critique of this regime, by distinguished Scottish researcher Margaret Clark OBE, suggests its main beneficiaries of early years assessment are the organisations who develop the tests, training and related teaching materials. 
Upstart continues to argue that any national standardised assessment in literacy and numeracy is damaging for the under-sevens. It not only creates self-fulfilling prophecies (thus widening the gap between rich and poor) but also narrows the focus of the curriculum, leads to 'schoolification' of early years practice and puts pressure on young children to pursue inappropriately academic targets, with long-term implications for mental health. 

Sadly, as our March round-up of 'health and well-being news' shows (see below), Scotland is still far from recognising that active play is more important in the early years than attempts to accelerate academic attainment.    

Health and Well-being: how long before we join the dots?

March brought more news about the crisis in Scottish CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services). Due to a huge increase in referrals, many children are unable to access specialist help, leading to pressure on schools to fill the gap. As teachers struggle to cope the obvious course of action is to pursue prevention rather than cure. 

Also in March, researchers established that a sedentary lifestyle, which impacts on every aspect of physical and mental health, begins very early in life. Another study pointed out, yet again, that contact with nature supports lifelong well-being, while psychologist Natasha Devon, former mental health champion to the DfE, expounded the well-established case for self-directed play and supportive communities as critical to human happiness and emotional resilience. Since parental anxiety means children under ten are no longer able to play outdoors, it's clearly time to put outdoor play (as often as possible in natural surroundings) and supportive relationships at the heart of care and education in the early years. 

Unfortunately, the latest report from the Royal College of Paediatric and Child Health doesn't even mention the importance of active play. And, as pointed out in our introduction, political preoccupation with academic tests and targets simply heaps extra pressure on the under-sevens.

Blog: Let's Get Moving!

Many thanks to EY dance specialist Helen Battelley for a guest blog that suggests simple ways of introducing dance in early years settings.
National guidelines recommend young children should ‘exercise’/’move’ for 180 minutes every day – thirty minutes of which should be exuberant, high-impact cardio-exercise. According to the British Heart Foundation, fewer than 10% of four-year-olds currently achieve this level of activity. Read more

Upstart News

Sue Palmer spoke about Upstart Scotland at the ENABLE Early Years Conference in London on 8/3/17 and the More Than A Score Conference in Gateshead on 11/3/17.

15/3/17 Kate Johnston and Sue attended a meeting of the Child's Curriculum Group in Edinburgh.

17/3/17 Upstart promoted at first of two workshops in Lanark on 'Born To Learn'.

Article about Upstart Scotland in the Bella Caledonia magazine, distributed with the National newspaper, 1/4/17. 

News, views and useful resources

Scotland's next Children's Commissioner
Human rights lawyer Bruce Adamson will take over from Tam Baillie at the Scottish Commission for Children and Young People on May 17th.    

Play Charter
Have you pledged your support for Scotland's Play Charter?  
Play debate in Scottish Parliament
Some excellent points were made during the Play Debate on 14th March (see transcript here). Disappointingly, only fourteen MSPs were there to hear them – and a couple left before the end. There's a long way to go before politicians recognise the long-term importance of Getting It Right for children (see also interview below).   

'More and more, early years policy fails to focus on the needs of the child' 
Excellent interview with Neil Leitch of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, who argues that quick fixes in early years are counter-productive.  

Children reared in captivity 
Tim Gill talk at 'Childcare Expo' on increasing parental control and loss of outdoor play. 

More Than A Score
The More Than A Score campaign in England has released a short film about the dangers of a test-dominated curriculum.  

Let Kids Be Kids
This useful blog post about outdoor play came our way this month. 

Brilliant project in Lanark
Upstart received this press release about a splendid community project to provide green space for children in a local school. The introduction of a kindergarten stage could inspire communities to work together in this way all over the country, to support 'outdoor play in green spaces'.

Forthcoming events

  • 8/4/17 'Why We Play'. Presentation at the Edinburgh Science Festival by Upstart supporter Pat Kane and Upstart Chair Sue Palmer.   
  • 24/25-4-17 Smart Play Network courses in Fife (Little Explorers April 24th; All Weather Play April 25th) £65 members, £75 non-members.
  • 14/5/17 National Children's Day UK (and the anniversary of Upstart Scotland's national launch) 
  • 18/5/17 Have you signed up for Outdoor Classroom day on 18th May, celebrating outdoor play?​ Lots of ideas on the website.  
  • 20/5/17 Play Works Conference in Broxburn, East Lothian. 
  • 21/6/17 Play Scotland's annual 'Play on the Longest Day' celebration.
  • Booking now open for the the Froebel 'Gifts for the Future' Conference (Edinburgh, 7/10/17), introduced by Tina Bruce, at which Upstart supporter Dr Lynn McNair will speak about her study of children's views of transition from nursery to P1: 'Rules, rules, rules and we're not allowed to skip'.

Quote of the month


'Perhaps play would be more respected if we called it 'self-motivated practice of life-skills' but that would remove the light-heartedness from it and thus reduce its effectiveness. So, we are stuck with the paradox. We must accept play's triviality in order to realise its profundity.' 
                                             Peter Gray, Freedom to Learn

And, of course, by spreading the word about the need for a change in the ethos of early years education, this month and every month!
Onwards and upwards, 

The Upstart team

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