Scouts Scotland form Squirrels groups for younger children to get over lockdown

The Scouting movement in Scotland is to open its doors to four and five year olds for the first time to help support children after the isolation of lockdown.

It is the first time the movement has lowered the age range in 35 years.

Called the Squirrels, the new group is being promoted as a way for younger children “to make new friends, go on adventures and earn badges” like other scouts.

The programme starts rolling out this month and grown-ups are being called on to volunteer to give young children a chance to learn vital skills for life after the challenges of lockdowns.

Building on a successful pilot programme, what the movement is calling ‘Squirrel dreys’ will open initially in nine locations across Scotland, but with more to follow.

Priority is being given to communities most affected by the pandemic.

Four in ten schoolchildren across Scotland self-isolated due to Covid-19 when schools were fully open between August and December last year and from March and April to the summer holidays.

The Scouts Scotland move has come as fears are raised that children hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic have regressed in basic skills and learning.

Scout Scotland said the emphasis of the new group will be on outdoor adventures, making new friends and learning new skills.

“Squirrels will create a positive, safe environment for young children to develop, as they learn essential skills for life,” said a spokesman.

HeraldScotland:

The programme is crafted to help them develop teamwork, communication, creativity, community awareness and other key skills.

And there will be new will new badges, including Be Active, Explore Outdoors, Brilliant Builder and Exciting Experiments.

Katie Docherty, Scouts Scotland chief executive said: “Squirrels is part of our commitment to help young people, families and communities come back stronger from the pandemic. If you’re four, you’ve spent a third of your life in lockdowns. Our mission at Scouts is to equip young people with skills for life, and we know how important early years is in terms of developing these skills. We know this has especially impacted children in communities hardest hit by the pandemic. That’s why we are opening the first Squirrel dreys in those communities that need it most.”

She added: “To scale up this new programme we need support from volunteers, partners and donors to help us reach even more young people.”

The locations of the nine initial groups are Dundee, Dunfermline, Kelty, Cowdenbeath, Stenhousemuir, Fordbank, Greenock, Craigalmond and Bridge of Allan.

The scouting movement in Scotland dates back 123 years and aims to provide young people with skills for life through a range of activities, from the traditional camping, to community work.

The 1st Glasgow Scout Group has a claim to be the first scout troop, as it holds a registration certificate dated January 26, 1908.

It now helps 40,000 young people in Scotland aged six to 25 -including 7,000 girls- get the best possible start in life.

Bear Grylls, Chief Scout said: “I’m so glad that younger children will now have the chance to join our family of Scouts and develop skills for life. We know from our pilot programme that four to five-year-olds can really benefit from the activities that Squirrels offers. All of us at the Scouts believe that by offering opportunities at this early age, inspiring a sense of wonder, fun and curiosity, we can have a long-lasting, positive impact on young people’s lives. To make this work we need more volunteers to join the team and donors to get behind us”

George Walker, Squirrels group leader from the 5th, 7th and 20th Groups from Dundee said: “We are really excited to start out an exciting new opportunity to open a Squirrels drey in Dundee. The programme is built to help 4 and 5 year olds develop teamwork, communication and creativity. It going to be great to get these young people together to have fun, make new friends and earn badges.”

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992