Scouts branch out with early years ‘Squirrels’ programme

Scouts is to run local groups for four-to five year old children nationally for the first time, ensuring the programme’s roll out prioritises communities most affected by the Covid pandemic.

The launch of its ‘Squirrels’ programme is the first expansion of the age range of children it supports since it launched Beaver Scouts in 1986 for six to eight year olds.

‘Squirrel dreys’ are to launch in 200 areas across the UK and aim to reach 12,000 families in their first three years.

“Squirrels is part of our commitment to help young people, families and communities come back stronger from the pandemic,” said Scouts chief executive Matt Hyde

“Our mission at Scouts is to equip young people with skills for life, and what we learn up to 5 years old lays the building blocks for everything that follows.”

He added: “If you’re four, you’ve spent a third of your life in lockdowns. 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 the communities that need it most.”

The Squirrels roll out follows a pilot in 2019 to support yojng children in areas of deprivation and among Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

It has been backed with funding from the #iwill Fund, Department for Education and grant giver Charity of Sir Richard Whittington.

Squirrels will receive red unifirms and a new set of badges including, ‘feel good’, ‘be active’, ‘explore outdoors’ and ‘brilliant builder’.

Scouts is looking for volunteers to run local Squirrel groups through its volunteer recruitment campaign #GoodForYou, which aims to recruit more than 5,000 new volunteers.

Jess Fortune, who was a group leader volunteer for the Squirrels pilot, said: “The programme is built to help 4 and 5 year olds develop teamwork, communication and creativity. I have learnt so much as a volunteer, I hope more people volunteer so that children everywhere can experience these brilliant opportunities”

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