Upstart Scotland – membership spotlight!

Our Membership Spotlight focuses attention on the work of our not-for-profit members to further implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This week, we’re excited to feature Upstart Scotland which is campaigning for a statutory kindergarten stage!

Tell us a little about Upstart Scotland?

Upstart is a national campaign for a rights-focused, relationship-centred, play-based kindergarten stage for three to seven-year-olds, with the emphasis on outdoor play and learning, especially in nature. We, therefore, have supporters (and an interest in maintaining links with) people from many professional backgrounds, e.g. early years, education, health, social justice, parents’ organisations, children’s rights, the arts, and environmental sustainability.

Upstart is run by volunteers, with one paid member of staff (an admin assistant who works for 10 hours a week). Our work involves: publicising the campaign through social media, blogs and a monthly newsletter; lobbying politicians and responding to government consultations; liaising with organisations/individuals with similar interests; speaking at seminars and conferences; providing training courses and running conferences for our supporters. All our work aims to raise awareness of the importance of developmentally-appropriate early learning centres (3-7yrs).

In 2018 we rallied a coalition of organisations for the ‘Play Not Tests for P1’ campaign and in 2020 we produced a book – ‘Play is the Way: early years, child development and the future of Scottish education’ which spawned a popular online book group (we’ve just had our tenth meeting).

What has Upstart Scotland been working on recently?

We’ve just finished a stint publicising the consultations on the National Planning Framework 4 and Play Sufficiency Assessments, working with Play Scotland to get as many early years responses as possible. We’re currently interested in raising awareness in two main areas:

(1) the impacts of the pandemic on the under-sevens and;

(2) the potential of high-quality, developmentally-appropriate Early provision to narrow the attainment gap.

As there are only two of us and a lot of strings to Upstart’s bow, we’re kept pretty busy just keeping the campaign moving. After five years, we are hoping to find funding to appoint a full-time CEO with a more strategic approach who can give the campaign some new life!

How do you support children and families to learn about their rights?

We have always had strong links with the Children’s Parliament (we’re all Unfearties!) and pass on information and resources from them to our supporters – Cathy McCulloch has often spoken at our events. Over the last few years, we’ve been publicising UNCRC incorporation, and have regularly included resources circulated by Together in our monthly newsletters.

Are you involved in influencing policy?

We’d at least like to think so! We believe Upstart’s influence has helped fire the huge improvements in provision for outdoor learning in Scottish early years. We also believe that our campaigning helped towards the publication (and content) of new, developmentally-appropriate practice guidance for early years, birth to 6/7, and to the Scottish government’s granting of automatic funded deferral (on request) for four-year-olds from 2021. At the last parliamentary election, three opposition parties included a kindergarten stage in their manifestos, and two Scottish think tanks (Future’s Forum and Common Weal) have also recommended this approach.

What do you enjoy most about being a member of Together?

The reassurance of knowing there is a body dedicated to developing children’s rights in Scotland. We benefit from opportunities to learn from your seminars/conferences and engage in discussions at a range of your meetings.

To get involved or support the work of Together, you can sign up for their newsletter, and follow them on social media!

Facebook: Upstart Scotland

Twitter: @UpstartScotland

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