By 2023: 

  • we will research, pilot, and evaluate different models of reaching young people under 6. 


Independent research suggests that the earlier a young person accesses non-formal education, the more positive the impact on their prospects. 

With a proactive focus on reaching young people who could benefit most from Scouting, exploring early years will introduce us to new young people and new adult volunteers who we currently don't engage with. 


Around the world there are various models of Scouting for under 6 year olds and we have had positive anecdotal feedback about the introduction of Squirrels (for 4-5 year olds) in Northern Ireland. 

We understand that we will need more leaders to provide Scouting to under 6 year olds rather than drawing from current volunteers. We need to recruit more volunteers from a wider range of backgrounds to ensure that early years provision has a positive impact on the movement. 


This initiative has secured external funding and is now underway. 

Our focus is now on: 

  • Establishing 40 pilots, using different models of delivery, based on research and learning from other organisations.

  • Evaluating these models based on impact, programme quality and feasibility. We are working with the Centre for Early Childhood Research to do this.

  • Evaluating pilot projects and making recommendations for implementing the under 6 provision.

  • Seeking funding for additional pilots, particularly in Scotland and Wales.

Next steps for volunteers 

  • We had over 700 Groups express their interest in being a pilot location. This is now closed and we will contact Groups should an opportunity to host a pilot arise.

  • It is important to note that we are only exploring options at this stage. Groups do not have permission to start early years provision outside of these pilots. Unofficial provision is against our rules, could affect the pilots and is not insured. We will keep you updated on our progress and whether there will be a wider roll-out in the future.

  • The existing Squirrels programme, run under a Memorandum of Understanding with Scouts NI, is not affected by the pilot schemes.