There are some new Scouts on the block in Ufton Nervet – and they wear red. The youngest members in Pang Valley are a Drey of 12 four and five-year-old Squirrel Scouts who are embarking on their Scouting journey under the guidance of Group Scout Leader Cathryn Knight.
As the first new age range in Scouts for 35 years, Squirrels was announced in September 2021 following two years of pilots with 200 Dreys across the UK. 1st Ufton Nervet was one of the early adopter groups that set about opening its own Drey.
Cathryn recalls: “We were going to start it as a GSL project, but I had two members of our Group Executive Committee come to me to ask if they could do it. I am just supporting them for now, while they do their training. We also have some Explorers that want to volunteer, which is great.”
1st Ufton Nervet formally started their Drey in November, just after the half term break, allowing plenty of time for the new leaders to settle in and prepare their programme. Parents were invited to sign up to one week per term.
“We had a lot of interest from far afield,” explains Cathryn. “All our existing members’ siblings joined first, and then we called in a few local ones off the waiting list.”
Any immediate concerns over integrating the new section into the wider group, and looking after younger children, were quickly managed. “We didn’t really face any major challenges,” explains Cathryn. “We are a small group so all section know about each other, and we have a family fun day planned to integrate them more. We had to put a process in place with parents to help with toilet breaks, but we have two very experienced leaders who are childminders during the day. They understand that age and have some great ideas.”
The Squirrels’ programme is designed to support informal learning and to promote key skills like co-operation, communication, and language skills, as well as creativity and community awareness.
Just like established sections in Scouting, Squirrels are encouraged to get active, explore nature and have fun with their friends, while working towards badges such as Feel Good, Be Active, Explore Outdoors and Exciting Experiments. There are 12 activity badges in total, as well as four challenge awards, a top award and staged activity badges. Plenty for the Squirrels to get their teeth into.
“The programme is not that different to Beavers, just a bit shorter and simpler. The badges are lovely and bright, and you can do an activity badge in an evening or two – and a challenge badge over a few weeks,” says Cathryn.
The reaction from the Squirrels has been unequivocally positive. “They all love it so much and give 100%. Investing them and their leaders was so lovely. They were all so excited and some even knew the promise. It was a very proud moment. They are extremely keen to be part of our group. Once the lighter evenings are here, they will definitely be outside having fun. They are a testament to how far we’ve as a group in just eight years.”