The Scouts have a new member of our family tree - Squirrel Scouts for 4 and 5 year olds! It is the Scout's first new section in 19 years and our first new age group in 35 years!
So what does this mean for you, a volunteer in Hampshire? Let us answer some of your questions.
Squirrels is a new section for 4 and 5 year olds. They meet in 'Dreys', wear a red jumper and have a programme based on having fun, getting outdoors and make friends.
They earn badges just like the older sections including activity badges (exploring outdoors and feel good are just two of the twelve), challenge awards (All Together is one of the four) and a top award - the Chief Scout's Acorn Award. They can also earn staged activity badges.
The ideas were tested during the two years of pilot groups and built on the working of professionals in Early Years, in Northern Ireland where Squirrels have been running separate to the Scouts for 25 years and from what parents thought. There were a number of these pilot groups, known as Hedgehogs, in Hampshire.
The idea first came from the Skills for Life plan in 2018 and pilots began the next year to test and see if it would work. The Scouts managed to get funding from key supporters to make this happen.
They found that the earlier you start, the bigger impact the Scout method has on young people. The pilots were deliberately started in very diverse areas and where families with the lowest income live. These are some of the people the Scouts have struggled to connect with before. If Squirrels could work in these areas, they would work everywhere.
The pandemic proved this even more than before. Scouts are bouncing back and the groups in Hampshire have seen how the launch of Squirrels has invigorated their area and brought more people back to Scouting.
Firstly there is no deadline to work towards - Groups aren't being forced to open Squirrels Dreys immediately.
The pilots have helped us answer this question already. The new groups were very successful in bringing new people into Scouting, parents who didn't feel confident in helping the older sections were comfortable helping with their own 4 and 5 year old. They reached groups of people we weren't before.
Even better, lots of these new helpers and volunteers stuck around after their child moved up to Beavers - either helping in other sections or still in Squirrels. So with the Scouts currently registering interest across the country it is easy to sweet talk the parents once there are enough interested people.
There is a clear process those who are interested can follow.
Those who are leading the Drey won't be alone. They'll join nine other Dreys in a support cohort with a coach to help get them started with programme help and support so they get off to a flying start.
Hampshire are also ready with our first Squirrels Advisors. Donna Bennett is our lead and is helped by Amanda Wallace, Kerry Budd and Heidi Heidrich.
We'll be keeping our own website up to date; take a look at our Squirrels pages.
Want an overview? - scouts.org.uk/squirrels
Want the overview from the Scouts? All you need to know about Squirrels in one place.
Excited to get started? Learn about the trail to Squirrels for groups, districts and county.
Launching a Drey and want logos, templates and pictures? - Scouts Brand centre
Shopping for Squirrels uniforms or fun items? Scout Store have you covered.
What did we learn from the pilots? Summary here.