Upstart, let’s get started

So I walked into the Upstart presentation/talk/debate with a definite bias for upping the school age to 7! I have always believed the rigidity of primary school was a drastic change at an impressionable age and too much of a downgrade in child led play.

However after tonight I realise that I am surrounded by like minded people in my field and beyond. It’s not that we don’t understand the importance of play. We do. It’s just these children arrive in uniform, to sit at desk, with the parents expecting reading and writing work brought home within a week. Why shouldn’t they? I do believe I was at school at 5, my mother was… Her mother was. Mini adults as young as 4. The worst thing we can do is ignore the blatant fact we all survived and many flourished going to school at 4 or 5. I’d hate to discredit the amazing work teachers have done in early years for many years!
That doesn’t mean that change isn’t possible just that it will take implementation. It’s not “Presbyterian Scottish” views that are stifling that play, this was often referred to in the presentation. Scotland is a culturally and socially diverse society still leading in aspects of education, and if we are still producing innovative young people many WILL be apprehensive about upping the school age. Those against change should be heard too. Instead of frowning and culturally shaming the nation why not just encourage a more play based environment into early years. Let the teachers choose to spend the afternoon playing, our curriculum allows for flexibility…. utilise that.
I have explored how people lived in the past and have used imaginative play to show how their lives were different from my own and the people around me.
SOC 0-04a

Our own lecturers encourage us to question and utilise the expression available within Curriculum for Excellence. I don’t feel it’s the school age that needs upped but that simply play should be happily extended. Choice should be extended. Individuality should be encouraged.
My questions are not on why are we scared of play; they are… Why a uniform so young? Why am I suddenly a title and not a person…? Why shouldn’t I encourage reading and writing in its simplest forms, if that child is switched on and ready. It’s about the individual. (In regards to talk play read bus! ) What bothered me was the assumption that it was school that stifled play. I’ve never looked back and thought oh I was so bored at school!!! I do however look back and smile at the quantity and quality of the play I engaged in out-with school.

I feel it’s the lack of play education with parents that needs addressed. Teachers having a more open policy with parents or community organisations venturing into the classroom. We change the adult to child ratio massively in just a few short months. That’s not ok.
Another point I want to probe is technology. The statistic that two thirds of 5-16 year olds have a tablet speaks volumes. The schools do not give the children these, the families do. That number being so high may be in correlation with the deterioration of play. We should utilise not demonize this information. Swiping instead of turning pages. Let me think back… Chalk instead of print, pencil instead of chalk, typing instead of pen… Progress. If as an adult I find it socially acceptable (if not encouraged) to use technology and smart phones daily then what stops me and others finding it ok to hand that device to a child? I am a mother and my 3 year old will “Google” info with me. I can show her quickly what I mean by the phrase “ominous clouds”. It’s not detracted from our engagement, it’s eased her understanding of a difficult word and it’s made my job easier as a mum! Books are still to be enjoyed and by my daughter loving books I’m not depriving her of play but feeding her imagination for her to then excel in play!
Information is to be accessible. When the changes we have made in education over the years they should maybe have touched upon the positive influence and impact of technology. We can’t poo poo or blame a tablet for the deterioration of play. We have to, ourselves, step back from our all encompassing reliance on our devices and engage in talk, interaction, contact with people. I will never lose my ability to play because I make a choice not to. As an educator I will make a choice to encourage play. We need to help everyone make informed choices for their children’s sakes.

I am 100% behind further utilisation of play in early primary. Upstart is a campaign that could revive the children of Scotland and give them back their youth. A vision shared with the vast majority that showed up on Tuesday night.


8 thoughts on “Upstart, let’s get started

  1. M Mackie

    This is perfect. I completely agree with you and you’ve managed to explain the issue really clearly. Play is SO important!!
    Regarding technology, I have to agree with you again. When used appropriately, technology and devices can be a wonderful resource. Unfortunately, it does happen that children are sat in front of a tablet in the same way as in the past they have been sat in front of the TV. Parents and teachers need to show children how the tablet can be used to develop play and expand knowledge, as is obviously the case with your little one.
    “I will never lose my ability to play because I make a choice not to” – spot on.

    1. Rebecca Muir Post author

      Thank you so so much! It must be our early years background that any qualms about adults playing is quickly lost or not present at all haha! 🙂

  2. Lauren Duncan

    Thank you so much for raising this issue and explaining it so well. I have found this post very interesting and insightful!
    I particularly admire your questioning of the uniform stereotype. Why should we put kids into a uniformed school so young? Especially when there are clear benefits of learning through play and interaction at that young age.
    Also, you’ve spoken about all this new technology contributing to the deterioration of play. I cannot agree more! My sisters are never out playing as much as I was when I was their age. All they are interested in is getting their tablet before bed!! (I am not a fan of that, either). Cannot agree with your post more!

    1. Rebecca Muir Post author

      Thank you so much Lauren, the tablet can be overused and not moderated that’s the scary part. It’s an overstimulation instead of a calming book etc.
      take a look at upstart Facebook page, it’s worth a nosey! X

  3. Derek Robertson

    Find myself agreeing with so much of what you have said here Rebecca. I am so pleased to also read someone take a balanced view of the potential and place of digital technology in the experiences that young learners can and should have – an important part of a mixed suite of experiences in my opinion. So refreshing to see this framed in a perspective that isn’t a deficit one. Focus on parental education also important; how do we change the reiterated expectations that are embedded in how the norms of #what school are’ are culturally replicated? Education indeed. We did this with computer games and learning a few years back – it’s about shaping and shifting perception via a real discourse with our varied partners. Great post!

    1. Rebecca Muir Post author

      Thank you Derek, play is something I am 100% behind but it must adapt and appeal to the younger generation. Stimuli should be based on variety and not age old techniques all the time! Thanks for taking the time to give my post a read. 🙂

  4. Brenda Keatch

    A great post that highlights many of the discussions that still need to be had. There is not a view from the Upstart campaign, that technology is wrong, it is the over-reliance of this that needs further debate. Children need many opportunities, across a wide range of experiences to provide the balance they need. We ran out of time on Tuesday and I hope all of the issues raised can be discussed and debated at future events. What excites me most is that we can and will have a debate about what is right for our children.

    1. Rebecca Muir Post author

      Thank you, I agree more discussion and debate has definitely happened due to upstart. That can only be a good thing. It has made me an even bigger advocate for play and hopefully I will be able to act upon the message.


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