Parents and educators will flock to Letham woods this Sunday to find out why Scotland’s award-winning first outdoor nursery is so successful.
The Secret Garden Outdoor, which is held entirely outdoors in Letham woods all year round, will host an Upstart Scotland event as part of the official launch of the campaign which aims to change the school starting age to seven.
The launch, which coincides with National Children’s Day, will showcase the skills in childcare boasted by the nursery.
The Secret Garden opened its invisible doors in 2008, receiving at this time Nancy Ovens and Play Scotland awards.
“We want to show parents and educators what could be possible if we change the school starting age to seven and let the play go on in the woods until then,” said founder Cathy Bache.
“We have had a number of parents defer their children’s starting school for a year or even two and have found the benefits immeasurable.”
Sue Palmer, chairwoman of Upstart and author of Toxic Childhood: How Modern Life is Damaging our Children, added: “In Finland and Switzerland youngsters don’t start formal learning until they are seven and they are doing extremely well in international surveys of achievement.”
She said that children’s success in the rest of their educational career, and beyond that in the workplace, depends on their level of physical, emotional, social and intellectual maturity when schooling starts.
“But Scotland’s very early school starting age means we have a cultural attachment to cracking on with formal learning at P1 so the principles of the early level are forgotten,” she added.
“When sound developmental foundations are not established – and most children are not fully mature in every respect until they’re six, or even seven – there are likely to be problems in the future.
“Some children will develop behavioural problems because they lack the emotional and social skills needed to settle in a classroom.”
Based in a 25-acre woodland north of Letham village, The Secret Garden nursery offers explorative full-time outdoor play for 49 weeks of the year.
It said with a present roll of about 40 children attending between four hours and three days a week the enthusiasm for outdoor play and learning appeared to be rising.
All visitors to the event on Sunday are asked to park by the village hall and walk up the hill to the woods.