Sue Palmer, Chair
Sue Palmer trained in primary education at Moray House, then taught in Edinburgh and the Borders. For the last thirty years she has been an independent writer, presenter and literacy specialist but, since researching Foundations of Literacy (2004) and Toxic Childhood (2006), her work has mainly focused on early childhood education and play. She was a founder member of the UK Save Childhood Movement, Chair of the Scottish Play Commission and a member of the Scottish Government’s Early Years Task Force.
Kate Johnston, Vice Chair
Kate Johnston trained at Moray House as a primary teacher and then after meeting Sheena Johnstone, returned to train as a nursery teacher. Having been influenced in her practice by Froebel, the work being undertaken in Reggio Emilia and the writing of Tina Bruce, she is passionate about allowing children time to develop their social and communication skills while exploring their environment. She has spoken at EIS AGMs on the necessity for highly qualified early years staff and has joined this campaign to highlight the issues of an early start for our children’s lives.
Morag Pendry, Joint Secretary
Morag ‘s career history covers many and varied of areas of interest from interior design, to retail management, primary teaching and developing Enterprise in Education in Scotland’s schools. Currently she is a self employed Education Advisor promoting co-operative models, values and principles and through this, encourage young people to engage with the democratic process in their schools and communities. With a wide-ranging experience of education across Scotland, she is convinced of the importance of getting it right in the early years, i.e., focusing on social and emotional development, till at least the age of 7. Through Kindergartens staffed by nursery teachers with specific training in this age and stage, Scotland could not only have more chance of closing the attainment gap but also have a happier and healthier population.
Francesca Mackintosh-Walker, Joint Secretary
Fran graduated from Moray House as a primary teacher 5 years ago and has spent the majority of that time teaching the Early/First Level (P1-3). She has a particular interest in outdoor learning and the role of play and creativity in child development. Having been brought up on a remote island on the North West Coast of Scotland, she had first-hand experience of the benefits of outdoor, ‘risky’ free-play. Now, as a teacher and a mother of two girls (aged 4 & 2), she finds the decline of such play opportunities for Scotland’s children combined with the very early start to their formal schooling extremely detrimental to their social, emotional and cognitive well-being. Fran is delighted to be a part of the Upstart campaign and strongly believes in its principles, which will ensure Scotland’s children are given the ‘best start’ to life.
Michele Goldie, Treasurer
Maria Perez, Communication Manager
Maria Perez trained at the University of Huelva (Spain) as a social educator, has worked as a private support teacher for years and also for a foundation based in a social risk area. She’s passionate about education and food democracy and likes to learn about neuroscience. She also cooperates with a website creating a network between innovative teachers in Spain and supports Upstart because she thinks changing education is the most direct way to change society and fight inequality.
Willie French, Edinburgh and Lothian
Head Teacher at the Royal High Primary School in Edinburgh, trained as teacher at Moray House College and has worked in primary schools for thirty-two years. He has held a number of posts including class teacher, assistant head teacher and head teacher, and has amassed a variety of experiences during his career, including working in the independent sector, in areas of multi-deprivation, in rural environments, in urban areas, for the voluntary sector, in special education and in mainstream education. Willie has a particular interest in developing pupils’ abilities and their health and well being through sport and the arts.
Hilary Long, Glasgow
Hilary lives in Glasgow where she is Manager at Woodland Outdoor Kindergartens. She writes: ‘I am delighted to be involved in the campaign. I have forty years experience in various capacities in early learning and childcare. I also have three grown up children and remember their first day at school vividly. I suppose ever since then I have intuitively known things needed to change and research confirms this. Glasgow is a big place. I live in the East End so any willing helpers across the city please do get in touch.”
Brenda Keatch, Dundee
Brenda is a lecturer in Early Education at the University of Dundee. After graduating in 1992 from Glasgow, Brenda taught for a number of years as a primary teacher before moving into a variety of different education settings, including ASN before finding her interest in nursery education. This led to a particular interest in managing and supporting children’s transitions between nursery and primary and a growing awareness that for many children this was a step too far, too soon. With a firm belief that play is an essential part of children’s development and that a strong foundation in play supports progression through childhood; she is an advocate of a change in the starting age of formal education to enable childhood to have the status is deserves.
Karen McConnell, Fife
With a background in Sociology and setting up various community projects supporting children and families for a number of third sector organisations, Karen joins the Upstart campaign from out with the education profession. Her experiences, both personal and through work have opened her eyes to the lack of free play available for so many children from a variety of family backgrounds and a general lack of understanding from parents of what play can offer in terms of both short term and long term benefits. As a mother of two young children now herself, Karen can see first hand that children are born to play and develop exclusively through it until a more structured environment is imposed on them. She’s excited to play a part in working towards extending the time where children can learn through play for as long as possible.
Claire Hudson, Aberdeen
Having spent many years working as a project manager in the NHS, a career change has found me working as a Forest School Leader in playgroups, schools and the woods of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, primarily with early years children. I am passionate about the UpStart campaign, and its efforts to not only introduce a kindergarten stage, but also to ensure more outdoor play and a focus on social and emotional development.
Kim Bannister, Dumfries and Galloway
Owner and Manager of The Orchard Nature Nursery based in Dumfries. Since achieving her BA in Childhood Studies in 2008 and opening her own successful business in 2013, she has been passionate in providing children with real experiences, both indoors and out, where play takes over and the real learning begins. Watching children grow through child led, risky play based experiences provides the proof this movement can make a difference to Scotland’s children.
Malcolm Baxter, Highland
After graduating in Melbourne, Malcolm trained and worked as a paediatrician in Australia, Yorkshire and the Highlands. Special areas of interest were developmental, social, and behavioural paediatrics, childhood disability and child protection. He was influenced by the writings of John Holt and Michael Rutter among many others. He has four children and six grandchildren.
Yvonne Fraser, Highland
Currently primary teaching in Highland. Yvonne worked for many years in Early Years Care and Education and Support for Learning in mainstream (primary and secondary), undertaking SVQ III modules. She took the step to study BA Child and Youth Studies at UHI and PGDE in Primary Education at Strathclyde University. She has a particular interest in the role of play in child development and believes a delay in formal schooling would lead to an increase in attainment levels and health and well being for all children.
Polly Cheer, Moray
Delighted to be part of this campaign to change the experiences of our youngest children. She initially trained as a primary teacher and then had her own Montessori nursery school in Orkney. She then taught in Primary schools for children with additional needs across Glasgow. Her last job was as a Sure Start Children’s Centre Teacher across South Manchester which involved training in Reggio Emilia approaches and creativity. Looking forward to changing the future of education across Scotland!
Ali Laver, Shetland
Ali is a primary teacher who is currently full time ‘at home’ with her two children, 4 and 2 years old. As a teacher, Ali experienced the limitations of starting formal learning with 4 and 5 year olds, which made her question the current set up. This led to research into other systems of education, and she has developed a keen interest in outdoor learning, the ethos of forest school and the importance of play. Ali was incredibly relieved and excited to discover Upstart Scotland and believes passionately that introducing a kindergarten style approach to early years education would be wonderfully beneficial to our children in Scotland.
Chris Orr, Inverclyde
I am an Early Years Practitioner who works at an Integrated Children’s Centre In Greenock. I have a passion for play, creativity, the arts and children’s rights. I feel as though I have an excellent understanding of what children need for healthy growth and development. This has come from a mix of my profession, bringing up my 3 children and the recent completion of the BA in Childhood Practice at Strathclyde University. While studying towards this degree and through professional dialogue with my fellow students, it became apparent that we seem to be losing the value and importance that is attached to play and the learning that can come from it. Its great to be part of the Upstart campaign and I feel we have to change our early years practice to help close the achievement gap as we work towards making Scotland’s Education System one of the best in the world.