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Three Great Early Years Pioneers & Their Ideas

In The Footsteps Of Giants is an online conference starting this evening, that will explore the pedagogical principles of the three great early years pioneers who believed deeply in play-based Kindergarten and care for 3 – 7 year olds: Rudolf Steiner, Frederick Froebel, and Maria Montessori, as well as outside kindergartens.


International expert Janni Nichol will be one of the keynote speakers at the conference. Her talk ‘Rudolf Steiner and Early Childhood: Preparation for Life’ is at 7pm- 8pm on Thursday 17th September, broadcast live on Zoom.


Janni Nicol currently works for the Executive of the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF) with the overview of Birth – 7 year old provision in the UK (including Scotland, Wales and Ireland). The SWSF is the umbrella organisation for Steiner early years and Independent Steiner schools.


The full conference includes six hour-long sessions on the under-pinning principles of play-based kindergarten practice for children aged three to seven. It is aimed at both parents and practitioners in the sector; with the first four – on Froebel, Steiner, Montessori and Outdoor Kindergartens – consisting of 20 minute presentations plus discussion and Q/A. The programme, including dates and times, can be downloaded here. The first of these talks is tonight, by Marjorie Ouvry on Friedrich Froebel at 7pm.



The event is being hosted by Upstart Scotland, the campaigners behind Play, Not Test, for P1.


Upstart Scotland is a grassroots campaign founded by author of Toxic Childhood, Sue Palmer. It’s aim is to establish a statutory play-based ‘kindergarten stage’ for Scottish children aged 7 and under.


There’s no educational advantage to an early start. On the other hand, an early start causes problems for many children.

In the long run a kindergarten stage enhances academic results. In the 2015 OECD international review, the three most successful western nations were Finland, Estonia and Switzerland.  All have a play-based kindergarten stage for three- to seven-year-old children.

Upstart Scotland



Neuroscientists urge that children need time and space to play. At the Waldorf 100 celebrations in Silicon Valley, Nobel laureate in neuroscience, and Waldorf graduate, Thomas Sudhof, concluded his keynote speech by saying:

More than ever nowadays, where things are changing, where the way we interact with the world has become so much more indirect because of new technologies, where we need to cope with a completely different sensory environment, this type of education is more important than ever.

Learn more about the science on the National Institute for Play website.


The conference, programmed to take place in Edinburgh at the Storytelling Centre back in March,  had been a sold-out event; however owing to the current pandemic, organisers have made it possible for the talks to reach more people by making it virtual. Each talk will be an hour long, broadcast live on Zoom at 7pm and available to registrants for a week.


Tickets can be purchased from Eventbrite.


Learn about our Early Years Provision.