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Office-Bearers and Trustees

Sue Palmer, Honorary President

Sue Palmer, ChairSue Palmer trained in primary education at Moray House, then taught in Edinburgh and the Borders. For the last thirty-five 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.

Willie French, Chair of Upstart Board of Trustees

Willie French, Edinburgh and Lothian ConvenerHead Teacher at Haddington Primary School in East Lothian, Willie 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.


Dawn Ewan, Vice Chair/Secretary

Dawn Ewan, Board of TrusteesAs a Nursery, Primary and ASN teacher, Dawn became increasingly aware of the benefits of working outdoors with children and young people of all ages. After completing her Forest School Leader training in 2012, Dawn spent some time researching and visiting outdoor nurseries, founding Mucky Boots Education in 2016 and then Mucky Boots Nature Kindergarten in 2017. Since then, Mucky Boots has been recognised for Services to the Community and has won awards for environmentalism and Partnership Working. Increasing interest from local parents led to Mucky Boots becoming registered for children aged 3-7 in August 2019. Mucky Boots Nature Kindergarten has been recognised as a Pioneer setting by Early Childhood Outdoors and works as part of a national meshwork supporting and encouraging outdoor practice in early years. Dawn has a particular interest in nature connection and how environment, space and nurture come together to support and build communities.


David Ashford, Treasurer

Throughout much of his worDavid Ashford, Treasurerking life, David has been supporting young people’s clubs.  He has also had an eclectic interest in other groups focused on the betterment of society and the natural environment as a whole.

Since 2004, he has utilised his legal background to volunteer – from his home on the Isle of Skye – for a wide range of Scottish organisations.  These include the Lochalsh Youth Community Trust, Youth Scotland and now Upstart Scotland.  He is particularly enthusiastic about the challenge of connecting children and young people to nature and regards them as the most important humans on the Planet!


Kate Johnston, Board of Trustees

Kate Johnston, Vice Chair/SecretaryKate 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.


Tam Baillie, Board of Trustees

Tam Baillie, Board of TrusteesTam Baillie was Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People from May 2009 to May 2017.  As Commissioner, Tam had a duty to promote and safeguard the rights of children and young people in Scotland through: raising awareness of children’s rights; involving children and young people in his work; and influencing law, policy and practice with children and young people. Tam previously worked as a manager and practitioner with children and young people for almost 40 years, working in the statutory and voluntary sectors in Scotland and England.  Tam’s main areas of work experience includes providing: community based supports to vulnerable children; throughcare and after care services; homeless and street-based services; and developing policy and influencing legislation.  Tam is now totally committed to play, raising awareness and understanding of its fundamental importance to children’s development.


Professor John Frank, Board of Trustees

Professor John Frank, Board of TrusteesProfessor Frank is the Director of an Edinburgh-based Centre, funded by the Medical Research Council and the Scottish Chief Scientist Office: the Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy. The Collaboration seeks to develop and robustly test novel public health policies and programs to equitably improve health status in Scotland, through partnering with research-users. He has also been: a Professor (now Emeritus) at the University of Toronto, at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, since 1983; founding Director of Research at the Institute for Work & Health in Toronto (1991-1997); and inaugural Scientific Director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research – Institute of Population and Public Health (2000-2008).


Lesley Young, Board of Trustees

Lesley earned her degree in Social Sciences at the University of West of Scotland, before completing her PGCE in Primary Education and quickly finding her passion for early years. With a wealth of experience in early years development, Lesley joins us having worked for over 20 years as a primary school teacher before specialising in early years and Nursery. She has supported Nurseries in both Local Authority and Partner Providers across different authorities in the west of Scotland. A change in focus saw her moving onto lecturing in Early Years within Glasgow Kelvin College, where she works today.

Lesley’s drive and innovation shine, allowing her to pass on her expertise to the early years staff of tomorrow, from a pool of students from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. She has a passion for learning through play, and her enthusiasm and experience will be an undoubted asset to the Upstart Board.

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