Insights from the Playgroup Movement-:Edited by Ann Henderson

The Playgroup Movement is reaching its fiftieth anniversary and this book is in part a celebration of that event and also a retrospective look at trends and demands made on the philosophy that children deserve to play as well as a glimpse into the future for such organisations. There are so many rich quotes to be garnered from this book that I have had to ignore temptation almost totally, in order to avoid the pitfalls of plagiarism. The networking excellence of the Pre-school Playgroups Alliance (as was) is due to a lady called Belle Tutaev who set up the first newsletter so that there was communication on a national scale for all parents and practitioners who wished for something for their children. The newsletter that she developed was called Contact.

“To our shame as a society, most decisions about educational provision for young children have been made with the requirements of the adults in mind. When women were needed in fields and factories during and immediately after the war, nurseries were provided. As soon as that need was perceived to be over, nursery expansion was no longer supported. People who regretted this decision generally did so out of concern for the adults not the children. The TUC’s Charter for the Under fives in 1977, for example, saw pre-school children as a hindrance to their parents’ full contribution to GDP, and well-run nurseries as a practical solution to this problem.” Ann Henderson

The ensuing chapters chart the importance of the PPA in the lives of children and their families and offer many contributions from such service users. It talks about where playgroups were housed and some of the problems of sharing space and resources. I certainly remember local playgroups being in cold and draughty church halls in my local area. Very few people originally were paid for their services and volunteers were sought and became invaluable. A lot of parents helped out in their child’s playgroup so that every child had someone keeping an eye on them for safety and encouragement.

From these experiences, parents began to identify the importance of play and play environments for small children as a means of developing skills and individuality which would stand them in good stead in their later school years. It was where a lot of mothers in particular were able to develop positive relationships with their children and where they could see other parents doing the same.

Training was offered through leaders and regional officers from the 1970s and this has continued to develop into a nationally recognised qualification.

There have been some troubled times for the movement and it has been, from time to time, its own worst enemy. In a way, this was due to being an intuitive rather than business-minded organisation from the onset. Quality of care and play opportunities where children and their parents could feel equal, accepted and respected was the priority but of course this has to be tempered by the demands of quality assurance and made into something that is assessable and quantifiable.

The history of events in the movement is available at the back of the book and it is obvious how politics played their part in the on going evolution of such a grand institution.

This is an easy book to read, whether from the beginning all through or selecting the chapters in order of preference. The writers who contributed to this book each have their own reasons for doing so and this makes for a varied approach and mind-set.

For practitioners and parents it is a must-read and must-have text.

Henderson, Ann (Ed) (2011) Insights from the Playgroup Movement

Trentham Books 2011

ISBN: 978-1-85856-503-3

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