PPA Timeline



Belle Tutaev, a young mother living in London, formed a nursery group with friends in Marylebone for her children and her friends' children. She wrote a letter to The Guardian dated 25 August 1961 headed 'Do It Yourself Nurseries' and received more than 100 letters from all over the country in response.


10 July: 150 people met and formed an organisation called the 'Association of Pre-school Playgroups'. It had a charitable constitution and the annual subscription was £1. Objects were 'the formation of playgroups throughout the UK; the study of children's needs, the promotion of public interest in 'education by organised recreation', and spreading understanding by means of talks, meetings and publications'.

October: first national conference held in London.


Belle Tutaev produced first issue of a magazine called Contact.

The Nuffield Foundation gave grant of £750 p.a. for two years.

June: second national conference held in Birmingham.


January: London County Council allocated £1,000 p.a. for 7 years for playgroup adviser for Inner London Education Authority.

Plowden Committee set up to make recommendations to Government on future of nursery education. PPA gave evidence to the Committee.


Membership 550.

March and June: questions about playgroups asked in the House of Commons.

July: National Campaign for Nursery Education (NCNE) formed; PPA represented on Executive Committee.


April: Annual General Meeting held in Liverpool. Mary Bruce proposed structure of regional organisation which would provide a means of communication between members and the Executive. President of the Association: Belle Tutaev; Chair: Mary Bruce; Secretary: Pat Brooksbank ; Treasurer: Barbara Keeley,

July: first national Office set up at Toynbee Hall in Stepney, East London. Dorothy Hearn and Kitty Vaughan were employed for a total of 35 hours between them.

Membership 1,500. Annual subscription £1 and Contact cost fifteen shillings (75p) a year; editors were Margaret Walsh and Barbara Asherson; published monthly excluding August and December. By September Kate Moodie from York had become Editorial Consultant. She worked for 8 years as a volunteer helping with the production of Contact.

12 November: Special General Meeting attended by 80 members from all over the country. Resolution 3 offering regionalisation to areas ready for it was passed almost unanimously.

Because playgroups were registered with their local health authority under the 1948 Nurseries and Childminders Act, PPA was concerned that there was no provision for the educational inspection of private establishments catering for children under five. To protect their member groups from the criticism which could therefore be levelled at playgroups, PPA devised Approved Group Scheme. 'An expert qualified in the field of nursery education will come to visit your group to see whether you are conforming to our Code both in spirit and in letter. If you are, you will be PPA Approved and will be entitled to say so in your brochures and letter heading. Annual visits will take place to ensure standards are maintained'. The scheme was developed between October 1966 and May 1968 when it was abandoned.


Plowden Report 'Children and their Primary Schools' published. 'The Under Fives are the only age group for whom no extra educational provision of any kind has been made since 1944.........Nursery education on a large scale remains an unfulfilled promise'.

Two recommendations of report of special interest:

• there should be a large expansion of nursery education as soon as possible

• until enough maintained places were available, local education authorities should be given power and encouraged to give financial or other assistance to nursery groups run by non-profit making associations which in their opinion filled a need they could not meet.

Warned that nursery education would succeed 'only if it carries the parents into partnership'.

April: first grant from government to PPA from the Department of Education and Science (DES; £3,000 p.a. for three years for a national adviser. Brenda Crowe was appointed to advise both PPA and the government. Brenda was Froebel trained, had worked in a day nursery during World War 2, and had been a PPA visitor and tutor since 1964. She had considerable reservations about the Approved Group Scheme, thinking that groups would be better influenced by visiting other groups and inviting more experienced leaders to visit them and advise.

The Scottish Pre-school Playgroups Association (SPPA) was formed as a region of PPA with a head office in Glasgow.

The Northern Ireland Pre-School Playgroups Association (NIPPA) was formed as a region of PPA.

Inner London PPA (ILPPA) was formed and The Lady Plowden became its President.

April: Belle Tutaev ended her term of office as President of PPA.

Second AGM in Birmingham, chaired by Mary Bruce and attended by 200 members, from a membership of over 2,000. Draft policy statement and constitution approved in principle; controversial clauses (the name, the raising of the suggested minimum age, proxy voting, group membership and branch membership) discussed. Draft referred back to working party to redraft and get legal approval; name changed to Pre-school Playgroups Association, In July the PPA Symbol – a circle of cut out paper dolls - was adopted 'to convey without words that PPA was about play, children, parents and supervisors'.


John Watson elected Chair of the National Executive Committee (NEC,). John was vicar of a parish in an Educational Priority Area in Southwark, chair of the local playgroup committee, a school manager, a borough councillor, and chair of the social services committee.

Office moved to 87a Borough High Street in Bermondsey.

May: National Campaign for Nursery Education organised the Lollipop Lobby at the House of Commons. Petition of 97,000 signatures handed in asking for Circular 8/60 (which prevented local authorities expanding nursery education provision) to be revoked.


April: Mary Bruce appointed part-time General Secretary, funded by £1,000 grant from the National Playing Fields Association (NFPA). Mary had been a secondary teacher, was a founder member of PPA (one of those who responded to Belle Tutaev's letter), had served on one of the first committees and been Chair of NEC.  Mary was the first employed General Secretary; previously the role had been undertaken by volunteers.

May: first National Playgroup Week launched in House of Commons, organised by Joan Lestor, MP; attracted the attention of MPs of all parties.

South West Region established.

May: Urban Aid Phase II allocated £150,000 to playgroups in urban areas; first large-scale financial assistance given to playgroups on a national basis.


June: Urban Aid Phase III allocated more money to playgroups in urban areas.

Department of Health (DoH) circular 25/70 advised local authorities to actively encourage the development of playgroups

AGM and conference held in Brighton. President, Professor W. D Wall of Institute of Education, identified influence of Joan Lestor MP for Slough, the Under Secretary of State for the Department of Education and Science, in making the government aware of the importance of the early years. Joan, chairing the AGM said 'there is a dawn of realisation that the early years might be the most important in human growth'.

Northern Region established.

First edition of Playgroup News published. Edited by Joyce Donoghue and then Helen Smith; published termly; aimed at parents and generally bought in bulk by playgroups at 7 shillings (35p) for 20 to give to parents or sell on at 6 pence (2½ p) each.


DES doubled grant to £11,000, allowing a second national adviser to be appointed. This was Maude Henderson who remained in that post until 1977 and wrote Cogs and Spindles about her experiences as a national adviser. With a distinguished academic career behind her, Maud joined PPA at the age of 63. She played an important in the structural development of the organisation.

Further grant from NPFA and also from Joseph Rowntree Trust.

Conference held in Keele. Postal strike prevented members receiving AGM papers so voting on proposals delayed until Special AGM in June in Manchester.

Report entitled The Playgroup Movement produced by Brenda Crowe. Originally a PPA publication, subsequently published as book in 1973 with second and third editions in 1975 and 1977. Later updated by Meg Buford; fourth edition in 1983.

Open University (OU) and PPA collaborated on development of OU course The Pre-school Child.

The national Play in Hospital Committee set up, consisting of PPA, SCF (Save the Children Fund) and NAWCH (National Association for the Welfare of Children in Hospital).

April: responsibility for playgroups transferred from health authorities to local authority social services departments.

Some local authorities beginning to allocate small grants to Branches of PPA. In this year, grants totalled £11,000.


Margaret Thatcher, Education Secretary, produced a paper A Framework for Expansion recommending that Circular 8/60 should be withdrawn. Some local authorities expanded nursery education, mainly in the north of England; significance of playgroup movement not yet recognised. Lady Plowden, President of PPA: 'It is time for those who are planning this expansion to look at the achievements of the playgroup movement'.

Max Paterson (before he became President of Scottish PPA) wrote 'the danger is that authority, in its passage to others at too early a stage, will diminish the authority of the parent in the eyes of the child'.

Office moved to youth centre in Alford House, Kennington, SE London.

First national conference for opportunity groups.

June: government financial support for PPA substantially increased by a grant given by the Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) for the first time. Together with the on-going grant from the DES for the national advisers, this showed some measure of official recognition for the Association. Announced by Sir Keith Joseph, the DHSS grant was specifically for the appointment of a team of training and development officers (TDOs) and establishment of three regional centres in Newcastle, Birmingham and Exeter. First TDOs appointed - Doreen Chell (Eastern Region), Lee Fairlie (Northern Region part-time), Jill Faux (Northern Region part-time), Maureen Huntley (Southern Region), Joyce Donoghue (South East Region) and Wendy Moore (West Midlands Region).


Circular 2/73 announced a new policy for the expansion of provision for under-fives over the next 8/9 years following the recommendations of Plowden Report and Gittens Report in Wales. Authorities were advised to 'consider carefully the role of playgroups and how they could fit into the expansion of nursery provision.'

PPA dropped its second objective: 'To press for more nursery schools and classes', retaining its first: 'To promote the formation of playgroups' .

NEC accepted the offer by McKinsey and Co. to do a study on the structure of PPA. Following lengthy consultation, new national committee structure set up as recommended in their report A New Decade for PPA. Original seven committees: Field Services (chaired by Milly Chadband), Training (chaired by Joan Fazackerley), Personnel (chaired by Meg Burford), Special Needs (chaired by Barbara Howell), Communications and Media (chaired by Charlotte Williamson and then Joanna Matthews), Research (chaired by Teresa Smith) and Finance (chaired by Pat Meacock). Legal and Constitution sub-committee came under the Finance Committee and was also chaired by Pat Meacock; later became full Committee (chaired by Wendy Witter).

Dr. Wall, Dean of the Institute of Education, became a Vice-President. Lady Plowden, replying to an article in the Times Educational Supplement (TES) by Dr. Margaret Pollak, said 'The strength of the playgroup movement lies precisely in the way it has enabled mothers of ALL classes to recognise that they've got skills and use them.'

April: AGM and Conference held in Edinburgh when Scottish PPA was formally constituted as an independent organisation. Focus on the Future of Playgroups based on addresses at the conference summed up the feeling at the time 'Where do we go from here?'.

Membership 8,300.


DHSS grant doubled again, allowing the appointment of a third national adviser, Delphine Knight whose remit was children with special needs, and also more TDOs - Jean Brown (Yorkshire and Humberside), and (part-time) Liz Tatman (North West), Jean Ward (East Midlands) and Sheila Stone (South West). Myfanwy Edwards was National Adviser for Wales.

AGM and Conference held at Exeter University. Sandra Wates (later Edwards) elected chair of the NEC, following six years of chairmanship by John Watson. Sandra had previously been chair of the Personnel Committee. A constitutional change set the length of term of office of the NEC Chair as three years.

Final agreement on new aims and objectives was achieved after vigorous debate throughout the Association. PPA's aim became 'PPA exists to help young parents to understand and provide for the needs of their young children. It aims to promote community situations in which parents can with growing enjoyment and confidence make the best of their knowledge and resources in the development of their children and themselves.' One of the nine objectives was 'To promote the formation and support of playgroups as part of a range of related services for pre-school children and their parents'.

Nicholas Jessup appointed as General Secretary, taking over from Mary Bruce. Two new posts created: Ray Pallot appointed Finance Officer and Jane Atkinson, Field Services Officer.

July: Leicester Training Conference of 85 people recommended the writing of a national course – The Foundation Course – to be held over three terms, the equivalent of one day a week with a nationally agreed content - the beginning of national courses for play leaders, but not qualifications - the Leicester conference agreed that 'a qualification at supervisor level was incompatible with our commitment to parents learning together to share responsibility and authority within the playgroup setting'.

September: first national meeting of playgroup advisers. The nature of this post varied widely within local authorities, PPA and other agencies. Regionally based groups were set up and organised by PPA's TDOs.

Legal and Constitution sub-committee produced Standing Orders for Regions to regulate their aims and the way they were run.

National conference for opportunity groups.

Brenda Crowe said 'I shall remember 1974 as the breakthrough year. Suddenly people began to understand that far from being a watered-down version of nursery schools, we are a souped-up version of child-centred family life'.

Membership 9,000.


AGM and conference held at University of Lancaster, organised by NW Region. 1,300 delegates attended. Barbara Castle, Secretary of State for Health and Social Security, said 'I see your work as seeking to universalise the child-parent relationships of the most fortunate of families, and I rejoice in it because it emphasises what I think is an increasingly important aspect of community care by which we do not so much do things for people as show the how much they can do for themselves. Above all, I admire your work because it stimulates parents to trust the contribution they can make to their own child's development. We really must not build a society in which the expert injects self-doubt into what should be good, natural and instinctive relationships.' When the Vice-Chancellor of the University spoke to welcome the conference on the Saturday, he reported that the delegates had drunk every bar in the University absolutely dry the previous evening with the comment 'Ladies, you drink like fish but you swim so beautifully!'

In an emotional declaration and a supportive response from the meeting, Northern Ireland PPA (NIPPA) became an independent organisation.

Guidelines for the Foundation Course produced by national Training Committee. The committee started to keep records of courses and students taking part in PPA courses and encouraged regions to set up regional training committees.

Barclays Bank gave £10,000 to fund research studies on

• the development of mother and toddler groups (published 1978)

• parental involvement in playgroups (published 1980)

• patterns of oversight and support for playgroups (published 1981).

Not only were they valuable records of PPA's work but they also laid foundations for future development of the playgroup movement. The grant also funded two x 2 day meetings of the NEC to allow them to consider future policy.

Under Five magazine replaced Playgroup News.


Grant from the DHSS £161,000, including special grant for study of mother and toddler groups and up to £750 p.a. in expenses for each of three Regional Fieldworkers (RFWs) per region. RFWs undertook specific, discrete pieces of work in areas of particular need, defined by the regions.

First DHSS/DES joint circulars on pre-school provision published, recommending closer cooperation between the two departments.

Brenda Crowe retired as national adviser, and Maureen Huntley, previously TDO in the Southern Region, was appointed to the post.

April: AGM and conference held at Warwick University, organised by the West Midlands Region. The theme was 'Our voluntary contribution'.

National Playgroup Week held in response to an AGM proposal. PPA presented a petition to parliament asking that playgroups should have a permanent place in future patterns of pre-school provision. NEC Chair, Sandra Edwards, expressed the view that despite the cordial reception of the petition, it was still government policy to provide a maintained nursery place for every 3 and 4 year old as soon as possible.

July: conference for playgroup tutors.

Nicholas Jessup resigned as General Secretary; Jane Atkinson promoted from Field Services Officer to the post. Alison Richardson appointed to the post of Field Services Officer.

80 volunteers serving on national committees.


AGM and conference held in Nottingham University, organised by East Midlands Region. More delegates than ever attended including 500 'first timers'. Daphne Tams elected NEC Chairman at the first meeting of the NEC after the AGM. Daphne had previously been Hon. Treasurer for two years. In response to a request from the membership, it was agreed that the election of the NEC Chair would in future take place on the evening of the AGM at a specially convened NEC meeting so that those attending the Conference would know who the new Chair was and not have to wait until the next year's AGM to meet the incumbent.

Maude Henderson OBE, retired from her role as national adviser. She remained closely involved in the Association as a voluntary member of the Research Committee and President of the Northern Region. Maude died on 15th February 2001.

Meg Burford appointed to the role of national adviser. She had been a tutor, area and county organiser, chair of Personnel Committee, NW regional chair and member of NEC.


April: AGM and conference held in Reading, organised by Southern Region (in the snow). The AGM and some plenary sessions held in marquee specially erected for the purpose as the University was not able to provide a meeting place sufficiently large for the 2,000 attending. On the Sunday morning the keynote speaker, Professor Halsey from the University of Oxford, praised the work of PPA: 'You're a positive nuisance you see. You want to do different things in different places. You don't understand about universalism and standardisation. You are bloody-minded in so many different ways that no civil servant can seriously be expected to welcome the idea that they have to see the PPA in the morning.'

Membership 13,500.

Representatives elected by regions to serve on national committees. Regions became responsible for recognising foundation courses.

17 April: Maureen Huntley, national adviser, died. Sadly she had been too ill to be present at the Reading AGM and conference into which she had put so much energy, enthusiasm and commitment.

Minette Jee appointed to national adviser post. Minette's background was in nursery education.

Conference 'Opportunities Grasped' held in Manchester for opportunity groups.

Second DHSS/DES Joint circular published, suggesting inter-departmental cooperation


First overseas branch of PPA was formed in Hong Kong, initially started by UK expatriates but by 1982 it had members from the local population.

National Mother and Toddler sub-committee was formed.

March/April: AGM and Conference held in Sheffield, organised by Yorkshire and Humberside Region. The theme was 'Families Matter'. All attending the conference were presented with a commemorative teaspoon made of Sheffield stainless steel.


Shirley Palfreeman (formerly a PPA fieldworker) produced a booklet Starting a Mother and Toddler Group which was a joint winner of the Johnson and Johnson Award for newly qualified health visitors.

Joint statement issued by PPA, SPPA and NIPPA entitled PPA In The Eighties – Opportunities for Children: underlined why it was so important that support be made available to the playgroup movement to allow it to continue and extend its contribution, by explaining how the movement had developed, its role in supporting families, and expressing hopes and anxieties for the future.

April: AGM and conference held in Brighton, organised by South East Region; AGM in the Regency Pavilion. Juliet Baxter was elected as NEC chair. Juliet had previously been secretary to Berkshire County PPA, secretary to the Southern Region PPA and chair of the Legal and Constitution Committee.

June: Meg Burford (National Adviser) and Juliet Baxter (NEC Chair) made first formal visit to forces playgroups in Germany. The invitation came from the Army, and the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) was involved in the organisation.

July: Minette Jee resigned as national adviser and Sally Maxwell appointed to the post.

In the summer, DHSS granted a one-off sum of £10,000 to the NEC to fund a consultant, Professor Bhaskar from University of East Anglia, to consider PPA's financial organisation in the light of its phenomenal growth. Report from Professor Bhaskar received by the NEC in March 1983.


PPA publications department moved to Manchester.

First services branch of PPA formed in Monchengladbach to meet the needs of services playgroups in Germany, followed by Bielefeld, Hessen and Berlin in 1982. Each of the overseas branches was 'adopted' by a region to maintain friendly informal links.

April: AGM and conference held in Newcastle, organised by Northern Region. The theme was 'The Challenge of Change: Shared Resources'. Persil vouchers enabled delegates to travel by train for half price. A resolution to the AGM 'That PPA gives equal consideration to mother and toddler groups and playgroups' was passed by an overwhelming majority.


Diana, Princess of Wales became PPA's Patron.

First biennial 'overseas day' to help maintain links between 120 overseas members.

Grant from the DHSS £350,000 for 11 TDOs, regional and national offices. Each Region had a full-time TDO except Northern Region which had two three-quarter time TDOs.

DES grant of £52,000 paid for three national advisers who worked with national committees and regions, had 'pastoral' responsibility for the regionally based TDOs, and made and maintained links for PPA with other agencies.

PPA became national agent for the government's Opportunities for Volunteering grants scheme which enabled grants to be given to playgroups in disadvantaged areas, family centres and play in hospital schemes.

PPA requested funding from the DES to look at transition into school in the light of falling rolls and early admission into schools of 4 year olds for whom primary classrooms were seen by many as unsuitable environments. £2,000 was received for 4 regions. In 1983, funding was received for a further 4 regions.

The Association had 15,000 members and was debating whether to get a computer. Renewal time was described as 'a nightmare' with all members wanting to renew at the same time and needing to do it quickly because of the insurance implications. There were 450 branches varying in size from nine playgroups to 186 playgroups. Circulation of Contact had increased to 25,000; available only on subscription or as part of membership.

Spring: Lady Plowden retired after 10 years as President of PPA. She was a valued friend of the Association and was still a Vice-President in 1991.

April: AGM and Conference held in London, organised by Greater London Region. Delegates housed in university halls of residence; meetings and workshops were held in a large variety of buildings. AGM addressed by Sir Norman Fowler, then Secretary of State for the DHSS. He walked over to the hall from the House of Commons where the debate on the Falklands crisis was taking place on a Saturday. It was the 21st birthday of PPA and a telegram of congratulation was received from HRH the Princess of Wales, the Association's first patron. Dr. Mia Kellmer Pringle succeeded Lady Plowden as President and was welcomed by the membership. Birthday cakes abounded. Belle Tutaev and the daughter who took her to playgroup in the first place cut one, and another was cut by Lady Plowden and the NEC Chair, Juliet Baxter, at a reception given to the Association by the Greater London Council at County Hall. Marjorie Dykins, now National Adviser for Wales, summed up the conference describing it as a 'very magical weekend'.

June: Playgroup Week with balloon races (sponsored by Waddingtons Playworld); depicted in television and radio series, Emmerdale Farm and The Archers, and the BBC television programme Playschool visited different playgroups during the week.

July: article in Contact reported the speech made by Lady Plowden at the AGM earlier in the year in which she reconsidered The Plowden Report. She said she would not have made the same recommendations about nursery education if she had known then what she now knew about the value of playgroups.

3 November: 21st national birthday party held at the Hyde Park Hotel in London - first PPA event attended by the Princess of Wales as Patron.


February: Mia Kellmer Pringle died at the age of 63. Although she had been with PPA for such a short time, her death was a huge loss to the Association.

Parliamentary Links group set up as small working group of the NEC. Subsequently became sub-committee of Communications and Media Committee with the aim of contacting MPs and informing them of the work of the Association.

March: AGM and conference held in Llandudno, organised by Wales (Cymru) 'region' of PPA. First time delegate residency was not in hall of residence in a university; eleven hotels overlooking the sea at Llandudno coped with the huge numbers attending. Saturday evening concert given by the Rhoslianerchrugog Male Voice Choir. Sue Griffin was elected NEC Chair. Sue had previously been a PPA tutor, County Organiser in Wiltshire and Chair of the Field Services Committee

Mother and toddler conferences in Bristol, Manchester and Peterborough, funded by Johnson & Johnson.


April: AGM and conference held for second time at Exeter University, organised by SW Region. Juliet Baxter became a Vice-President.

May: NEC Chair, Sue Griffin, raised the issue of four year olds in primary school as an important matter for PPA.

November: Meg Burford resigned as National Adviser; Jill Faux and Margaret Blake were appointed

Introduction of the Under-Fives Initiative enabled PPA for the first time to make grants directly to its member playgroups.

Working party on education for parenthood funded by Abbey Life Insurance; led to report Learning about Parenthood – what happens in PPA Groups.

It was discovered by senior volunteers with financial responsibility that the Finance Officer, Ray Pallot, had been had been siphoning off sums of money, each one small, but building into many thousands of pounds over a significant period of time. This had been undetected by auditors and PPA's bank who should have spotted inappropriate practices. This left PPA with an £80,000 deficit.


Barbara Keeley, long serving volunteer of the Association, wrote article published in The Guardian on the eve of the AGM and conference entitled Is playschool played out?, asking searching questions about the future of playgroups. She argued that the Conservative policy of expanding nursery schools and classes would close playgroups, and that nurseries in purpose built premises which were amply equipped, run by professional staff, and were free, would be preferred by parents who were then paying 70p a session and also expected to help on rota sessions in their group. She called on the playgroup movement to stir itself and work out its permanent place in society.

March/April: AGM and conference held at University of Lancaster, organised by North West Region; AGM in Lancaster Town Hall. Aidan MacFarlane became President. Previously he had been Brigadier MacFarlane and held post of consultant paediatrician in the forces in Germany. An emergency measure was put to the 1,239 members attending the AGM, and they voted with a large majority that the whole of the subscription paid by members should be retained at national level for the year 1985/6 to 'ensure the continued existence of PPA'. (Normally portions of the playgroup subscription were sent back to branches, counties and regions.)

DHSS assisted PPA with a one-off grant, but set requirements about the re-organisation of the management structure of staff in the Association. The post of general secretary was made redundant.

National Training Conference in Birmingham.

Education, Science and Arts Committee1985/86 Third Report Achievement in Primary Schools recommended that LEAs support playgroups while working towards nursery provision for four year olds in school.

15 July: news of the death of Kate Moodie, much loved editor of Contact, was received throughout the Association with great sadness.

12 September: press conference to launch the joint PPA/BAECE (British Association of Early Childhood Education) Four Years Old But Not Yet Five statement about early entry to school. Sue Griffin interviewed on You and Yours on Radio 4. An attack appeared in the TES quoting 20 year old research on summer born children; an article two months later commented on the reception teachers' lack of experience with under fives.

September: Margaret Marshall (later Lochrie) appointed to the new post of national administrator.

December: Ray Pallot, former Finance Officer, sentenced to 2 years imprisonment.


PPA's Silver Jubilee Year. Painting competition (sponsored by Peaudouce) for under-fives - winning designs were used to create Christmas cards to sell. Sue Griffin, NEC Chair, produced a paper entitled PPA at Twenty Five for Social Services Insight, a new journal for Directors of Social Services, and appeared on breakfast television in playgroup week. The Playgroup Rose developed by Rosemary's Roses.

Head office moved to 61-63 Kings Cross Road, London, a four storey Grade 2 listed building near Kings Cross.

April: AGM and conference held at Caister Holiday Centre, Caister-on-Sea, Norfolk, organised by Eastern Region. Jennie Shaw elected as the new NEC Chair. Jennie had been Greater London Region representative on NEC.

June: Adults Learning in PPA – a training guide launched.

July: paper entitled The role of the Pre-school Playgroups Association in England and Wales after Twenty Five Years prepared by Sue Mastel, Chair of the Research and Information Committee of PPA, and Marjorie Dykins, National Adviser for Wales PPA to be presented to the 18th World Congress of OMEP (Organisation Mondiale pour l'Education Préscholaire).

'Floral' lunch held jointly with Help the Aged, attended by the Princess of Wales who was Patron of both organisations, and raised considerable sums of money.

November: House of Commons Tea Party. Parliamentary Links working party expanded its activities from House of Commons tea parties to attending political party conferences.

Silver Jubilee Year closed with candles being lit all over the country while Floella Benjamin of Playschool lit candles on a cake at the Barbican Centre, London where the exhibition of children's paintings had been held.


Researchers Osborn and Millbank at Bristol University showed that children who had attended parent-involving playgroups did as well in later schooling as those who had attended conventional state nursery schools.

April: AGM and conference held at University of Birmingham, organised by West Midlands region; AGM and plenary sessions held in a huge marquee. The conference theme was 'Today's Learning – Tomorrow's Living'. Anger expressed at proposal for playgroup subscription to consist of lower flat rate plus a small sum per parent, aimed at benefiting small groups who were finding the subscription out of their reach; voted out by 2:1 majority. For the first time, the AGM continued on the Sunday morning when a counter proposal was passed by a majority. Brenda Crowe, Vice President, calmed the meeting down. At the conclusion of the Conference on the Sunday afternoon, the Association bid farewell to the Wales PPA Region as it declared its independence alongside SPPA and NIPPA.

Increase in grant from the DES made it possible to employ a second three-quarter time TDO for each of the ten regions for a short period.

Membership computerised.

Another joint PPA/BAECE statement A Fairer Deal for Four Year Olds.

May: PPA launched a report on the impact of the Manpower Services Commission (MSC), Community Programme (CP) and Youth Training Schemes (YTS) on services for under-fives and their families. It called for a better deal for young children caught up in MSC funded projects. It was estimated that 20,000 under-fives were being directly cared for by government sponsored MSC-funded schemes.

October: Pamela Thayer became a Vice-President of the Association. Previously Pam was an Assistant Chief Inspector in the Social Services Inspectorate of the DHSS and had been associated with PPA for some years.

November: first study day in London for the Opportunities for Volunteering Scheme. They were held regularly for the schemes to meet together and exchange experiences and information.

November: House of Commons reception 'Playgroups knead more dough'.


Information sheet The Armed Forces Group explained the role of the group in supporting playgroups for service families in Germany where there were 15,840 under-fives on forces bases in BAOR in West Germany.

Under Fives Initiative replaced by Small Grants Scheme - £126,000 distributed 1988/9.

April: AGM and conference held in Nottingham, organised by East Midlands Region and sponsored by Boots. The theme was 'Parents – Children – Community'. A proposal that suggested differential subscriptions was defeated.

May: national day for county organisers and advisers held in London. PPA Playweek took up the year-long theme of 'Play Safe'.

July: Overseas Day held.

Delphine Knight retired from her post as PPA National Adviser for children with special needs. Delphine died in May 1993. Jude Tyrie appointed as national adviser.

June to September: PPA Review Group set up and started work on a major review of finance, staffing, organisation and member services. Review team consisted of Teresa Davy from the Yorkshire Region, Margaret Lochrie, National Administrator, Jude Tyrie, National Adviser, and Margaret Brown TDO for the Eastern Region; chaired by Juliet Baxter, a PPA Vice-President. Orr and Boss and Partners, management consultants, were paid to help the review throughout its deliberations.

Avon Cosmetics donated 2p for every child's product sold for PPA to distribute as grants for premises

December: reception for MPs held at the House of Commons.


January: Juliet Baxter resigned as Chair of the PPA Review Group and as Vice-President.

PPA welcomed the report from the Parliamentary Education & Arts Select Committee The Education Provision for Under Fives. This report called for more financial resources to PPA which at this time was supporting 600,000 children in 14,000 groups.

Grants from Carnegie for innovative schemes in regions including purchase of computers, and funding for foundation and fieldwork courses.

March: NEC decision to claw back regional surpluses to meet national expenditure. This created negative feeling especially when money that had been fund-raised by regional sub-groups for regional activity was taken for national purposes - led to some resignations.

April: AGM and conference held in Bournemouth, organised by Southern Region, sponsored by Boots. First AGM and Conference to use a purpose built conference centre for all main activities. During the weekend, the charity adopted statement of principles which had taken three years to write and agree. Meg Bender became Chair of NEC.

Projected estimated income retained by national PPA for national use excluding grants to regions - £470,200; projected estimated expenditure - £839,000; difference needed to be made up by membership subscriptions.

National training conference on equal opportunities issues.

Early summer: PPA review research was completed and Orr and Boss presented Operational Review Report to the NEC. Review report estimated that over 50 per cent of primary school children had previously attended playgroups compared to an estimated 20 per cent who attended nurseries.

June: Playweek with a 'Learn through play with PPA' theme.

July: national training conference on equal opportunities held in Hertfordshire.

November: Day conference held at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London entitled 'Learn through Play with PPA' – launch of Playgroup Aid campaign with sister organisations in UK to raise £4m (in association with Kiaora) to distribute as grants to groups to subsidise fees and pay for training and purchase equipment. Later NEC decided to extend Playgroup Aid to coincide with 30th Birthday conference in 1991.

December: Children Act 1989 passed into law, tightening up registration and inspection provisions, and introducing policy and equality criteria for registration alongside fitness, play provision and suitability of premises. A long fight against high registration charges for the inspection process resulted in the fee being capped at £10 for sessional groups.


Facts and Figures 1990 showed:

• 10 Regional Centres, 42 County committees, 425 Branch committees

• 14,743 group members, 3,300 family/individual members plus 324 overseas members

• about 600,000 children attending all member groups

• 25 people working at national centre in London.

In the period September 1989 to July 1990, 44,512 adults attended a total of 2,205 PPA courses, including 389 Foundation Courses.

Department of Health (DoH) gave an additional £50,000 to PPA through Small Grants Scheme.

In the New Year Business Plan, the NEC set up a PPA Daycare Consultancy for employers. Marks and Spencer seconded a member of staff to work with PPA for a year to help establish the consultancy.

Report of the Committee on Inquiry into the Quality of the Educational Experience offered to 3 and 4 year olds Starting with Quality chaired by Angela Rumbold MP.

Playgroups in a Changing World by the research team at the Thomas Coram Research Unit provided a background to some of the issues facing playgroups and outlined four possible scenarios for the role that playgroups could play as part of the services for under fives in the 1990s.

Spring: PPA Review Report published. There were 56 proposals and there was considerable consensus on most of the recommendations. Amongst the controversial proposals in the Review were

• to become a single organisation

• that all staff with the exception of the Chief Executive Officer (formerly the National Administrator) be line-managed by staff

• that only constituted groups should have voting rights in the Association.

The main proposal was that the 450 separate associations should unite into one single association so PPA would be speaking with one voice, have common policies, and be able to negotiate more forcibly with government and local authorities, thus bringing greater recognition and funding to playgroups. Leaders at the time of the Review found it difficult to take the organisation forward when it was not clear what the organisation as a whole thought and believed as it had very few written and agreed policies.

April: AGM and conference held in Kingston upon Hull, organised by Yorkshire and Humberside region with theme 'Building Bridges'; AGM held in City Hall in Hull and accommodation in University of Hull. At the AGM there was agreement that the Association should adopt the strategic objectives and that parent and toddler groups should be brought into full membership. A recount was necessary on the proposal to form a single organisation but it was finally agreed. A large majority voted to set up the National Council (a form of replacement of the NEC). The issue of management of staff led to a heated debate and three re-counts took place behind locked doors. This was finally rejected leaving local management in the hands of local volunteers. The proposal to restrict membership to constituted groups caused uproar from those groups that saw themselves as non-profit making but did not have a constitution or parent committee. A compromise was reached after the NEC members were besieged at the AGM by a lot of angry and upset people. The compromise was to allow constituted member groups three votes and other member groups one vote. The proposal to downgrade the work of the regional centres was rejected. After much discussion it was finally agreed to support the proposal to offer greater support to day care groups. An Implementation Group was formed to take forward the decisions made.

Launch of the Guidelines for Good Practice, PPA was the first organisation to produce guidelines for sessional playgroups, full day care groups and parent and toddler groups.

May: House of Commons reception.

June: weekend for non-constituted groups to discuss the Review proposal about their voting rights.

National Playweek. Kia Ora funded Playweek Kits for the groups and 75 awards for needy playgroups each worth £800 – the equivalent of a mile of pennies.

Charity preview of the West End Show 'Into the Woods' by Stephen Sondheim in aid of the Playgroup Aid Appeal

November: 'Under Five' magazine licence was put out to tender.


In this 30th year of the organisation, membership was 15,000 attended by an estimated 628,000 children. There were 50,000 students on courses, 1,019 groups offering full day care and a further 252 groups offering extended day care for more than four hours a day.

In the period September 1990 to July 1991, 53,810 adults attended 2,666 PPA courses, totalling 1,170,364 student hours, including 496 Foundation Courses

Spring: NEC agreed to close two regional centres – Northern in Newcastle and East Midlands in Nottingham. These two regions were incorporated into remaining regions, leaving eight regions in England. This decision was taken by the NEC to cut administrative costs following 2 years of deficit budgets. Cuts were also made at National Centre.

Early April: AGM and 30th birthday conference held in Brighton, organised by the SE Region. The theme was 'Widening Horizons'. Carry on items relating to the PPA Review from the previous AGM were due to be discussed. It was clear on the Friday evening that some members had not received their copies of the annual report and business plan so it was suggested from the floor and endorsed by the NEC that discussion on this should be delayed until the Saturday. A new playgroup constitution was adopted. Attempts were made by members to open discussion on the change in the logo from the familiar circle to the square that included the name 'Pre-school Playgroups Association' by putting an Emergency Proposal. The Standing Orders Panel refused to allow the discussion on the basis that the design of the logo was the responsibility of the NEC. This was greeted very negatively when it was announced. Time ran out to complete the business and 843 of members present agreed that a Special General Meeting should be held on June 29th in London at Central Hall Westminster.

End of April: TDOs notified that the NEC had agreed to make the 10 national TDO's redundant but they were invited to apply for the post of Regional Executive Officer or a regional TDO place.

Early May: Meg Bender (NEC Chair) and Margaret Lochrie attended the Northern Region's Regional Council meeting by invitation. They were invited to answer questions about the reasons for the decision to close the Newcastle Office and to explore the possibilities for reversing the decision.

June: national training conference on the Children Act.

Playweek in England and Scotland, launched nationally in London on Thursday June 13th by Virginia Bottomley MP, Minister for Health.; sponsored by Kia-Ora who provided a Playweek Kit, a Kia-Ora Awards scheme giving 60 awards each worth £500 for playgroups meeting a social need, and a Kia-Ora label collection scheme with prizes for winning playgroups. The awards and labels prizes helped 360 playgroups - the largest number ever helped by one single sponsorship. This was the third year of sponsorship for this event by Kia-Ora. Playgroups and sub-committees were encouraged to take up the 'Miles of Pennies' theme.

29th June: Special General Meeting held in the Central Hall, Westminster. Members agreed to adopt the new constitution to form a single association; 450 separate Branches and approx 48 separate County Associations came together as one association. Child Education article said PPA attempting to make the greatest changes in its history.

Playgroup Network meetings were held all over the summer. Playgroup Network was composed of groups who had decided to form their own organisation and break away from PPA.

September: introduction of the 200 hour PPA Diploma in Playgroup Practice to replace the 120 hour Foundation Course, to meet the requirements of the Children Act.

October: first National Council Meeting held in Birmingham, chaired by President, Pam Thayer.

Children Act came into force - all playgroups had to be re-registered. The five 'P's – play, premises, people, policies, and practice - all required inspection before a playgroup could be registered

November: booklet called Survey – Care and Education for Children, Help for Working Parents' described the work done by groups and PPA to support working parents.

30th Anniversary Birthday Lunch, fund-raising event, was held at the Hyatt Carlton Hotel in London.

Autumn: branches and county associations had special general meetings to dissolve as independent charities and adopt the new national constitution, so becoming sub-committees in a single association. The process had to be completed by March 1992.

December: the PPA 'Festival of Winter Songs' held in Trafalgar Square.

In following years the logo was changed by the National Council, the PPA national constitution was changed, and the name of the organisation was changed to 'The Pre-school Learning Alliance' (PLA).


Many thanks to Sylvia Leathard and Juliet Baxter for their work in creating this timeline.