Records of the Pre-School Learning Alliance (PLA) and the Pre-School Playgroups Association (PPA)

Scope and Content

Records dating from the formation of the Pre-School Playgroups Association through to its change to the Pre-School Learning Alliance and up to the present day. This includes annual reports, publications, minutes of meetings, press cuttings, reports of individual play schools, regional records, leaflets and other promotional materials, consultation papers, and administrative and account papers. Also includes issues of 'Contact' magazine 1968-1975, 'Playground News' newspaper 1970-1974 and 'Playground Aid News' newspaper December 1990. In addition to the paper collection, there is a small amount of born digital material, which is not yet catalogued. Access can be provided on request.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Pre-School Learning Alliance (formerly the Pre-School Playgroup Association) was set up in 1961 after Belle Tutaev, a London mother, tried to organise a birthday party for her four year old daughter and realised she had no other young children to invite. When dropping her older son off at school she spoke to other mothers and found they had the same problem. She decided to set up her own play group for pre-school children with the help of other local mothers, including a qualified nursery school teacher. After being put in touch with the Minister for Health and receiving help and advice on what resources were available she realised that there must be lots of others individuals and groups throughout the country in need of the same advice. So she wrote to the Guardian newspaper stating that due to scarcity of state nursery school places she had set up her own group. She received a considerable response to the letter from people interested in setting up similar groups and those who were already running them. She began putting people in touch with each other and in August 1962 the group held it first AGM with 150 members present.

The aims of the group were to provide support for those running groups and the lobbying of government to emphasise the importance of pre-school education and to seek the withdrawal of Circular 8/60 which prevented the expansion of state nursery provision. In 1966 membership had grown to 1300 and the organisation opened its first office with two members of staff. The following year the Department for Education and Science provided the charity with a grant to employ its first national advisor. During the 1960s and 1970s a number of regional branches were set up and sister organisations were established in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. During this period membership grew substantially standing at 13 500 by 1978.

Through the work of the Association members began to realise that the direct involvement of parents in their children's learning was having a great positive impact. They found that children learnt better with their parents present and the parents often became more confident and enjoyed the personal and educational development that they themselves gained.

In 1987 the organisation began a review of its services which culminated in the adoption of a new constitution in 1991 in which the national and local structures were united under a single organisation. In 1995 the Association changed its name to the Pre-School Learning Alliance (PSLA) and adopted a new logo to reflect the educational value that playgroups offer to young children. After this date many members began changing the name of their groups from playgroup to pre-school. On April 1 2003 the organisation was incorporated as a charitable company limited by guarantee. During June 2003 the Alliance opened its first neighbourhood nursery and by October 2004 a further seventeen neighbourhood nurseries had been set up.

From the 1990s onwards the Alliance has run a number of campaigns in a bid to heighten its profile. Campaigns include From Playdough to Plato where MPs were invited to visit Pre-schools and paint a memory from their childhood but also to see the work of the groups in local communities, and the two year campaign Pre-Schools XL launched in 2001 to mark their fortieth anniversary. This campaign made national press with its MPs musical chairs competition won by Ann Widdecombe.

In 2011 the PLA provides practical support and resources for over 14 000 early years settings and contributes to the education and care of 800 000 young children and their families each year. They provide specialist publications, childcare services, quality assurance, campaigning, research, training and family programmes.

Access Information


Open, subject to signature of Reader Application Form. Please note, we require a minimum of two weeks' notice to provide access to this collection. Please contact the IOE Archives for further information.

Acquisition Information

Transferred to the IOE Archive between 2008 - 2011.

Conditions Governing Use

A reader wishing to publish any quotation of information, including pictorial, derived from any archive material must apply in writing for prior permission from the Archivist or other appropriate person(s) as indicated by the Archivist. A limited number of photocopies may be supplied at the discretion of the Archivist.

Custodial History

Much of the material was deposited by Margaret Brown, with the first deposit in 2008. Margaret Brown made two further deposits in 2009, in January and July, then two in 2010, in January and June. Carole Alderton donated a DVD of the Melbourn Group in July 2010. Sylvia Leathard donated pamphlets on statistics in July 2011. Electronic records and parallel hard-copies were donated by the PLA in 2011. In 2012 booklets relating to the PPA Opportunities for Volunteering Panel were donated by Patricia Lee.



Related Material

IOE Archive:

The Papers of Amelia Fysh (AF) contains 'The Playgroup Movement: a report by Brenda Crowe, National Adviser to the Pre-school Playgroups Association' (PPA, 1971).

The Mary Fawcett scrapbooks (FAW) contain national and local articles relating to playgroups and the Pre-school Playgroups Association, 1966-1976.

IOE Library:

There are a number of PPA and PLA publications in the library - search for 'PPA' or 'PLA' on the library catalogue