Pat Evans, 1970s

St. Kenelm's C.E. Primary School, Romsley
Centenary Celebrations
1915 - 2015

Memories of Mrs Pat Evans - Parent and Playgroup Leader - 1969 onwards

 

In 1969 a new organisation was growing in popularity in England called Pre-School Playgroups. They were for children between the ages of three and five and were run by the mums themselves. As I had a two year old son, Gareth, and a new baby, Andrew, I decided to find out more about them.

I met Margaret Bayfield, who had a twenty month old daughter, Sarah, and we thought it would be a good idea to start a group in the village. The aim was to create a friendly environment where children could learn social and communication skills through play.

The playgroups were overseen by Social Services and between us we had the necessary qualifications as Margaret had worked in Social Services with children and I was a former teacher.

Margaret organised the playgroup and in the beginning we had the help of Muriel Rugman and Pat Sedgley, who also had young children. We hired the Church Hall for three mornings per week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the Village Playgroup opened in the first week of November 1969.

As we didn't have any money in those early days we gathered together a variety of toys which we begged or borrowed, (we drew the line at stealing) from our friends. We managed to acquire a large wooden slide, a huge sand tray, a baby's bath for water play, a large box of wooden building bricks, a box of cars and dolls, a collection of paints, crayons and paper, several books and the essential homemade play dough.

I think we were allowed up to thirty children per morning, each child paying a small fee for the term. There were always two of us on duty plus one of the mums, who were on a rota to help. We all became skilful at soothing tears and tantums and reassuring anxious mums that their little ones would have a lovely time and would be safe in our care!

During each session there was a time for free play, a story and songs and a drink and biscuit towards the end of the morning. Our numbers gradually increased as news of the playgroup spread and soon we had a waiting list.

On sunny days we would all go outside to play in the Church Hall carpark and the pedal bikes would come into their own.

Setting up the play equipment every day was hard work and took up a great deal of time. One day Mr Ruddick the then headteacher of St. Kenelm's School, came to fetch his son from playgroup and surprised us by saying he had had an idea. Owing to the reorganisation of the school he had several empty classrooms and if it were possible would we like to have playgroup in the school where we would have a permanent home? We all jumped at the idea and so after several years in the Church Hall we moved into a downstairs' classroom in the school.

We quickly accustomed the children to their new surroundings and realised that we could do much more with them. We could put their pictures on the walls and decorate the classroom. We could use the hall for PE and the school playgrounds when the school children were not using them.

Without realising it the young pre-school children were being introduced to school life and were learning a great deal from their experience.

Before long in 1990 we were celebrating 21 years of Romsley Playgroup and now I realise with a shock that it is 46 years since we started early education for three and four year olds in the village.

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