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Reconceptualising Community Playgroups

Research Staff

Pilar Bujia, Nuala Smyth, Aoife Daly, Dr. Jean Whyte

About the project

Community playgroups have been active in Ireland for more than a generation. From the mid 60's to the present time, parents and interested community activists have come together to provide early childhood care and education, in response to their own needs and those of their children. In some instances they are totally managed, operated and funded by parents. In others they received support, financial or material (e.g. premises), from other local organisations such as Church, education or health providers and in many instances some, usually small, level of state funding is provided either in the form of direct grants or to representative or supporting organisations (Statham, Dillon & Moss, 2000).

In general community playgroups are seen as cost effective, easy to establish, close to the needs of the children and communities and with little or no cost implications to the state. In many instances, the approach is characterised as child-centered, with a strong value placed on community support and participation and the child being seen as an active, creative and independent subject, who is facilitated and supported, as opposed to directed, by an interested adult. The provision of play opportunities and materials suited to the child's stage of development is the core activity.

What did the research focus on?

The aims of the study were:

  • To identify the role of community playgroups in the early childhood care and education, community development, family support and social inclusion areas in Ireland;
  • To examine the factors which contribute to or undermine their existence
  • To make recommendations for reconceptualising community playgroups in contemporary Ireland at a policy and practice level.

What did the research involve?

The research consisted of a number of activities. It started with a mapping exercise - mapping the playgroups in Ireland. National and international literature was be reviewed; information about the study was sent to stakeholders and their participation was invited.

The next stage involved consultation and focus groups with parents, providers, other stakeholders such as Infant school teachers and public nurses about the issues which they thought should be investigated. A number of playgroups were selected as Case Studies and detailed studies were carried out with them looking at structural elements, the model of service provision, links with the local community, the contribution they make at micro and macro level and examples of best practice.

Timescale and final products

The Executive Summary of the Reconceptualising Community Playgroups report was published in 2007 and can be downloaded

Last updated 15 March 2010 by The Children′s Research Centre (Email).