Playcentre was founded during the second world war as a way for families (mainly mothers) to support each other while providing quality child-centred pre-school education for their children. This the was era of the innovative educational ideas of Fraser and Beeby and the Playcentre concept was developed by Beatrice Beeby and her friends while Dr Beeby made the tea. Janet Fraser, the Prime Minister’s wife, attended the opening of some of the first Wellington centres.
For decades Playcentre has provided community connections over the sandpit and finger painting. Parents learn both the the importance of messy play in child development and how to run their own cooperative centre. This also involved a huge amount of fundraising until the late 1980s when Minister of Education Phil Goff included Playcentre into same per child funding formula as other childcare providers.
But the last Labour led government’s 20 Hours Free market model of child care did not fit easily with the cooperative Playcentre model. Ironic that such a child-centred policy from the political left financially benefitted private providers more than nonprofit community groups.
The NZ Playcentre Federation was understandably miffed about being missed out and lobbied the National Party opposition strongly. This led to a pledge from National last July to include Playcentre in ECE 20 Hours Free, which was repeated several times during the campaign.
It might, however, all end in tears at it seems the National Government is now back-tracking on this promise.
But after all it’s only children.