© 2011. Registered Charity in England and Wales No. 313082 A Charity Registered in Scotland No SCO39472.
The British Association for Early Childhood Education began its existence as the Nursery School Association – a body whose aims were to advance nursery education and to promote the training of nursery teachers. Its three main objectives were to press for the implementation of the 1918 Education Act which would enable LEAs to provide nursery education; to provide opportunities for discussion; and to have an influence on public opinion on all matters relating to the Nursery School movements. Margaret McMillan was Early Education’s first President. Her pioneering work in the 1920s and 1930s laid the foundation for over 70 years of struggle for the establishment of nursery education for all children.
Despite the strenuous efforts of the early pioneers, by 1923 only 24 nursery schools were established in England and recognised by the Board of Education. It was in reaction to the slowness in growth of the Nursery School movement that the NSA was set up in 1923. Early Officers of the Association include Ramsey McDonald, Bertrand Russell, Lillian de Lissa and Grace Owen.
The first NSA branch was formed in Birmingham, where the nursery school movement had been strongly supported for over a quarter of a century. The NSA began to organise open meetings, conferences, summer schools and deputations. Pamphlets and information sheets were widely distributed, explaining the benefits of nursery education for pre-school children. In 1927, the AGM supported a policy of forming branches to concentrate on local conditions.
The history of Early Education is a patchwork of encouragement and disappointment. During the 1930s the NSA was able to rent an office in Bloomsbury, London, together with a secretarial assistant. However, an economic crisis overshadowed nursery school development; new building came to a standstill. Along with the encouragement of Lady Astor, interested people continued to press for expansion. In 1934 a new centre was established at Park Crescent, in London, where short courses, exhibitions and conferences could be held, where toys and equipment could be made, and where members and visitors could meet. This centre flourished until 1960.
By 1934 eight emergency open–air nurseries were established. Largely due to the campaigning efforts of the NSA, nursery schools were to be included in housing reconstruction as city slums were cleared. In 1936, the NSA made representation to the Board of Education, to deplore the limiting of nursery schools to areas of severe deprivation. The NSA laid out the necessary conditions for the optimum development of all children, and showed how nursery schools promoted this. The need for such conditions for all children aged two to seven, especially in rural areas, was emphasised.
With the threat of World War II, the NSA was involved in the management and organisation of the evacuation of children attending London nursery schools. Lady Allen of Hurtwood campaigned strongly for funding to build and equip model nursery buildings, which were simple, inexpensive and speedy to erect. At the time the NSA was also involved in childcare reserve training, in association with the National Council for Maternal and Child Welfare.
With the 1944 Education Act came great hopes for the expansion of nursery education. In 1945 there were 76 NSA Branches, with more than 7,000 members. Once again, financial constraints prevailed: post-war resources were concentrated on primary schools and development in nursery education was restricted. The NSA continued to press for universal provision. The end of the 1950s saw the introduction of part-time attendance, providing a half day in the nursery for more children. The Plowden Report and an Urban Aid Programme both supported a gradual expansion of nursery education, especially in areas of particular need. In 1972, hopes for universal nursery provision were raised when Margaret Thatcher, as Minister of Education, proposed the wholesale increase of nursery education for all three- and four- years olds whose parents wished them to have it. Hopes for expansion were almost immediately dashed when another economic crisis arose.
1972 was also the year that, at the Nursery School Association’s AGM, there was a change of name and logo. The British Association for Early Childhood Education was established. It was recognised that changes in the Association’s organisation were needed. An in-depth evaluation of the Association resulted in a re-structuring of headquarters, and of its working committees. This offered an opportunity for officers, staff and members to work together to raise public awareness of the importance and value of early childhood education in its widest sense. The new name highlighted the extended role of the charity, which is now seen as a multi-disciplinary, all embracing Association for people interested in children under eight and their families.
The head office is in Whitechapel, in London’s East End. It was opened in November 1999 by the education minister with responsibility for the early years, Margaret Hodge. There is a small salaried staff, but Early Education remains essentially a voluntary organisation, working to promote high quality early education. Officers, volunteers and staff deal with delegations, deputations and the presentation of evidence to government. They draw on the strengths of Early Education, which lie in its membership in branches throughout the UK. Members’ voices are heard through their representation on the policy-making Council of the Charity and in regional conferences, as well as local branch meetings. In 1996, we introduced the new working title of Early Education, to make the core aims of the Association clearer to a wider public.
|Miss Margaret McMillan||1923 -||1929|
|Mrs H J Evelegh||1929 -||1941|
|Miss Grace Owen||1941 -||1948|
|Lady Allen of Hurtwood||1948 -||1952|
|The Lady Norman||1952 -||1957|
|Nancy, Viscountess Astor||1957 -||1960|
|Dame Sybil Thorndyke||1960 -||1964|
|Lady White of Rhymney||1964 -||1966|
|Mrs Renee Short||1966 -||1982|
|Miss Margaret Roberts||1982 -||1987|
|Mrs Rosemary Peacocke||1987 -||1991|
|Professor Chris Pascal||1991 -||1994|
|Professor Philip Gammage||1994 -||1997|
|Jean Ensing||1997 -||2001|
|Marion Dowling||2001 -||2007|
|Professor Iram Siraj-Blatchford||2007 -||2010|
|Helen Moylett||2010 -||Present|