In 1963 as Beatles mania gripped the nation and men grabbed the headlines in the Great Train Robbery, a group of mums in Haywards Heath began a quiet revolution.
They formed the town’s first playgroup, which opened in South Road in January, 1964 in a pioneering movement that was sweeping the country.
Whilst many playgroups employed a supervisor, it was usually the parents who took on full responsibility for their administration and mothers helped at play sessions on a rota system.
The ethos adopted by the first Haywards Heath playgroup that children learn best in a warm and caring environment, still holds true today.
The playgroup now meets at The Albermarle Centre on Oathall Community College’s campus and twenty five years ago, it became know as ‘Albermarle Little Builders’.
In a ceremony on Saturday as a warm-up celebration to mark it’s half century, the playgroup opened an enclosed ‘Quiet Garden’, with Haywards Heath Mayor, Sandy Ellis, as the guest. Every child planted a plant - a sign of how much the playgroup has blossomed.
Supervisor Linda Armstrong, said; “We already have a garden which overlooks the college’s farm where children can run around and have fun, but with parents’ help we wanted to turn a piece of wasteland into a quiet garden called the ‘Mary, Mary Garden’. The children will be growing flowers and vegetables and we have insect boxes.”
The children have also been involved in making a mosaic for one wall to reflect the famous nursery rhyme, ‘Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?’.
With such a long pedigree, it is no surprise that Ofsted has described the playgroup as ‘Outstanding’.