Working beyond boundaries – 50 years of ambition for children, families and communities

In 1965, a group of mothers began working to promote early learning through play here. By 1980 they had set up the Northern Ireland Pre-school Playgroups Association, an independent charity with 320 members and DHSS grant-aid. NIPPA had successfully lobbied the Minister for Health and Education to publish the first public policy document on the Under 5s. NIPPA employed five professional advisers and rented a building in Lower Crescent. It grew rapidly during the 1990s. It secured over £40m in European funding to develop early years services. It earned the support of governments and politicians across all parties.

In 1999, NIPPA moved into its own premises in Boucher Road. Since then it has built on its strong grassroots foundations to engage with people across the world, creating an international network for knowledge exchange. In 2007, NIPPA relaunched itself as Early Years. In 2009 we hosted the World Forum in Belfast, welcoming 750 delegates from 78 countries.

Early Years now employs 200 staff and has an annual budget of £9 million. We are helping to grow early years movements in countries like Serbia, Palestine, Colombia which were ravaged by conflict.

Early Years Branch events celebrate the organisation reaching its 50th year and also to acknowledge the work with and for young children, families and communities carried out by member groups and settings in the area. View

Working beyond boundaries – 50 years of ambition for children, families and communities

Invitation to contribute to EYO50

Early Years has an extraordinary story to tell of commitment and community overcoming apathy and isolation. We want you to help us tell that story. We are inviting you to write to us with your personal stories and reflections.

  • Were you a partner, a volunteer committee member, a playgroup parent or child?
  • Do you remember the first ‘Hands across the Border’ event, the visits of Princess Diana, the launch of Play Group Aid, the announcement of the Childhood Fund, the beginning of the Pre-school Expansion Programme?
  • Were you involved in hosting delegates from the World Forum in your home or in your service?

We would also welcome any materials such as photos, films, recordings and objects. Just let us know whether you want them to be returned to you and if so at what address.

Please send your contributions to EYO50 at the above address. You can send words by email to

We have attached a list of questions which you may find helpful as you prepare your contribution. But this is not a questionnaire – we want you to give us the memories which matter to you, in your own words. We will publish as much of your material as we can. We may edit some contributions. Our goal is to tell this excellent story honestly and well.

We look forward to hearing from you.

View list of questions here >>

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