The Pre-School Playgroups Association has more than 900 groups on a waiting list for its accreditation scheme, writes Linda Blackburne.
The scheme, which the PPA says is the first in the country for the early years, has just completed a one-year pilot involving 250 playgroups.
Of those, 129 have been accredited, about 30 have been told they are not ready for accreditation, and the rest have yet to be assessed.
The PPA's 20,000 playgroups cater for 800,000 children - 41 per cent of all three- and four year-olds. Accreditation is voluntary, and is based on PPA guidelines for good practice, in addition to the registration requirements under the Children Act.
The assessors look at group practice, curriculum planning, interaction between adults and children, parental involvement, staff numbers, training and qualifications, equipment and play materials, equal opportunities, daily routines, and premises.The accreditation package will cost Pounds 140 but the PPA's national executive committee is seeking subsidies.
Some of the playgroups who will be reassessed apparently fell down on record-keeping and their written policies. The PPA stresses that they will be offered help with paperwork.
Association president Pamela Thayer said: "The groups who have applied for accreditation have worked extremely hard and demonstrated their commitment to achieving high standards. We are grateful to the four local authorities (Lewisham, Berkshire, Kent and Wakefield) who have encouraged and sponsored playgroups in seeking accreditation. They have been an enormous boost for the scheme."