I look forward to seeing all while celebrating Kilmood playgroup’s 50-year legacy of shaping young minds

I look forward to seeing all while celebrating Kilmood playgroup’s 50-year legacy of shaping young minds

27 March 2024

KILMOOD Playgroup is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Formed in 1974, it is highly regarded as a cornerstone of early childhood education in an idyllic rural setting with a number of events lined up to mark the significant milestone.

The group’s golden anniversary year of nurturing preschool children in their care, learning and development is a landmark occasion which is rightly being celebrated.

Fifty years ago, the playgroup was founded by local mothers, including Mrs Louise Gordon, Mrs Marina Wilson and Mrs Moorehead who were among the first staff members.

Initially based at Killinchy Presbyterian Church Hall, the playgroup subsequently moved to Kilmood Parish Church Hall where it continues to thrive. 

The playgroup faced a threat of closure in 1992 but fought it off, emerging stronger, becoming committee-run and ensuring its continued and sustained positive impact on young minds.

And for many, the playgroup has come full circle with many people who went to it now sending their own children.

Over the years dedicated staff led by the long-standing leader, Mrs Anne Dempster, have consistently raised the bar in early years education. 

She is proud to have served the local community for the past four decades and says “the time has flown by”.

She continued: “I would like to thank our incredible staff, dedicated parents, Kilmood church, and the wider community for all their support over the years.

“I look forward to seeing everyone while celebrating Kilmood playgroup’s remarkable 50-year legacy of shaping young minds and building lasting connections within the community.”

The playgroup offers 26 pre-school funded places in the morning session and 24 children self-funding places for pre-pre afternoon sessions on Tuesday and Thursday.

Education Authority inspections are carried out every five to seven years with the last describing Kilmood as “outstanding”.

This year, the playgroup put itself forward for a new prototype inspection which takes pace over two days including interviews with staff and parents. 

The Kilmood staff are passionate about children’s early years education and follow the curriculum to give them the very best start to their educational learning and continue to move with the times and embrace educational innovations. 

In addition to Mrs Dempster, who has been with the group for 40 years, Mrs Geneena McIlwaine is another long serving member of staff who joined shortly after it opened, with the committee’s first chairwoman, Mrs Karen Yates. 

Indeed, the committee has been a tower of strength and support with members willing to give time and energy to come up with fundraising ideas which will give a fun experience to the families and raise vital funds. 

The events are always well supported.

The playgroup enjoys strong links with the community and is indebted to the support from Kilmood Parish Church, with children enjoying exploring the secret garden within the church grounds, learning about nature and enjoying some outdoor learning. 

In addition, the church has also been the venue for the nativity play and service which is a special event in the playgroup calendar. 

There have been many visitors over the years, including the Duke of Kent in 2019. 

With qualifications ranging from NVQ Level 3 to degree-level in Early Years Education and Childhood studies, the staff’s commitment to continuous professional development ensures a cutting-edge curriculum for the children.

Kilmood Playgroup takes pride in its outstanding results from inspections, showcasing the team’s dedication and recently excelled in the Education Authority’s prototype inspection, with the playgroup maintaining its “outstanding” status with no further recommendations for improvement required.

The playgroup’s strong links with the community are evident through the positive relationship with St Mary’s Church Kilmood, the elected parental committee, staff, and involvement of parents, both past and present, demonstrating its enduring impact across generations.

As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations, a special dinner is being held on April 26 at the Clandeboye Lodge Hotel and it is hoped that as many past pupils and their families as possible will support the event.

Tickets are priced at £50 per person and include a drinks reception, four-course meal, and live music by The Just Adam Band.  For ticket inquiries, contact event.kilmoodplaygroup@gmail.com or call 07975 889765. 

Playgroup staff are on the search for items and memorabilia, such as photos, stories, or old uniforms and anyone would have anything of interest they are asked to contact Rosemary on the above number.

To mark the anniversary, the playgroup has commissioned a piece of art by local artist and parent Mrs Sarah Majury-Harris, who will be working with the children. 

A special 50th birthday summer fayre is being held on Saturday, June 22, and a special church service is planned for the autumn.