As early as 1902 Mrs. Humphrey Ward had organised an annual Holiday Play Centre during August in the garden of the Passmore Edwards Institute, London, for the benefit of children unable to have a country holiday. In subsequent years various voluntary organisations supplemented this provision with evening play centres, but owing to the falling off in voluntary subscriptions a serious danger arose of some of the existing centres being discontinued.
Although Section 13(1)(a) of the Education (Administrative Provisions) Act, 1907 gave local education authorities the power to provide play centres and also to assist work of this nature carried on by voluntary agencies, the granting of free use of school buildings was almost without exception the limit to which this power was exercised.
Prompted by an approach from the Home Office, who were concerned at the increase in crime among young persons and children still at school in the larger towns, and with the object of according to children in attendance at public elementary schools facilities for play after school hours, the Board of Education issued in 1917 the Regulations for Evening Play Centres. Under these regulations, grants amounting in some cases to fifty per cent of the cost of maintenance, were paid both to local education authorities and to voluntary bodies in aid of evening play centres recognised under the regulations.
Section 17 of the Education Act, 1918, and Section 22 of the Education Act, 1921, extended the responsibilities of local education authorities for promoting the social and physical welfare of the children and young persons in their charge. Statutory authority for the payment of grant in respect of evening play centres is found in Grant Regulations No. 7 (1919), the Board of Education (Healthy Physical and Mental Development of Children, Elementary Education) Regulations, 1920, the Consolidated Regulations relating to Special Services (Grant Regulations No. 19) and the Special Services Regulations, 1925 (Grant Regulations No. 19). Direct grant to managers of voluntary play centres ceased on 31st March, 1945 and provision for the leisure time of school children became the duty of local education authorities under section 53 of the Education Act, 1944.
The outbreak of the Second World War brought these activities to a stop, and direct grants to voluntary play centres formally ceased on 31 March 1945. Under s.53 of the Education Act 1944, provision for the leisure time of school children became the duty of local education authorities.