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Kennedy, H. (1988). The Pre-History of the Nursery School. Bul. Anna Freud Centre, 11(4):271-275.

(1988). Bulletin of the Anna Freud Centre, 11(4):271-275

30th Birthday Celebrations Of The Anna Freud Nursery School

The Pre-History of the Nursery School

Hansi Kennedy

In the widest sense, the pre-history of the Nursery School must be sought in Anna Freud's lifelong interest in the applied field of psychoanalysis and her many attempts to build bridges between different professional disciplines concerned with the welfare of children: education, paediatrics and family law. But in a more direct line our history is rooted in her consistent endeavour to link theory and practice in the field of child development.

In several of her papers she referred to having been especially fortunate all her life in being able to move back and forth between practice and theory. In ‘Residential vs. Foster Care’, a lecture given in 1966, she said in her typically modest way:

When I was still very young in my psychoanalytic studies but had learned enough to apply at least some of the knowledge, I was asked by the city of Vienna to make that knowledge available to teachers of Nursery Schools and Elementary Schools. I was given the opportunity to work with small groups of teachers, to discuss their practical problems with them in easy, theoretical terms. This proved to be useful to them and was immensely useful to me.

When I had learned a bit more about psychoanalytic theory, an American friend (Edith Jackson) gave me and some colleagues the opportunity to begin an experimental nursery for children between one and two years of age. … The children we worked with were the most underprivileged children that could be found in Vienna. … This was an excellent opportunity for us to learn and to test out some of our theoretical ideas in an active plan of day care.

The next opportunity of that kind was provided by…World War II. … War conditions when children had to be separated from their parents for reasons of safety … made it possible for me and some colleagues to try out a residential scheme for a period of five years.

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