I have to wonder …….. Do the Government think I am a failure?   3 comments

It is a Saturday afternoon – 5th July 2014, and as I sit sorting out paperwork in connection with my childminding business, my mind starts to wonder through my memories and the passage of time – and as it does so a question pops into my head – the one above – ‘Do the Government consider me a failure?’


Which led to another question ‘ Do I contribute to society?’

and another ‘Do I contribute more to society than I take out?’


In other words – Do I , Penny Webb, fit the Government agenda, and have enough Government boxes been ticked to make my life ‘of value’ in Government terms?’


I have to ask myself these questions because at the moment;

As a person, the stuff I read about needing to be part of a graduate led early years workforce – I feel I have failed the Government! You see I did not achieve my GCSE level (O level in my case) in Maths (I did manage to get my English ‘O’ level), I do not have a degree, I even failed the 11+.

So I am not academically successful

As a mother, the stuff I read about mothers and work -I  feel that I have failed the Government! You see apart from attending a playgroup / nursery  for a few hours a week between the ages of 3 and 5, none of my FOUR daughters were put into a childcare setting (other than staying at home with me when I ran my childminding setting) and therefore I did not ‘go out to work’ and pay tax. For many years as a childminder – after allowable expenses I did not have enough profit to pay tax

So I have not contributed as a tax payer for much of my working life


Reading government documents, and articles in the media – it seems to me that the government are pushing, and pushing for everyone to be successful and to achieve all of the above. Most of their policies are based on the above things – as if the world would stop turning if every single person in this country and therefore every single child growing up in this country does not achieve academic success, does not go on to be a tax payer.


But am I a ‘failure’ – let me take you the reader on a whistle stop tour of my life.

I was born in 1959 to what might be said to be  a ‘middle class’ family, I was the eldest child of three

For a short time I attended a private nursery/ school – and being a shy ‘good little girl’ – I did well – until my brother started and his needs were not met and so mum removed us both from the nursery/ school – and I went through the state school system (you see even in those days you were expected to conform and fit in – and my brother did not do either of those things as a 3 yr old)

As already mentioned I did not pass my 11+ and went to the local Secondary Modern school. I did OK and was in the ‘A grade classes – but I did not do well in my exams – partly because I was not well, partly because I find exams stressful, partly because I had discovered boys.

I left school at 16 and did not go into further education – in fact I married at 17 and had my first child at 19 and my second at 21. However I did not live on state benefits or have a council house, instead together with my husband – and a lot of ‘going without’ we had a mortgage and paid our own way for everything.

I worked in the family business and because it was a family business the children came with me to work / I took work home to complete once they were in bed.

The family business went bankrupt in the early 80’s (when a lot of other  small business did). So I worked in a bar / steakhouse in the evenings to ensure our bills could be paid.

Daughters 3 and 4 arrived, and I set up as a registered childminder, mainly so I could continue to care for my children myself and earn an income at the same time. This is because I believe (and  I believed back then) that a home environment either with your parents or with a childminder was / is very beneficial for young children.

Over the 23 years that I have been a registered childminder (I worked for a local authority for 7 years, although still childminding based) I have cared for well almost  300 children – some for a few weeks, some for over 10 years, some by direct arrangement with parents and some via social services. I know that I had a positive impact on those children, many of whom went onto university and successful carers – or to be successful without going to university. Some of these children who are now adults are now parents who have a secure knowledge of what family life is about due in part to my influence.

So in terms of being successful in my carer and in helping children to achieve their personal potential – I feel that I have been very successful.

In terms of being a parent, I feel I have been successful – and now as grandmother to 8 (soon to be 10) I feel I have been successful in passing on my knowledge and family ethos to my daughters who are all bringing up their own families.

However, there is more to my life story – as I have been a volunteer for many years – on playgroup and school committee, within Girl Guiding, as part of NCMA (now Pacey), the Preschool learning Alliance, Save Childhood Movement – and all the campaigning I do to speak up for the child and my colleagues in the early years sector.

And now I am a foster carer – providing a family home and love to a child – with the aim of giving that child the opportunity to reach his full personal potential. Personally I think it says a lot about the benefits of a secure, loving family home life – as foster children are usually placed in foster families not in group care,


I know many don’t consider me a failure – as only yesterday(4th July 2014)  I was informed that I have been short listed in the Nursery World Awards for my Outstanding Contribution to the Early Years Sector and to Children and Families. So clearly I am successful just not in terms of the government agenda.



And if you answer – No, of course not Penny – you have contributed to society in many ways


It was not the right way for me, or for many others  (including my brother who did worse than me academically but who became a multi millionaire through his own hard work and a bit luck)

And it will not be the right way for many children today and in the future

The difference is though – YOU THE GOVERNMENT are making children feel failures, families feel failures and with your budget cuts to essential services leaving those who need a helping hand without support and without hope.

And you know what Government?

I may not have a Maths O level or GCSE – but I can add up that your policies are going to cost this country a fortune – and that the cost to society may well be higher than society can afford  or be able to  ‘put right’ in the future when you are long gone and others have to deal with the  mess you have left behind you.

Yes, we do need those who are academically successful, but more than that we need caring people – people who volunteer, who give without expecting to get anything in return – and people who provide those firm foundations for the children through family life and high quality early years PLAY experiences that are not assessed or tested.


Indeed – people just like me – so please stop implementing these damaging policies so that in the future we have people like me and not selfish, target focussed  people who don’t know how to care for others, along with people whose mental health and emotional well being has been destroyed through being made to feel they have  fail,  and through not being supported in ways that are right for them .


Those who are not academic are not failures – they are successful – just not through the tick box assessments and exams that Government deem to be the only way to measure success.

And in answer to my questions

No – I am not a failure

Yes – I do contribute to society

Yes – I do give more than I take out

3 responses to “I have to wonder …….. Do the Government think I am a failure?

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Well said Penny You’ve spoke the absolut truth and you are amazing at all that you do for the good of the children so give yourself a big pat on the back you deserve it ❌❌

    Sent from my iPhone


    Carole Wardrop
  2. Well said Penny. I like you haven’t got gcse maths but feel I contribute and am not a failure either. You always write what we are all thinking and what we totally relate to. Keep writing this country needs more Penny’s.

  3. Oh, Penny! My life mirrors yours in many ways, but we did learn to spell and write in coherent sentences and add up in our heads or using a pen and paper even if we didn’t pass the exams. I fully support all you are doing and agree that young children learn through play and doing normal everyday things, not formal learning. Also we are grown women and should not be made to be afraid of the Ofsted Inspector coming. That is just plain wrong.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: