Part Two of my personal recall of my event ‘Networking, Sharing. Making Connections’   5 comments

Part one of my recall ended at the start of the morning break – if you have not read it yet you can do so by CLICKING HERE

To start part two here are a few photo’s from the event – to be honest I am not sure if from morning break or not – but they give an impression of what the event was like.




After the break (during which the room was buzzing!) I started ‘Chapter Two’ of my story off with a recall of my life once I moved to Worcestershire – much more outside play, freedom, and opportunity to develop those essential foundations. But also about school life and some important non academic lessons about equality.

Kathryn Solly then spoke about Outside Play and why it is so important, she linked it to my experiences and sadly to the impact on children these days who in general have far less opportunities to play and in particular to play outside or to take risks.

Kathryn has had many years of direct experience of working with early years children, but these days spends much of her tell inspiring others to ‘get outside’ You can find out more about Kathryn  by CLICKING HERE

After Kathryn’s presentation we moved on to ‘testing’ – I think it is fair to say just about everyone in the room is against the current Governments focus on testing for all ages but particularly for those in the early years / primary.

I spoke about my own failing of the 11+ and how it made me feel and indeed how it impacted on my opportunities. (I have to say by now my nerves had gone, I was relaxed and enjoying the event).

I also spoke about the impact on some of my grandchildren – and indeed their parents, I explained it was bad enough to feel you had failed at 11, but to feel you had failed or were ‘not good enough’ at 4 was much worse – and led to very young children being labelled and to them ‘giving up’ trying.

Next to speak was Liz Bayram CEO of PACEY, however Liz made it clear that as well as her professional view, she was also speaking as a parent of children in primary school.

Liz spoke about the conversations at the school gate, about parents worrying if their children would get into the ‘right’ schools, about the pressure to do well in the Sats, and pushing their children to ‘perform’. However, she said her own concerns were different – she was worried her children would be ‘switched off’, that going to school would no longer be fun, would no longer be a place that her children were happy to go to. Liz also asked what the purpose of doing the Sats was – did having that data help schools, teachers, parents or indeed the children? Liz spoke about the ‘prefect storm’ meaning that now is a good time within the storm of government policy to turn it to our advantage and all come together to challenge and campaign.

Like all the speakers Liz said a lot more in her 15 mins (afraid with so many speakers and needing lots of time for networking, I had to limit everyone to about 15 mins) If you want to find out more about Pacey  CLICK HERE

At the event Liz presented me with a bag containing a gift – which due to a slight hiccup when the bag ended up in Watford with my friends Sally and Mick, I did not get to open until a week later. There were a few things in the bag – but this one is worth showing a photo of here. Thank you Pacey.




The venue had done us proud – the lunch was fantastic – and plenty for everyone. Below is just one persons choice


During lunch there was lots more networking, sharing and making connections – most people were moving round the room chatting to those they already knew and to people they had only just met – I saw lots of people using the note books provided in the goody bags to record people’s contact details

Cross sector and across LA area exchanging of contact details – Alice from an Early Years group setting  in Worcestershire with Hayley a childminder from Northamptonshire

I started back after lunch with ‘Chapter Three’ and spoke about my ethos – which I had actually put into writing in 2012. I personally think that having your own ethos (and values and principles) is very important, and helps define what you think is important.

Sally McGeown and Jennifer McQuillan were next to speak – they are both very good friends of mine – and along with Wendy Dimler who was also in the room, provide me with bed and breakfast when I am in London.

Sally spoke about what ethos means and why it is important to have one, she also spoke about how she met me which was online to start with and later face to face, and how our friendship and shared passion have developed over the years.

Jennifer also spoke about how she met me – and about the differences between nursery in this country and in South Africa where she grew up. Jennifer commented on the happy, loved children who did not have much in material terms in South Africa – and the stressed, unhappy children in this country who often have so much in material terms but who are prevented from having a childhood where they learn through play and especially outdoor play.


I then did a little bit about quality in Early Years and my role as a tutor and a QA assessor – as well as gaining my own quality assurance award for my setting.

Next up was Laura Henry – I have to say though that Laura had already played a key role in the day – sorting out IT issues every time I tried to switch to other peoples presentations.

Laura helping me to fix the IT issues

Laura spoke about the importance of our own stories and how it is our life experiences that make us who we are. she spoke about her own childhood, how  her story links in with mine – and about how she got to know me and how since then we have worked in partnership through sharing ideas and supporting each other. Laura’s main message was about overcoming barriers – those we are born with, those created by our early years experiences – and those created by society.


Laura has her own company and offers training and consultancy. Find out more about Laura HERE

The next speaker slot was the one that Neil Leitch would have had if he had not been ill. I spoke instead – not as well but hopefully captured the main point that Neil wanted to make which was about my part in the ratio debate and petitions. Neil is very aware that the Pre-School Learning Alliance is usually credited with bringing pressure on the Government – but he actually gives me credit for starting the ball rolling as it was me who set up the first petition (with support from Neil Leitch, Laura Henry and Nathan Archer). As a result of Truss making me so cross that I found a Soapbox – she unintentionally brought the sector together and in doing so made us much stronger. For those who want to know more about the Pre School Learning Alliance  CLICK HERE

The next speaker was Wendy Ellyatt from Save Childhood Movement (SCM), I introduced Wendy by explaining how we had met and about my initial confusion as to why or how I could work with SCM.

Linking with the theme of the day, Wendy spoke about  became involved in early years through her own children, and how she had also overcome her own fear of public speaking to do the things she now does. Wendy also spoke about the research that backs her opinion and also the work of SCM; she spoke about events coming up and urged everyone to become involved in whatever way they can – including passing on information. Wendy had kindly provided everyone in the room with a copy of the National Children’s Day booklet which was ‘hot off the press’. Thank you Wendy.

Those of you who did not attend information about this booklet (and other SCM documents) can be found on the SCM website – as can lots of other information. To find out more PLEASE CLICK HERE

As a member of the SCM Early Education group – I would like to signpost you to the following

CHILDREN’S DEVELOPMENTAL RIGHTS  (which you can add your name to)

GET INVOLVED (page to sign up for updates and other things)

Another of those very important refreshment breaks followed and opportunity to network and to finish all the tasks in relation to creating memories for me. People were coming up to me and saying how much they were enjoying the event and how inspirational it was.

During this break another very import thing happened. ……

……. Carol cut up the wonderful celebration cake so that everyone who wanted to could have a piece.










After eating cake (and taking more cake for the journey home) Garry and the children left, and it was time for Chapter Four which was all about ‘Thinking Outside the Box’

Sue Allingham spoke about how we had both been at a conference and how the subject matter of one of the workshops was not what we expected – but how it had led to discussion and reflection – and had helped Sue come up with the name of her new company. Sue spoke about about why we need to question things and to ask the ‘WHY’ and ‘HOW’ questions in our work with young children and in relation to Government policy. Though out her presentation Sue referred to her own story and mine.

Sue has held many roles during her career, and is now developing her own company. For details about Sue and her company,  start here LINK TO FACEBOOK PAGE


The next speaker was Rebecca Martland, Rebecca was like (Beth, Jennifer and Sally) speaking at her first ‘big’ event and was a little nervous – especially as during the break – acting on her reflections of the day, she had made a few changes to her presentation – which in my opinion is excellent practice and just how it should be.

Rebecca spoke about her own journey and how her own experiences had made her who she is and had developed her own values and practice. Rebecca’s story linked to my story in many ways as we had had many similar experiences (but not all). Those similar experiences included childminding, being a childminding network coordinator and tutoring, and writing for early years magazines . We had also shared frustrations over Ofsted inspections and how we are both considering our futures as Rebecca is also in the early stages of changing direction.

For details about Rebecca take a look at her Facebook page BY CLICKING HERE


There was one final speaker Tricia Wellings. I have known Tricia for a number of years due to our involvement with Worcestershire PVI consultation group. In more recent years Tricia and I had connected with things like Big Ofsted Conversation and NEYTCO. I admitted to the room that I had sort of ‘dropped’ Tricia into things when I became very ill last year – as I suggested she might like to take over the helm of the West Midlands Big Ofsted Conversation.

Tricia picked up on these comments describing how she had picked up the pieces and ensure that things not only moved forward but encouraged others to become involved. Tricia then spoke about how she had found her own soapbox and was now becoming more vocal and more supportive of others by sharing information via newsletters and social media (personally I am glad Tricia has found her soapbox as she is doing some of the things that I used to do such as unpicking consultation documents). For information about Tricia and her training company MBK CLICK HERE

And so the event was drawing to a close – the last chapter was ‘THE END’ – but was also about doors closing and doors opening – I mentioned that although I am no longer a registered childminder, I am still an advocate of registered childminding, and that I will still be climbing on my soapbox to speak up about the things that I personally think are ‘wrong’ and I will still be trying to ensure all children have a childhood based on play with the support of knowledgeable adults.

I then received my first ever Standing Ovation from those in the room – being me, I felt humbled (but also was feeling pleased that the event had gone well).

After Event Reflection

So was it a success? YES – the feedback that I have had from others has been VERY positive, in fact many have asked for a annual event (not that I can retire every year!). However there is more than just positive feedback about the event – so many have told me that they have been inspired and motivated – I have notice an increase in the number of people posting on social media or making comments, and sharing information posted by others. A few have spoken to me about doing their own blog, about attending things and speaking out – and in particular about not feeling a ‘lone voice’ and knowing others think the same. I think all those who attended will remember Rachel Matthews  who was so driven by her passion that she stood up and spoke to the mike for the first time.


I am thinking about putting on another event – some have said it might be the direction that I go in the future and become an event organiser – I am not so sure – but I am thinking about ‘doing’ another event.

Of course being reflective, also means thinking about the things that did not go as well as planned or hoped.


Timing was tight but in part this was because of the IT issues, so my learning point is to know more about the IT side of things – or to ensure have someone on hand from the venue to help.

The ‘Thoughts from the room’ were the thing that were cut – this was a shame because the one opportunity provided some good comments and thoughts.

I did actually have to put some of my own money into this (which I did not have) as some people who booked did not pay – and some did not turn up. I wish people had been honest when booking as I took people on trust and when I checked with those who had booked but not paid and was ensured they would pay – I went ahead and booked their place with the venue. So a bit of an expensive learning curve for me. It was only just over £200 but when you don’t have any spare money that is a lot to find. However even with this knowledge – I still think it was well worth doing as so much positivity was had – and I was really pleased to share my event with so many equally passionate people as myself.

And from my point of view – that was it!

Of course things can always be improved – but at the moment I am think an individual  led event,where only actual costs have to be met is the way to go, if everyone who booked had paid – the event would have paid for itself – yes there was a lot of work involved for me and the friends who supported me by making a cake and doing the background for the finger print tree, for free – but if the next event is not a celebration event these things would not be required. As everyone who spoke did it for free (huge thanks to you all) this would not necessarily be the case next time (although a few have already said they would speak for free or just for actual travel expenses) – so any future event would have to cover speaker costs – but even so as a ball park figure I think an event could be offered for around £60 per head to cover all the actual costs. Please don’t hold me to that price – but if I organise another event there will be no profit involved.

So to finish Thank you to everyone who spoke at my celebration event ‘Networking, Sharing, Making Connections’, thank you to everyone who attended and thank you to those who contributed in other ways.

I value all of your friendship and professional partnership working – I hope that we will continue to connect and to work together to ensure  that


PS This blog was written by Anne Gladstone who was the first speaker at my event. Thanks for the mention Anne


If anyone has written a blog about my event, or has info or reflection about it on their website – please let me know and I will add here

5 responses to “Part Two of my personal recall of my event ‘Networking, Sharing. Making Connections’

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  1. Penny, I for one was and am inspired and fired up and ready to fight. I will definitely be there next time, our LA are pushing their conference, 3 speakers, a Friday and over £200 +, I know where I’d rather be!!

  2. Well written Mrs P. I really enjoyed the short time we had at the event and the part I’ve played in your journey so far. x

    Former Mr Penny's Place
  3. Well done, Penny.. Great event..

  4. Well done Penny… 🙂 x

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