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Product Review – Really Random Story Bags   2 comments

Preamble – Important Background Information                                                                     When I was a registered childminder I sometimes used to be asked to write product reviews for resources. This was great, as once I had tested the product, and written my honest opinion about it, I was able to keep the product and incorporate it into my resources, to use with the children.

Then when I resigned from childminding, all this came to a holt. However, I have been approached by Early Years Resources (who I have reviewed products for, in the past) to become a reviewer again, an opportunity I have jumped at.

The circumstances are different of course, I will not be reviewing the products within my own setting with children I childmind. Instead I will be using childminding colleagues settings, and with parental permission, writing about how the children use the resources, and adding my opinion about the resource, and making suggestions about extension ideas.

Naturally I will be safeguarding the children’s identity (especially in light of recent data protection changes), and so I will not be identifying colleagues settings in anyway, or giving children’s names or any personal details about the children, other than their approx. age, to the nearest half year. Giving an approx. age will hopefully help people decide if it is a suitable resource to consider buying for their setting. I will use pictures of the products and there maybe flooring / table surfaces visible, and unidentifiable arms / hands, legs / feet.

Colleagues who agree to me reviewing the product at their setting will be able to keep the product to use in their setting, if they wish to do so.

This way, I do not gain anything personally from writing these reviews, which fits in with my ethics – in that my opinion is free.

If you live local to me, and would be happy to help by allowing me to review a product in your childminding setting, ask parents first if they would have any objections, and if they don’t, contact me to express your interest. Then, if / when I get asked to review a product, I will contact you.

Really Random Story Bags                                                                                                             This is the link to the product within the online catalogue.

As you can see, once you have added VAT these Story Bags are quite expensive at £69.54, for a small childminding setting, and so any childminder will have to think carefully before spending that amount of money on one resource, and one which at first glance appears to have limited appeal for the under 5’s who usually are the main users of childminders – certainly in terms of number of hours attending. The ‘blurb’ about the resource claims the bags will support creative writing and story telling, but most under 5’s will not have sufficient skills to write their own stories – at least not in a format that adults can read.

So potential purchasers may be put off buying this item thinking that the children will be too young to get the most out of the resource – and this is where this blog will help by providing honest opinion about the story bags and their potential use.

First point I wish to make is that the picture in the catalogue makes it look like the bags are embroidered with images, but in fact this is a consequence of photographing the items from within the bags, on top of the bags . In fact the bags are one plain colour with one word stitched on each bag (apart from the yellow one which also says what they are)




I observed play with the bags on several different occasions with different children, ( one 3.5 year old alone, a 3 yr old and a 5 yr old together, and  two 3 year olds together. On each occasion the children wanted to make up different stories, and did not tire of creating their own unique stories. I found they were keen to have the adults undivided attention and to show an interest – as well as clapping at the end.

As an introduction to the bags, the children and I tipped out the bags and looked at all the items, tried to name them and describe them. Some items they found easy to describe and to name, others were more difficult, but they found ways to explain what they thought.

For example – the drill.                                                                                                                  ‘Like Daddy’s’ said a 3 yr old,                                                                                                            ‘It is a screwing thing’ said the 5 yr old ‘for mending things’

I was surprised at some of their knowledge –                                                                                 One 3 yr old told me ‘its a footprint, a dinosaur footprint, I think a T.Rex’                              While the other 3 yr old said ‘ it is a fossil, you find it on the beach’

As you can see from the photo’s, the claim that the items are totally random, is very valid. However, please not the comment in the catalogue – the content of the bags will vary – making them even more random and varied.


    Content of the ‘WHO’ bag 
















                                                   Content of the ‘WHAT’ bag 

I found I needed to explain to all the children the idea of the game, and how they needed to chose a ‘WHERE’ card first – they also needed some help with using the ‘WHERE’ cards as this was a new idea to them, they were used to having objects to play with, but not with having a card to ‘set the scene’. So I made up a couple stories – this excited the children and the were eager to have their turn


The ‘WHERE’ cards


Each time I used the story bags with the children, they wanted to tell their own story and did not want to tell a story together through taking turns to tell part of the story, nor did they want to share the props, they selected the props either randomly by putting their hand in the bag, or by tipping them out and choosing their prop. To start with the children chose one item from each bag,  and started to tell their story, but they quickly worked out that having extra things from the WHO and the WHAT bags meant they could create more interesting stories.

Each story started with ‘Once upon a time …’ without any prompting by me, and in my experience with these children, the 3 yr olds were better at telling a story than the 5 yr old., but this will be due the uniqueness of the individual children, so every child will use the story bags in different ways and with different skill levels. The adult will also make a difference and depend on how well the children know the adult, and the adults own ability to tell stories.  However all children, on each occasion used their imagination to tell a story, and all children used their hands to move the props about. All stories ended with ‘THE END’

The 5 yr olds story contain a lot of ‘and then…’ and towards the end appeared to be enjoying making it funny, and getting the adults attention. Humour of course is developmentally normal and it should not be forgot that some people make a good living from telling funny stories. However it was noted that the vocabulary used was more ‘advanced’ than her normal conversational vocabulary.

The second time we used the Story Bags, I did suggest the children might like to use more than one scene card, and the 5 year old though this was a good idea, and was able to use 3 scene cards at once with the characters moving between the different cards, while although the 3 year olds did want more than one scene card they stuck to using one card for each story, but later started a different story used a different card.

Some stories were told while sitting at a table, but most where told from  floor level.

The main thing is the children enjoyed telling stories and maintained interest for over 30 minutes on each occasion. They also requested to play it again – and I noted that even when I moved away the children continued telling stories and speaking out loud so others could hear. in fact I have had a request to visit the setting again and to take the Story Bags – which now I have finished the blog and taking photos of the resource, I will do.  At the end of that visit I will leave the bags at the setting, so they can use them as often as they want to.

I will need to seek feedback in a few months to see if interest was maintained and if the Story Bags became firm favourites or if interest waned over a period of time

Personal opinion                                                                                                                                 I do think this is quite expensive for an individual to buy, but I also think it has huge potential for extending vocabulary, and encouraging creative story telling. I don’t think it matters that most under 5’s will not be able to write down their stories (and I have some suggestions about this) because to be able to verbally tell a story from your imagination is a very important skill that will in due course lead to being able to create stories using the written word. During my observations I saw the children develop story telling skills, expanding their vocabulary and creating stories with a beginning, a middle and an end.

I think over time, the children could be encouraged to create stories with others, maybe starting with telling a story with an adult and then later on involving other children.

If you like the idea of this resource but really can’t afford it – think outside the box! How about clubbing together with one or more other colleagues and sharing the resource. I did this in the past with colleagues for expensive items, and it worked really well – and had the added bonus that did not have to store it all the time because colleagues were using it.

Or how about if you do have that sort of money to spend, getting together with other colleagues and each buying a different similar price resource and then sharing all those resources? Sort of like your own Toy Library. Maybe if you belong to a childminding group you could use this idea to create your own Toy Library.

If I was still a childminder, I would consider buying this together with a colleague.

Extension Ideas

  • Add photo’s of your setting – including the garden
  • Add photo’s of your local park or wood
  • Add photo’s of the children and if possible their parents and their pets / family members/ houses as  children love to tell stories about their family. It may encourage less confident children to tell a story if it is about their family. (Remember to get permission to use / keep the photo’s in the setting)
  • Add other random little plastic objects, for example from charity shops, or ‘borrow’ from small world playsets.
  • On occasions add items to support current interests – like some shells if recently been to the seaside or some trains if like trains. The possibilities are endless
  • Add some natural items like a pine cone or a pebble
  • You write down the stories for the children
  • Record the stories –  just a voice recording or a short video recording, but remember you need appropriate permission, and must abide by the latest data protection laws.
  • Use those child friendly recording things (that just press a button to record or listen back) Ask the children to record different sounds like a doorbell, or a phone ringing or a running tap and so on. Put these in a bag or a basket to add an extra dimension to the story
  • If the children have a popular story book or you have a theme or celebrating a particular festival, add some props that would support implementing aspects into the children’s own stories for example a small Diva, or a wooden spoon, or a gingerbread man cutter, or a teddy sized scarf. I am sure you will be able to think of lots of different ideas
  • Use the WHAT and WHO bags to play a ‘feely game’ with the objects
  • Challenge the children to count out 5 or 10 objects from the WHAT and WHO bags and to try to make up a story using all those objects
  • Play a version of ‘My Grandmother went to market’ – put all the objects in the big yellow bag take an item out, look at it, say what it is then put in the red bag. Next persons Says ‘my Grandmother went to market and brought   (name of first thing’ and (pull out anther object) Repeat. The good thing about putting the items in the red bag is – if someone forgets what Grandmother brought they can look at the things in the red bag and work out what they have forgot.
  • Put some of the items on a tray – look at them for a short time, cover with the empty yellow bag and try to remember what was on the tray.
  • Playing a guessing game – one person describes an item and the rest try to guess what is being described. For younger children put the things on a tray or on top of a bag so they can see the item while trying to describe it / trying to guess what is being described.


So just a few ideas to help make the best of this wonderful resource, I am sure you will think of other ideas.



A Day To Remember   Leave a comment


It is a good thing that the day in question, was a day to remember because due to my ill health and the necessary medication making days roll into weeks and weeks into months , it has been months since that day in January 2018 when I received a Honorary Life Membership to NEYTCO.

You may be wondering why I was given this honour – and so I will explain…….

I was part of a series of discussions( not the very first ones, but some of the very early ones)  about the need for an organisation to represent early years trainers and consultants, and the need to find a way provide quality assurance, and support.  Up to this point  trainers and consultants had sort of ‘done their own thing’ and to be honest before 2010 most trainers had been linked to Local Authorities (LA’s) in one way or another, in that they were either employed directly by the LA’s as staff members, or the LA’s commissioned the trainer to their set criteria and bench marking. However, things were changing and Government cut backs meant LA’s were having to reduce staff levels, and reduce the amount of training they offered – especially the free training. Although we did not know at the time just how bad things would become there was a general ‘gut feeling’ within the sector that we were on a crest of a wave of change – and that change could spell disaster but also could create opportunities for individuals. The one thing that was clear was that to prevent a disaster, we would need to take control and ensure any training and consultancy was of the highest quality, and that standards were set and maintained. This together with the fact the we were about to take a collective step into the unknown meant there would be a huge need for support – 2 way support as no one would have all the answers, no one would have had experience – or at least not all the range of experiences, and so we would need to support each other in many different ways.

In the days before NEYTCO even had a name, I was involved in discussions by phone, by email and at meetings. I would take time off from my day job as a childminder to attend meetings in London. I felt this was important so that I could represent the views of my childminding colleagues to ensure there was joined up thinking across the sector, because childminders were still not seen as equal professionals. Their unique situation of working alone in most cases (or maybe with one other person), and so needing to have an understanding of all aspects; their need for affordable training because income from childminding was limited due to ratio’s – but with every childminder still needing to have training to comply with the EYFS; the time restrictions due to the extended working hours, and the legal inability to leave someone else to run the setting on training days, and so needing evening and weekend training; the need for trainers who preferably had childminder experience or had an understanding of childminding because had used a childminder for their own children’s care. Due to all of these reason I felt it was important that childminders were represented at these meetings. Luckily Laura Henry who founded NEYTCO and who had the vision for what was needed, agreed and so actively encouraged me to be involved. Actually she did more than that, she opened doors for me to carry out this self appointed role as childminders ambassador , and asked me if I would take on the volunteer role as Lead Person for the West Midlands.

I agreed and became even more involved, I was lucky that I had understanding and supportive parents using my childminding service, who provided I gave them sufficient notice would arrange for alternative childcare for their children, so that I could attend meetings in London.

And so it was that I became involved and was invited to attend the launch of NEYTCO in December 2014. You can read about the NEYTCO launch in this blog which I wrote at the time.

My involvement with NEYTCO continued to be very active, as I organised the West Midlands events and shared news and information, and as I continued to attend NEYTCO events. You can read about one of those NETCO events by clicking on this link

Things were all going to plan, and in May 2016 I retired as a registered childminder, fully intending to become a full blown trainer and consultant (and maybe write a book or two). I had had ‘early days’ conversations with Sally, a childminding colleague about the possibility of launching a specialist childminder training company under the umbrella of NEYTCO. Everything was looking very positive and my dream of ‘making a difference’ within childminding  and to benefit children and families was on the verge of becoming a reality.


…… everything stopped in February 2017, I became very ill, doctors did not know what was wrong, I saw many consultants, had many tests, scans and so on. The only thing I knew was I was in the most awful, constant pain, I could not walk , or lift things or care for myself. I needed constant pain relief and constant support from family and friends.

All my plans were halted, the future looked bleak and due to financial difficulties, I knew I was going to have to make really difficult decisions about my future. I could no longer volunteer – including the volunteering I did for NEYTCO, and because no one knew what was wrong with me, it was proving difficult to access benefits , and I knew that without any personal income, I would not be able to renew my memberships to NEYTCO or any of the other Early Years membership organisations that I belonged to – and this in turn would mean I could not attend events (assuming I was physically able to), I would not get member magazines or emails, which in turn would make it difficult for me to remain up to date – to have my eye on the ball. I tried not to think about it too much as the mere thought was very depressing.

And then just before Christmas 2017, I received a completely unexpected phone call from Juliette the admin person (and a whole lot more) for NEYTCO. She wanted to know if I would be able to attend the next West Midlands  members meeting in January 2018.

I said I was not sure because I could not drive far, I could not meet my own care needs and I tired very quickly. OH said Juliette, we very much hope you can because we want to award you with a Honorary Life Membership to NETYTCO. You could have knocked me over with a feather – I was not expecting that all! Then I became excited not only about the award but about the possibility of seeing some of my NEYTCO colleagues, as while I had been ill, I had become very isolated. So I promised Juliette that I would do very best to be there and set about finding a friend who would be willing to drive me to the meeting, and to help with my personal needs.

I found such a person in my friend and ex LA colleague Lynn Edwards. Lynn had been going through her own difficult time and we had not seen each other for over a year – but Lynn kindly offered to collect me from my home, to drive me to the meeting, to stay with me all through the meeting and then drive me home. I was so excited as I was going to the meeting and going to spend time catching up with my friend.

My award  presentation was at the end of the meeting (which in itself was interesting, and both Lynn and myself took an active part), we had a lovely buffet where Juliette had taken the trouble to ensure my dietary needs were met. The venue (at one of NEYTCO’s members training rooms), was ideal as on one level and with a super disabled toilet.

Catriona Neson CEO of NEYTCO (who can be seen in the photo at the beginning of this blog) did a little speech before presenting me with my certificate – the speech was all about NEYTCO and my role since the formation – and the role they hope I will play once I am better. I really hope I do get better and that I can be an active member and volunteer in the future. Volunteering is part of who I am, engaging with the early years sector is what I do, so in a nut shell myself and NEYTCO are bound together in many ways.

For me though the best bit of the whole day – beside the networking, the genuine love shown to me, the lovely buffet and so on – the best bit was contained in Catriona’s speech. It appears that not only do I have a Life time membership and will never have to pay a single penny in membership fees, I will also get all the member benefits including the fantastic weekly updates sent by email –  I can also attend any member event without paying to attend – all I will have to do is a) get better so I can travel, b) cover my own travel costs and where needed accommodation cost.

Catriona – NEYTCO – I can not express how much this means to me – you are giving me the opportunity to keep in touch, to keep updated, and as and when I am well enough to attend member events. This is a lifeline to me – I am not going to left ‘out in the cold’, I am going to continue to be very much part of the warm, loving NEYTCO family.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart – If there is anything I can do to help NEYTCO – just ask. I hope that as I recover, I will be able to represent NEYTCO – and all it stands for – and as intended by Laura Henry when she founded NEYTCO, and as discussed in those early days meetings – everyone supporting each other, in whatever way they can.


If readers of this blog would like to find out more about NEYTCO please click on this link


Letter with overview of Networking, Sharing, Making Connections – 2   Leave a comment


       Membership Organisations: Our Past, Present and Future                        

Learning together across the Early Years … and beyond

Dear All                                                                                                                                                    As an individual I have been involved with early year’s membership organisations for over 30 years, and they have shaped who I am today. I have gained so much from being a member and a volunteer of these organisations and I now want to give ‘something’ back.

Following the success of my first public event ‘Networking, Sharing and Making Connections’ in 2016, where we explored our shared journey within Early Years linking to the theories of the Pioneers, I am organising a second event in Birmingham on May 12th 2018, to celebrate the past achievements of early year’s membership organisations, and in particular the involvement of members and volunteers; to explore their role today in a rapidly changing sector; and to consider how early year’s membership organisations can help support children, families, practitioners and society in the future.

I am delighted to invite EVERYONE who is interested to join myself and colleagues at this next event.

“It does not matter which membership organisation you have been involved with or if you have never been a member of any membership organisation. This event will be of interest because of the influence Membership Organisations have had on Government Policy and the Professional Standards we all now work to.

The aim is to bring together all of those who have been involved with early years membership organisations, in any way; to share our memories and our stories from the early days when the founders formed the organisations, right up to today; with the hope that we can preserve these memories and stories along with associated documents for future generations.

Time is of an essence as some of the founder and early day members are now reaching a stage of their lives where it is more difficult to travel to events to tell their stories, and where individuals and organisations are having to downsize premises and so historic documents including photographs are at risk of being recycled or even disposed of because their importance is not recognised.

Who should attend?                                                                       Anyone who has ever been a member of any of the early years memberships organisations

Anyone who has worked for, or worked in partnership with any of the Early Years Organisations

Anyone who is an early year’s practitioner, manager, advisor or an early year’s student

Anyone who recognises the importance of membership organisations, and the benefits of volunteering


How can you help?

Share your memories                                                                                                                        I have many personal memories, both serious and funny, and I am sure many others do, in fact I know they do because I have had lots of conversations with others where we have shared our stories and our memories. Now, as well as creating an opportunity for people to share their stories and their memories with each other at my event, I want to create a permanent record to keep, and to lend to individuals and organisations in future generations.


If you are able to attend the event, please bring along your memories in a paper format (or email them to me before the event, and I will print them). If you are unable to attend in person please send me your memories so that they can be included.

My email address is

Here are some suggestions of things you could bring / send in.

  • Scanned copies of photographs of past membership events, such as AGM’s , training, Fun Days and committee events.
  • Copies of documents such as fliers / posters / for events, member newsletters (please note do not send copies of minutes that may have confidential information)
  • Scanned front pages of old copies of membership magazines.

NB If you happen to have a stack of old membership magazines, and intend to keep them, please let me know your email address so that those looking for information can contact you and ask for information.

If you have decided it is time to downsize and the pile of magazines have to go – please do not recycle them (as I did without thinking when I moved to my current house) but instead consider donating them to this record that I am creating. If you decide to do this please email me in the first instance, so we can discuss how to get them to me.

  • Your own memories of attending events – I know there are many stories out there such as Fire evacuations, recounts of votes when it has been a close call, disco’s, team building exercises, fancy dress events, guest speakers and much more.

My overriding memory is that although there was of course a serious side of things, there was also a lot of fun, and many lifelong friendships made, let’s capture those memories before it is too late.

 The final aim for this event is to show our appreciation to the founder members of the early years membership organisations. Without those founder members we would not be where we are now.

 I hope you can join myself and colleagues at the event, details of which can be made found by clicking these links

If you are able to help in any way, including providing resources for the Goody Bags (pens, early years magazines, craft items, child care items, items for individuals) Please do get in touch – anyone providing an item for the Goody Bags, will be able to have their business card or catalogue included in the bag


Best Wishes

Penny Webb BEM

Your memories of early years membership organisations are needed   Leave a comment

As an individual I have been involved with early years membership organisations over the last 30 years or so, and they have shaped who I am today. I have gained so much from being a member and a volunteer of these organisations and I want to give ‘something’ back.

Therefore I am organising an event in Birmingham on May 12th 2018, to celebrate the achievements of the past and to look to the future of early years membership organisations.

I have many memories, both serious and funny, and I am sure many others do, in fact I know they do because I have had lots of conversations with others where we have shared our stories and our memories. Now, as well as creating an opportunity for people to share their stories and their memories with each other at my event, I want to create a permanent record to keep, and to lend to individuals and organisations in future generations – and for this I need your help.

If you are able to attend the event, please bring along your memories in a paper format (or email them to me before the event). If you are unable to attend in person please send me your memories so that they can be included.

My email address is

Here are some suggestions of things you could send in.

  • Scanned copies of photographs of past membership events, such as AGM’s , training, Fun Days and committee events.
  • Copies of documents such as fliers / posters /  for events, member newsletters (please note do not send copies of minutes that may have confidential information)
  • Scanned front pages of old copies of membership magazines.

NB If you happen to have a stack of old membership magazines, and intend to keep them, please let me know your email address so that those looking for information can contact you and ask for information. If you have decided it is time to downsize and the pile of magazines have to go – please do not recycle them (as I did without thinking when I moved to my current house) but instead consider donating them to this record that I am creating. If you decide to do this please email me in the first instance, so we can discuss how to get them to me.

  • Your own memories of attending events – I know there are many stories out there such as Fire evacuations, recounts of votes when it has been a close call, disco’s, team building exercises, fancy dress events, guest speakers and much more.

My over riding memory is that although there was of course a serious side of things, there was also a lot of fun, and many life long friendships made, let’s capture those memories before it is too late.

My final aim for my event is to show our appreciation to the founder members of the early years membership organisations. Without those founder members we would not be where we are now.

I hope you can join myself and colleagues at the event, details of which can be made found by clicking this link

There is also a slightly outdated blog that gives details (I will be writing an update one soon)

And finally there is a Facebook event page



Networking, Sharing, Making Connections – 2   1 comment

                        Membership Organisations: Our Past, Present and Future

                          Learning together across the Early Years … and beyond


 Following the success of my first public event ‘Networking, Sharing and Making Connections’ in 2016, where we explored our shared journey within Early Years linking to the theories of the Pioneers, this Event will continue our story, through Early Years Membership Organisations which have supported the development of the whole sector and in particular those individuals who have been active members and volunteers.

I am delighted to invite EVERYONE who is interested to join myself and colleagues at this next event.

“It does not matter which membership organisation you have been involved with or if you have never been a member of any membership organisation. This event will be of interest because of the influence Membership Organisations have had on Government Policy and the Professional Standards we all now work to”

There will be several “themes” running through the day , with opportunity to share your own ‘story and journey’ and information.

All with the child at the centre of our thoughts and actions

  • History of membership organisations
  • Safeguarding the children through safeguarding ourselves
  • Well-being of adults and children
  • Learning from success and mistakes in the past to shape our future
  • Working in partnership to support better outcomes for all
  • Links to theories and research
  • Building connections and networks
  • Continuing our shared story


  • Sue Allingham – Out of the Box Consultancy and Trustee for Early Education
  • Tricia Wellings – MBK Training
  • Kathryn Solly – Kathryn Solly Consulting and Member of Early Education
  • Catriona Nason – NEyTCO CEO
  • Rob Fox – Early Years Practitioner and Student
  • Sally McGeown – Registered Childminder and former volunteer for Pacey
  • Mick McGeown – Registered Childminder and former volunteer for Pacey
  • Esther Grey – Retired Ofsted Compliance Inspector
  • Beth Thomas – Early Years Researcher
  • Penny Webb – Retired Childminder, Advocate and Campaigner
  • Sue Griffin – Former staff NCMA (now Pacey) , former Chair Pre-School Playgroup Association (now Pre-School Learning Alliance), Author and trainer
  • Ann Goodard – Founder Member NCMA (now Pacey)
  • Neil Leitch – CEO Pre-school Learning Alliance
  • Jemma Mortlock – Managing Director Early Start Childcare and Education

And opening speech and welcome recorded by Laura Henry from Laura Henry Consultancy who sadly cannot join us on the day.

Please note, as this is a non-profit making event and all speakers are volunteers and paying their own expenses, the programme is subject to change due to potential other as yet unknown commitments.

Fees                                                                                                                                                £40.00 (includes refreshments and a two-course lunch)

To book your place, please email Penny:

Venue website

Please visit the NEYTCO website for up to date information

 OR the dedicated Facebook page for the event

Posted December 20, 2017 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

‘Bold Beginnings’ for 2018 – there is hope if you look hard enough   2 comments

2017 has been a very difficult year for me personally and in general for the early years sector.  So as 2017 draws to a close, I am taking the time to reflect on the past year and to think about what hope (if any) there is for me personally and for the things that I am passionate about – mainly the well-being of children and young people.

On a personal front my health has deteriorated and despite my mainly positive disposition, even I struggle to cope with the news that my physical mobility is not likely to rapidly improve – there is hope of a long slow recovery with tiny, baby progress steps but on some days especially those when just to stagger from chair to bathroom takes a huge amount of effort, I cry with frustration and despair. The constant pain gets me down and on the days when I have to increase the opioids that I am prescribed, I feel like I am going backwards not forwards despite my efforts to maintain my daily, set exercises and to try to achieve ‘mind over matter’ and thus well-being, by engaging in the sort of hobbies that you can do from an armchair and can pick up and put down as needs must.

It would be easy for me to stop trying, to give up, to accept this is the way things will be in the future. To understand that shouting, crying, protesting, demanding someone takes responsibility and does ‘something’ about this terrible situation is not going to make a difference.

I sometimes ask myself why this is happening to me when all I have ever wanted is to improve outcomes for children and young people, to support families and generally live up to my childhood nickname of ‘Goody Two Shoes’. I have never wanted to be rich, or famous, I just want to be able to help others – and to be able to give and receive love.


There is still a lot to look forward to, for example I have just been informed that because I was too ill to go to the Royal Garden Party last year in recognition of the British Empire Medal I received for my voluntary work for membership organisations, and my support for children and families, I will be getting an invite to go this year.

I have a large loving family, who all in their unique individual ways are supporting me through their love and actions, especially my husband Garry who has had his life changed due to the impact of my health on our finances, our family activities and so on. I have 10 (soon to be 11) grandchildren who bring me such joy, and give me a reason on my darkest days to look to the future – mine and theirs.

Yes, if I look hard enough I have hope that things will improve in 2018 and that it is worth continuing to make an effort.


2017 has challenging to say the least for the early years sector, the whole so called ‘free’ entitlement to 30 hours childcare or is it education? Government keep changing the terminology to try and make it fit their agenda and policies. The sector came together to object to the word ‘free’ saying it cost each setting to provide the funded hours over and above the amount paid by the Government. The term the sector prefers- ‘funded’ says that it is only partly paid for by Government. Even with more appropriate wording, there was still a shortfall and throughout the 30 hr pilots, settings were coming up with ideas about how to make the books balance. The government did finally agree that settings could charge for extra’s such as food and outings but this caused a divide within the sector with some saying this would have a negative impact on the very families and children the policy was supposed to help, because the poorest families would not be able to afford to pay for these extra’s and therefore would not be able to take up employment or education.

The sector also came together under the umbrella of Champange Nurseries on Lemonade funding, with lots of people freely giving their time to speak on behalf of the sector through their Facebook group and social media.

There were other financial pressures such pensions and minimum wage all of which put a huge strain on a lot of settings. Many just could not sustain the financial loss and others the continued worry and stress. Yet more struggled to think of ways to meet the requirements of EYFS, Ofsted and other expectations without subjecting the children to an over formal curriculum or in more simple terms ‘Too Much, Too Soon’.

Schools also faced financial pressure with budget cuts, and cuts to support services; they had pressure to take part in implementing SATS and Baseline Assessments both of which in my opinion are nothing to do with the children, but all about national data and creating a ‘stick’ with which to ‘beat’ teachers under the ‘accountability’ umbrella. Is it any wonder that so many young teachers are resigning, and older ones taking early retirement for health reasons?

The whole education system from Early Years to University is under pressure and at crisis point.


In the last couple of weeks we have had the Ofsted report ‘Bold Beginnings’ – which I will be honest and say I have not read cover to cover, if you have not yet ‘braved it’, you can do so by clicking on the link

Maybe like me you would prefer to read one of the many blogs and responses written by organisations and individuals such as this one by TACTYC

or this one by June O’Sullivan

There are many more, a quick internet search will bring them up. I did read quite a few and decided that I could not face reading the actual report to protect my own well-being (being ill and not usual my campaigning self).

However, the thought that Ofsted think the children need a more formal curriculum, that EYFS needs changing (especially when settings are already struggling to comply with some of the aims / goals in EYFS for numeracy and literacy) fills me with dread – and it seems from the blogs and articles that I have read, many others are despairing – such as the members of the Facebook Group ‘Keeping Early Years Unique’.

According to Nursery World, Ofsted Chief Inspector was surprised at the sectors response to ‘Bold Beginnings’ – REALLY? Has she not been listen AT ALL to all the campaigners such as myself who are not only just against ‘Too Much, Too Soon’ but have research paper after research paper, and a lot of observations by experienced early years practitioners and teachers proving that a play based approach works best and sets the foundations for all future learning.

And then we had the statement from Justine Greening about plans to increase social mobility mainly but not entirely through increasing the number of school nursery places, with the focus being on early numeracy and literacy

At a risk of repeating myself (which in effect I am)

It would be easy for the early years sector to stop trying, to give up, to accept this is the way things will be in the future. To understand that shouting, crying, protesting, demanding someone takes responsibility and does ‘something’ about this terrible situation is not going to make a difference.

How can we as a sector give up, how can we implement policy which we know impacts on children’s well-being, especially their mental well-being; that we know actually hinders the foundations of learning from being put in place; that we know in the long term will have a huge financial cost to society as we have to pick up the pieces of damaged lives. I mean how can we ‘hand on heart’ do this to the children?


However, as my blog title suggests if we look hard enough we can find hope, and so to complete this blog I will gives just a few of examples of where I think these glimmers of hope are coming from.

ONE                                                                                                        The mere fact that so many organisations and individuals have publically spoken out against Bold Beginnings gives me some hope that the sector will, to some extent at least, practice Principled Non Compliance’ that is they will refused to implement anything which they believe will harm the children’s well-being (a bit like the doctors oath ‘Do no harm’).

In addition more and more people are joining together under the umbrella of organisations such as Save Childhood Movement

We need more settings, individuals including parents to actively support Save Childhood Movement because if we come together, we have a stronger voice and the Government are more likely to take notice, especially if ten’s of thousands settings do practice Principle Non Compliance with the support of the parents using their setting.

If we want inspiration we only need to look to Scotland and the work done by UPSTART SCOTLAND

TWO                                                                                                      Connected to number one but slightly different, in this country we have a strong history of involvement in membership organisations such as Early Education, Tactyc, Pre-school Learning Alliance, Pacey, Day Nurseries Association. I strongly believe that the associations need to not only continue their very valuable work, but they need to work together a lot more, sharing resources, skills and expertise and most importantly by being able to enter discussions with Government with the support of their combined membership on the matters that concern us all. There has been some encouraging signs of this partnership working in the form of letters signed by the CEO’s of all or most of them – but there is room for more.

In addition membership organisations have a track record of supporting the professional development of their members through training, and also through their volunteer structures whereby everyday people (such as myself) gain confidence, knowledge, people skills and so much more by volunteering. Sadly in recent years less and less people are volunteering and as a result people are no longer ‘coming up the ranks’ so to speak. In my opinion this collapse of the volunteer structure needs to be halted and organisations need to look at different ways to encourage the involvement of their members – maybe something like an apprenticeship, unpaid but fully support. This could be an area where more partnership working could take place to save resources and share expertise.

For my part in this as someone who has benefitted greatly from being a volunteer for not one but many organisations, I am organising a networking event on 12th May 2018 with the aim of looking at the impact of membership organisations in the past and considering their future role. Everyone is welcome, you do not need to be a member of any organisation (and there certainly will not be a ‘them and us’ feeling to the day, we will all be coming together to network, share and make connections). Plans are still being finalised, more speakers being added and the programme developed – but so far it is looking good. Details can be found by following this link to the NEYTCO website

THREE                                                                                                    My final example is from a visit to one of my granddaughter’s nursery. I know from what I read on social media and articles that there are many settings that do offer a play based curriculum, those who know that if we get it right in the Early Years that children will flourish and do well academically.

I have said many times that different settings meet different children’s needs, children are all unique, parents needs to support family life and work commitments are all different – and these needs change over the years. One size most defiantly does not fit all. It is not a case of one type of setting being better than another, it does not matter what a building is called – it is what happens in that building and more importantly outside that building that matters, along with the relationships between the adults and the children.

My granddaughter Annabelle goes to school nursery to access her 30 hours, she attends every day Monday – Friday, 9am – 3pm, and sometimes also accesses the before and after school provision. Annabelle is the second youngest in nursery having an August birthday, and has been attending since September. So the invitation to join staff and children for a hot chocolate and to look at the children’s WOW moments marked the end of her first term.

I had some idea of what I would see because 2 afternoons a week, I collect Annabelle, and had seen written on the whiteboard outside the classroom the things she had been doing – mainly things outside with lots of cooking and singing, and stories. However, I admit I thought it might be a bit more formal than it was – not that I am complaining because the event was perfect in my eyes.

Annabelle’s mummy and I arrived at the start time of the open session (meaning not all the parents arrived at the same time, or left at the same time). We were welcomed in and Annabelle was called from where she was played in the ‘Winter Wonderland’ (one of those cube dens with associated accessories – soft toys, dressing up and things the children had taken in) to show us the things in her bag (things she had made) and around the nursery. Annabelle was pleased to see us and showed us the full blown stable set up, complete with straw which by this time of the day was all over the floor, a manager which Annabelle said did not contain Jesus, but ‘just a baby’, there were more dressing up things, a pretend fire and related books. It was clearly well used.

We had hot chocolate and could have sampled biscuits if we wanted to. We looked at the frozen small world scene set up in a tuff tray – various vehicles with pretend snow and ice; at the small world nativity scene and more.

What caught my eye were all the photo’s recording the children’s play and development. Photos of children who were 3 and the two who are already 4; A birthday chart, again with photo’s showing each child smiling and holding up a card with their birthday date, displayed in monthly sections (which is how I know Annabelle is the second youngest). There were lots of photo displays of the children in Forest School, In the mud pit area, and picking apples and pumpkins in the local community; A hair dressers area with photos of the children sporting lovely hair styles – and a revolving display on the whiteboard showing the children engaged in play.

YES there were a few aims such as ‘know our forest school rules’ and YES there were some word card with outcomes such as ‘taking turns’ ‘pulling / pushing’ ‘carrying’ and so on; YES there were strings of letters and numbers hanging across the ceilings/walls; Yes there were labels on boxes – but all low key not the main focus at all.

By now Annabelle wanted to play with her friends, and so I leant against a wall (as I was struggling by this stage) and observed.

I saw staff tuning into the children, listening, and when invited getting on the floor to join in; I saw children playing together, talking, laughing and a few minor disagreements / getting over excited, which the children mainly resolved themselves and when they didn’t there was a gentle reminder from staff; I saw staff chatting to parents; children sat watching themselves on the whiteboard – calling out the name of the child currently shown; I saw staff taking children by the hand to go to do something, especially those children whose parents were not currently in the classroom; I saw Annabelle and several other children and a staff member in the home area (almost a separate room to one side with plenty of space for role play) and if you have been counting that makes 4 completely different role play areas; I saw a staff member in the large adjoining kitchen sorting things out from the refreshments.

I saw happy, well adjusted, thriving children – and the proof? Parents could take children home after they had seen all they wanted to see, and several did BUT Annabelle wanted to stay at nursery and that was fine with staff – so stay she did, to play some more until it was normal home time and Mummy collected her.

I am sure some readers will be thinking but this is nursery, Penny – yes a good one with the focus on play but what will it be like in reception and all those things that Ofsted spoke about in Bold Beginnings wrote about should be implemented?

Well of course I cannot sure, but indications are good. Being an August baby Annabelle will start school in September 2018 , and so her Mummy and Daddy have looked round several local schools including the one her nursery is part of. One of the schools only spoke to parents about academic learning; one had a mixture of academics and play, and the one her nursery is attached to spoke about emotional well-being, about continuing to learn through play and hands on learning. I know from reading the outside whiteboard that nursery do a lot of things with reception children including, singing, circle games, picnics, and outside play, so II fully expect this play focus to remain.

In addition when I attended a fundraising coffee morning I saw Year 6 children serving cakes, chatting to parents, and the Head Girl asked me (without adult prompting) if I would like her to carry the cakes I had purchased to my table – very thoughtful as I was walking with a crutch. I have also seen nursery, reception and Year One children at the Harvest Festival in the church – lots of singing with actions and laughter.

I have very few doubts that Annabelle will thrive at the school – assuming she gets a place there.

So there is hope that our children can be protected from the interfering of Government though the work of Early Years practitioners and teachers; there is hope that we can all come together to campaign as one – all the individuals, all the membership organisations and all those who carry out research and who have knowledge built through experience.

BUT ……..

To get Government to listen and take notice there needs to be many, many more who will practice Principled Non Compliance, and refused to implement policies they know will impact negatively on our children. A few thousand vocal voices can be ignored, a few thousand principled practitioners can be replaced with those who will comply.

We need parents on board; parents who will choose schools who understand how children learn; parents who will support campaign efforts by signing petitions, by writing to the heads of the schools their children attend, and to their MP.

There is hope, I just hope we gather enough support before it is too late and the academics of the early years from Government policy are implement and we have Too Much, Too Soon and damage our children’s well –being and ability to flourish. There is plenty of time after the age of 7 for academics and formal learning.


And in my opinion, as well as all the objection to Government policy, we should have one main campaigning aim – TO TAKE EDUCATION OUT OF POLITICS. Other countries have done so with great success. Again in my opinion we need some sort of Board of experts – those who have education degrees AND hands on experience. We need early years policy to be the backbone of all we do educationally because if we get it right in the early years, children will flourish and thrive academically once they encounter formal education (ideally after the age of 7)

So who is with me on this?

Who is prepared to join together with others to practice Principled Non Compliance?

Who is prepared to campaign to take education out of politics?





Posted December 17, 2017 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Safeguarding Every Child – Let’s Start With The Adults   Leave a comment

Please note, this blog, like all my blogs is my personal recall, and my personal opinion. Other people will have different reflections, and different opinions. I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts.


On Friday 3rd November 2017, I attended the second national Early Years Safeguarding and Protecting Every Child conference.

Details of the conference including speaker details can be found by clicking on the link

Normally I would provide quite a comprehensive recall of any training or conferences without giving too much of the content away (because I don’t feel it is fair to give away other people’s work, as that is how they earn their living)

On this occasion I am going to say less than usual – you will still be able to read the pre-amble about my experiences leading up to the actual event, and my opinion about the event and the speakers, but only the briefest overview of the content.

This is because Laura Henry is going to make the content of the conference available via the live recordings made on the day, plus various links and further information.

You will be able to pay to view; or get for free as part of your membership of Laura’s Early Years Club. If you are not a member of the Early Years Club if you follow the link below, you will find out everything you need to know, including the price.

If you are already a member of Laura’s Early Years Club, you should have been sent detail’s about how to access to recordings, links and other information.

Those who attended will have been sent all the information already, I do hope that like me people will not share this content freely, as the speakers and Laura all need to earn an income, and if we give away information that is not ours to give, there will be consequence ; for example the price of future conferences may increase; or people like Laura will stop ‘going the extra mile’ and stop providing free resources to attendees.

The Pre-amble                                                                                                         Readers may wish to skip reading this bit, maybe because not interested in my experience pre attendance at the conference; maybe because do not have much time, but as I reflected on this trip to enable adults to safeguard and protect every child, we must safeguard ourselves first , otherwise we will be battling with our own trauma, possible conflict of interests and poor well-being, and therefore be unable to safeguard the children, in the widest sense of the word.

And by ‘widest sense of the word’, I mean everything –all areas that may impact on a child’s well-being – including curriculum, your observations, response and reactions which should all be carried out professionally to protect the child holistically. So yes, by ‘widest sense of the word’ for safeguarding children covers everything.

My pre –amble starts much earlier in the year. Laura Henry has a wide network of close friends and colleagues whom she discusses things with, takes advice from / gives advice to, and shares with. I am honoured to be one of those she trusts. At last year’s conference I lead a workshop on the needs of foster children and others who have experienced trauma, but this year due to serious ill health which at one point left me unable to walk or control my body functions, I was unable to give a commitment to help in any way, or indeed confirm if I would be able to attend. Laura very kindly reserved a place for me with no strings attached and would not listen to my concerns about her doing this. She said you may be well enough and if you are, the place is yours, I would like to do this for you’ And so it was, the place was reserved and even though I did not confirm that it was possible I could attend until a few weeks before the conference, Laura kept her word, and gave reassurance that it would be fine if I had to pull out at the last minute.

The week before the conference was a testing time of mixed emotions; on one hand I was feeling very ill as I had reduced some of the morphine based pain killers, and had suffered a setback pain management wise, but I had to follow through because the level of zomorph that I was on, was above the acceptable level for long term use; and on the other hand I was trying to put in measures to ensure my well-being while travelling to London, and attending the conference. I wonder how many of us turn up to work with young children while not 100% well and without ensuring measures are put in place for our well-being. I also wonder if many of us consider the many ‘what if?’ questions around the impact on the children, if we start to feel worse, or can’t do all the tasks we would normally do, to the best of our ability?

Are we actually safeguarding the children if we work with them, when our own knowledge about ourselves is that we are ‘not right’?

To safeguard myself on my trip, I sent in details about my dietary needs, arranged to travel first class so had more room (luckily managed to get the tickets at a bargain price), arranged for support walking between hotel and conference venue – as well as making sure train station, hotel and conference venue were all very close by. I also made arrangements to meet with friends / colleagues outside of the conference so I was not alone for any extended period of time. My family were supportive, but also worried that I was pushing myself too hard . To be honest I was worried that it would all be too much for me, but I wanted to try, to test the water so to speak if I was ready to pick up the pieces of my early years work.

So on Thursday lunchtime, I was ready with my large solid body suitcase, which has 4 wheels and was chosen so that it could double as a walking aid, alongside the one crutch that I was taking with me. Garry (my husband) came out of work in his lunch break to pick me up and take me to our local train station, to catch the train to Birmingham. We hugged and kissed, and I promised to send a text as I reached each stage of my journey – another part of my plan to ensure my well-being. I’m not sure who was more nervous as we parted – myself or Garry.

I was actually very pleased with myself how I managed the first stage of my journey. I got on and off the train, found the lift and made my way out of Snowshill station, I text Garry, and headed off, on the walk that I have done many times before, between Snowshill and New Street stations. However, although I had expected the walk to be difficult and to take longer than usual, I had totally underestimated both aspects.

I had to stop twice to rest, and arrived at New Street with only a few minutes to get down to the platform. I admit that at this point I felt like crying and going home, but I didn’t, instead I asked the first member of station staff that I saw for help. At first he directed me to the travel assistance desk, but when I explained I did not have time, he personally helped me on to the train, carrying my luggage and contacting train staff to say I was on my way. The train staff checked my booking record and directed the helpful man to the carriage in which my seat was booked, where he put my suitcase in baggage place and my backpack on my seat. He also phoned ahead to Euston to ensure one of his colleagues would be there to help me off the train and out of the station. I wish I had taken his name so that I could send in a compliment, but I didn’t as I was exhausted at this point.

During the journey I reflected on my experience and how in safeguarding terms this related to our work with the children and ensuring the best outcomes for their well-being.

These are my conclusions;

  • If as an adult you over stretch yourself you cannot really look after the children to the best of your ability?
  • Do not assume you can do it all on your own, seek support when needed. I knew about travel assist but I did not pre book it – what I wonder would have happened if I had not come across that man or he had not been so helpful?

Lots to reflect on for me, and hopefully by telling you my story, for you the reader as well. Ok, missing a train is not a life or death situation, but being so exhausted and maybe going into a hypo (I am diabetic) could have had serious impact on my well-being. I can think of many scenarios where not pre booking help or assistance or not seeking support of colleagues could have a negative impact on adults and children.

The rest of my journey to London went smoothly, being in First Class I had ample refreshments served to my table. I could get used to it. However despite there being toilets close by I did not use them because I was not sure me and my crutch would cope with a moving train.

Once at Euston a man was indeed waiting for me, he came on the train and got my suitcase and backpack, he helped me off the train and onto his passenger support truck thing and gave me a ride to the lift that takes you to the First Class lounge – in fact he took me and my bags in the lift and into the lounge, explained to the lady on the desk that I was First Class so that I did not need to find my ticket or sign in. Which was as well because by then I was desperate to use the bathroom facilities (and yes bathroom is the right word as you can shower there if you want to)

More reflections about importance of being able to use the toilets not only in terms of accessibility but also in terms of how frequently you need to ensure you can access them (vital when working with children)

After a rather nice piece of fruit cake and some lemonade – and of course texting Garry that I was safe in London – I headed off to find my hotel. I knew it was very close by but I headed in the wrong direction and came across some steps, however a helpful fellow traveller helped me down the steps, and I soon found the hotel.

I checked in and was very grateful that I was given a ground floor room, and even more grateful when I saw the walk in shower in that room.

I did not do much in the evening, I text a few people, checked arrangements for the next couple of days, took all my tablets and insulin, made a hot water bottle (brought with me as helps with the pain), and completely out of character for me, put the TV on to watch in bed.

I slept on and off, remade the hot water bottle, and made a hot lemon drink as fighting off a cold., slept on and off a bit more until time to get up, shower, breakfast and be in reception ready for when Kim was to arrive to escort me to the venue.

Kim was there on time beaming a warm welcoming smile, we chatted about my health, her settings and of course the conference we were attending on the walk to the venue. It was not far, but took a while due to my very slow pace. I found the changing surfaces under my feet difficult to cope with and was glad I was holding onto Kim’s arm.

The Conference                                                                                                                                     From the minute we entered the conference venue I was made to feel very welcome by everyone, I spoke to people I know well but had not seen in person for a year or more, including Alice Lewis, Wendy Baker, Jane Evans, Tracy Seed, Juliette Davies and others, and of course Laura. I spoke to people that I had communicated with via social media but not in person before. One such person was Joana Smith who like me had been awarded a BEM in the Queen’s 2016 Birthday Honours. I saw many other people that I recognised in the room, but by now I had been guided to my seat and provided with refreshments, which I was grateful for because once again I was shattered.

You could feel the buzz of excitement and anticipation in the room which grew as Laura took to the stage to start the conference.

As I have already mentioned you are able to gain access to all the presentations, video links and further information, and I strongly recommend that you do so, to aid your own CPD. If at all possible I would also recommend that you look at the materials with colleagues in staff teams or networks as there is so much to discuss and reflect on.

I am not going to dwell on the content very much, or even focus on each speaker in turn, but I will bullet point my reflections and ‘wow’ moments.

  • Leroy Logan is an ex Met Police Officer with what I consider to be a very realistic view on modern day policing and the impact on those whose crime is impacted on by the trauma they have experienced. Leroy is not one for making excuses for negative behaviour but he is convinced that people, especially young people are not supported effectively to turn things around and to thus stop the cycle of behaviour they are caught up in. He also believes that social media can cause a lot of young people to be targeted by those who will use peer pressure to get them to break the law, and then end up in prison. I personally think he is right, we need to look more at the root causes and stop the cycle before it starts. Being a young person is hard for many, but some do not have a supportive network , and have experienced early and often on going trauma, making the whole teenage period every more difficult.
  • Mine Conkbayir is someone I have connected with fairly recently on Facebook and I have been impressed with what she has to say. Due to this connection I was familiar with some of the experiences she shared at the conference. However this did not lessen the impact of what she was saying, in fact the emotion invested and displayed by Mine made it very powerful indeed. One of the things Mine said stuck with me (and I tweeted it from the conference room). “The welfare of every child is my business, your business, everyone’s business’. In my opinion we all need to take this message on much more fully because children are still slipping through the net and we are still having Serious Case Review (SCR) far too often, and far too often lack of getting involved, lack of sharing information still continues within all professions and all communities.

As an aside to this, after the conference Laura asked me if she should change the name of her safeguarding facebook group and the title of her safeguarding conferences. She later posted her suggestion, my suggestion and a suggestion from Rachel who is one of the facebook groups admins (and an expert on safeguarding issues / training) in her facebook group for members to vote on.

My suggestion was ‘Safeguarding and protecting every child, everywhere’ I felt the words early years should be dropped because people were lulled into thinking their only responsibility was with early years children, when in fact every child no matter what their age should be our concern and our responsibility. I also wanted the word ‘everywhere’ included because there is still a lack of understanding that we must make every child our concern, no matter where we come into contact with a child – it is not just the children who attend our settings and who we are paid to look after. However, it is not my place to say what Laura should do regarding the name of her group and the conferences, but it was a honour to have been asked to make a suggestion.

Dr. Stuart Shanker.   I have followed the work of Dr. Shanker for a few years now having come to know his work through my involvement with Save Childhood Movement, so I was familiar with his work on self regulation. I found myself nodding in agreement to the answers he was giving to the questions put to him in the recorded question and answer session. One thing I thought was worth tweeting and mentioning here was his phrase’ How can we know this, and not do anything about it?’ In my opinion this applies to so many things to do with children and young people, we do have a lot of knowledge and experiences and yet we are still not getting people with the power to change things, to listen. We know it will cost a lot of money to implement all the changes needed, but in the long run it will save huge amounts of money year on year. Some things are not expensive they are free / low cost – such as outside play And in any case what gives governments the right to decide that projects x, y and z are more important than the well- being of children and young people?

Hibo Wardere was someone new to me, I had not heard about her work or heard her speak before. Hibo talked about FGM –something she had experienced as a six year old. She told her story with honesty and a passion to change things. I was so wrapped up in what she was saying that I forgot to tweet about the first part of her presentation, I even forgot to make notes. FGM is not something I tend to talk about, but I should, we all should. One thing that really struck home with me was that those carrying out FGM or supporting those that do, all believe that they are doing so in the best interests of the children (the victims are usually young girls, rather than older girls ), as they believe the girls will have a better future. In fact they don’t even think there is any child abuse in Somalia (where Hibo was born), so there is a huge amount of work to be done. Hibo spoke about her campaigning work in this country and oversea, she is without a doubt a very strong lady and inspirational.

Tracy Seed provided an ‘extra’ that was not on the agenda. Some music was played and the delegates were encourage to move around the room – I could not take a full part (my risk assessment said I would be a risk to myself and to others) but I did stand and sort of swayed in time to the music, and at different times, different delegates stood and swayed with me, so I did feel included –another thing early years are good at.

Jane Evans I have heard Jane speak a number of times, including at last years conference, and I love her work. However it was not her presentation that had me tweeting from the conference, it was the stir that had been caused on The Vine show when Jane had popped out of the conference to do an interview about touching children through tickling them. Jane had been accused as a spoil sport, as someone wanting to stop innocent fun. I can assure readers this is not the case at all, Jane fully understands the importance of sharing fun moments between adults and children. However she also understands that for some children tickling is not a good idea and that permission should always be sought before this type of physical contact –the same as a child should never be made to hug or kiss anyone. In my opinion it is all about safeguarding, children must understand it is their body and no one has the right to touch it without the child’s permission. Even with my grandchildren I always ask if they would like to give or receive a hug – or be tickled.

I know I have not told you about Jane’s presentation, but hopefully you will be able to access the recording made at the conference

Panel Members – Ann Marie Christian, Jemma Mortlock, Sarah Goff These 3 ladies all spoke about themselves and their work, but by this stage I was beginning to falter and I did not make notes. Now that I have come to write this blog my memory has let me down. Sorry Ann Marie, Jemma and Sarah this is not a reflection on you or your stories, it is a reflection on me and how ill I have been / still am. I knew it was a big ask of myself to attend the conference, but to be honest I managed better than I thought I would. I will listen to the recordings and I am sure my readers will too.

Of course there were other highlights to the conference, namely the networking, the comfort breaks and lunch – all were excellent, though there was a hiccup with my lunch! Juliette had done as she had promised and had ordered me a plain ham salad with no dressing, and a plain fruit salad. However, the venue had not communicated with staff and so despite me asking 3 different members of staff no one knew anything about the ‘special’ lunch order. It took Laura to speak to someone, who spoke to someone else who finally after consulting her phone and emails from Juliette, said ‘oh yes, we did have a special order’ disappeared and a couple of minutes came back with my lunch which had clearly been prepared but left in the kitchen. Lessons for all of us about the importance of communication and ensuring everyone that needs the information is aware who the person with these requirements is – and even more so when involves a child or young person. For me, it all come back to safeguarding – safeguarding well-being, and needing to be more proactive to ensure needs are met – in this case all the preparation and information sharing had happened but it nearly did not fall into place because of one small, vital bit of information that was not shared, as in who it was who had the requirement.

Throughout the conference colleagues were supportive of me, ensuring doors were held open, obstacles were removed, drinks served and so on. It reaffirmed by belief that early years people are in general very empathic and helpful.

The conference came to an end, farewells were said as delegates left. I hung around whiles others helped pack up. Then all of those who had made presentations / helped in anyway were invited to join Laura for drinks. My small part had been to be a table leader. Wendy Baker very kindly helped to make the short walk to the bar. The bar was crowded and I found it difficult to join in the conversation (made more difficult as Laura’s group were seat at a high table and I was provided with a low chair as I could not get up on the stools). I stayed for a short while until snacks arrived, mainly because I was tired but also because I was meeting with Sally and Mick to go out for a light dinner. Kim saw me back to hotel and we parted with hugs, it had certainly been a fantastic day for me, made possible by Laura, Kim and all colleagues who had supported me.

Mick and Sally have been friends of mine for many years now, and Sally (who is an ex nurse) keeps a close eye on my well-being whenever I am in London or we are at the same event. They travelled into London, to spend time with me, have something to eat and check I was ok. We chatted easily over pizza (which I did not eat much of due to the gluten in it) and then they walked me back to my hotel. I took all my meds and retired to bed tired but happy that I had made the effort to go to London and attend the conference.

As usual I did not sleep well but had lots to reflect on, including the key points for me from the conference. For me all the presentations seemed to boil down to the need to ensure our own well-being as adults so that we can in turn ensure the well–being of the children and young people.

In the morning before heading home I had arranged to meet some early years people that I had never met before. Joining me for breakfast in the hotel , was Rob, we chatted about Rob’s role in early years and his views on early years for about an hour and could have easily chatted for much longer. Rob helped me with my baggage and walked me from my hotel to a café where I was to meet Sid and his partner J. Sid was waiting for us, he greeted us, and after I had thanked Rob and hugged him, Rob went on his way.

Sid took me through the café to where J was waiting. Sid works in early years but J is involved in the music industry. We chatted easily about our lives and experiences and like with Rob, I could have chatted for much longer. However, I had a train to catch and to do that I had to make my way to the Travel Assist desk, as I had pre booked support for the journey home. With the help of Sid and J, who carried my bags and gave me an arm to hold, I made in the nick of time. I was taken by the truck, and helped to get myself and my baggage onto the train.

Between London and Birmingham, the train was delayed and we arrived at New Street around 20 mins late. I was worried that support would not be available, but I did not need to worry, I was helped off the train and although there was not a truck, my bags were carried and I was helped all the way to the Metro stop. The metro took me part way, and did save two of the steepest parts of my journey, however there was still a fair distance for me to walk and by the time I reached Snowshill, I was once again exhausted and felt like crying. I was so tired, I failed to get my suitcase through the ticket barrier and had to be freed from the barriers grip. This had a blessing though as I was able to explain my situation and my delay to the man who rescued me from the ticket barrier. He sent me to platform one to wait , but no waiting was required as the man was there waiting for me. I was helped onto the train, and when I arrived in Kidderminster there was another man there to help me, and shortly after getting off the train Garry arrived to drive me home.

This trip to London for the second national early years safeguarding and protecting every child has highlighted several issues to me.

  • Travelling to London, is a bit too much for me at the moment, I need to recover a bit more before venturing on such a trip in the future.
  • I am still part of the early years community despite being ill for so long
  • My gut feelings are still in line with the leading thinkers.
  • I have a future connected to early years – it is just a case of working out my direction of travel

But more than that to protect every child – everywhere, we need to start with the adults and ensure their well-being and to safeguard them in every sense of the word.

Far too often I have seen parents,, foster carers, social workers, teachers, health professional and childcare practitioners taking on too much, having very little choice but to carry on because they care about the children. Their stress levels are huge and some are already at breaking point.

  • As Mine said, and I truly believe ‘The welfare of every child is my business, your business, everyone’s business’
  • As Stuart said “ How can we know this and do nothing about it?

Far too often I have seen parents,, foster carers, social workers, teachers, health professional and childcare practitioners taking on too much, having very little choice but to carry on because they care about the children. Their stress levels are huge and some are already at breaking point.

I have also seen professional who have not dealt with their own trauma, who still have ongoing traumatic experiences, struggling to hold everything together for the sake of the children, but sadly being unable to overcome these barriers.

It is not right to expect so much for so little, from so many. If we are to safeguard every child, we need to safeguard the adults first

Posted November 14, 2017 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues