Author Archive

Reminder of new blog   Leave a comment

I am now publishing things on my new blog ‘What do you think Penny’, so please take a look and maybe follow it so you don’t miss my new blogs.


This site ‘Pennysplacechildminding’ will be closing soon when my annual fees become due.


I hope you will continue to enjoy my blogs

First blog on new site   Leave a comment

As promised in my last blog here, I have now published my first blog on my new site.

I will be the first to admit that my new site has a lot of tech issues and is not as it should be. In due course I will overcome these issues – but not at the moment because one thing I have learnt over the last 2 years of my illness is I just can not do what I want to do – when I want to.


The first blog on the new site is in fact a campaigning one looking at why it is not a good idea to do Too Much, Too Soon’ through my reflections from watching a junior rugby match.

I hope you like it


Posted January 18, 2019 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Changes ahead to this blog   9 comments

As many readers will know I have been very unwell for almost 2 years, one aspect of my life that this has impacted on is this blog site. I have just not been able to blog as I used to, I still have ideas and even start many blogs, but don’t publish them. I have lots of unfinished ‘business’ such as the follow up blogs to my event in May 2018, and I am slowly coming to realise that I may never resume my previous level of blogging, and may never finish unfinished blogs or ‘business’.

This saddens me because I still think the same, I still get very cross at the lack of listening by Government ministers, about the impact of flawed policies on our youngest children, I still want to stand on my soapbox and shout loudly or at least write a blog. Travelling to attend events is very challenging and I really can’t attend many things these days – which means I have less things to blog about. I am of course no longer a childminder and after getting on for 2 years of retirement from childminding, I am no longer as up to date as I used to be, so again less to write about.

My health issues are complex and even doctors do not fully understand and do not have any answers, but it appears at the moment that my main issue is that I react negatively to most medications which is a bit of an issue when you are diabetic and need certain medications to control it and to be well.  Being on medications makes my body shut down, I lose physical ability and mental ability ( and as a knock on emotional wellbeing); everything takes 10 times longer and most things exhaust me so I have to constantly take a break to rest.

Then this week I had an email which is sort of the nail in the coffin for this blog, as I have been informed of changes to how things are charged for which will lead to cost of running this blog becoming too much for my personal finances. I have always paid out for this blog out of my own pocket and have refused to accept any payment, or adverts to help cover the costs. Things which I have reviewed and blogged about have been donated to others so that I have not personally benefitted. Yes, sometimes I have been given a free or subsidised place at a conference but this has never been on condition that I write a blog, that has been my decision. My personal ethos of not benefitting from my blogging (which is part of my volunteering) is very important to me. I know some don’t understand this, and at times I think I have made an error of judgement because there seems to be a reluctance to be involved with or to accept the help of a volunteer. Certainly since I blogged about offering to speak at events for free or just to cover costs, or to support charitable organisations hardly any one has asked me to do so.

As an aside, I naively thought when I had the honour of receiving a British Empire Medal in 2016, that people would ask be to speak at events about my volunteering, or that I would be invited to open local events or judge local competitions for children, but none of that has happened.

Maybe people would have engaged with me more if I had said I charge for such things? I will never know.

As usual I have side tracked – so back to the point of this short blog. I can no longer afford to run this blog, and even if I could I think I would struggle to do it justice, and so when my annual bill for this blog arrives in 2019, I will sadly be closing it down. An end to an era and the final stage of closing down Penny’s Place Childminding.  It will be hard for me, but time marches on and waits for no one, certainly it is not waiting for me to get better, and to coin a phrase I think my time has ‘been and gone’.


There is a slight glimmer for those who may miss my blogs and my opinions – I have set up a new free to run  blog called ‘What do you think Penny?’ and so should I be able to in the future, I will blog about things that I have an opinion on – but not necessarily just about early years stuff.

I will post one last blog on this site just before I close in down, with my thanks to my readers and a reminder of the new blog.

I have not published anything on the new blog yet, but when I do, I will let you know via social media.


Posted December 19, 2018 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

3rd National Early Years Safeguarding Conference   Leave a comment

3rd National Early Years Safeguarding Conference   –  3rd November 2018

 Pre Amble                                                                                                                                            

I have been lucky to have been supported in various ways to attend all three National Early Years Safeguarding Conferences, and from the show of hands at this year’s conference, I am one of a few who have attended all of them, although many had attended 2 out of 3. I was a speaker at the first conference, and supported to attend both the second and the third by Laura Henry for which I am very grateful because my current situation as a disabled non-working person means I would not otherwise be able to attend. I know Laura considers that I support her in other ways, and that support should be a two way process, and I agree. However at the moment I think Laura supports me a lot more than I support her – but I hope that in the future the balance will tip the other way.

Laura is one of those amazing people, who despite her worldwide reputation in the Early Years field, keeps her feet securely on the ground, remembering not only her friends and colleagues, but her personal ethos, values and practices. These days conferences are very expensive to put on and time consuming, and I know (because Laura has publically said so) she does not make any money from these conferences but still thinks it is worthwhile (and the right thing to do) to put them on, and will be putting on the 4th one in 2019.

All of the conferences have in fact been a reflection of Laura’s ethos – the importance of bringing people together to network and share information; to widen participation by offering Saturday conferences, providing discounts so those with limited budgets (or large teams) can attend; widening the safeguarding debate by including diverse speakers and subjects outside the 4 main areas of safeguarding. And all designed to support personal and professional reflection.

This blog is slightly different from my usual blogs; as my journey details, my conversations with people, and what I did are just included as part of my personal and professional reflections about the day.

This blog is my personal recall and my personal reflections, others who attended the conference will have a different recall and different reflections.


This did not go to plan, despite prearranging Travel Assist. I think when arranging travel for disabled people (adults or children), the safeguarding aspect needs to be considered, because when things do not go to plan, the disabled person is very vulnerable and at risk of harm in a number of ways. At the very least the stress caused and impact on emotional wellbeing should not be under estimated, but physical wellbeing is at risk if they cannot get on or off transport (and then try to do it themselves; or seek support from fellow passengers who may be willing to assist but who have had no training in such things). Finally lack of assistance can lead to neglect if the persons toileting needs, medication needs, or diet needs are not met – which can be the case if stranded on trains, or platforms, or miss connections to where going and timelines go astray.

So as Early Years Practitioners (and in our general support for others) we really need to think things through and have back up plans, and back up plans for the back up plans!

In my case, I did the planning, and so can only hold myself responsible, although West Midlands trains have received a complaint for failing to provide the agreed Travel Assist on the part of my journey that used their trains.

The last part of my journey went to plan, my colleague Sally met me at Euston and walked me to the venue; another colleague Sue, took me back to Euston at the end of the conference. These seemingly small details in my planning are actually very important when travelling alone, and although Early Years children are unlikely to travel alone, parents may need support at stations or even just reassurance that someone will be there for a handover chat. Older children / young people may want to travel alone and their independence must be supported, but sensible safeguards must also be put in place – such as meeting at / taking to stations and ‘handing over’ to Travel assist staff, or colleagues who will assist with next part of the day.

NB I have only discussed disability in relation to my own needs, and this particular journey, but I am very aware others have differing needs for journeys and other occasions, and these must also be considered so the person is safeguarded in every aspect.


The Conference                                                                                                                                   

On arrival, I was pleased another aspect of preplanning had worked. My colleague Brita had brought refreshments to the table for Sally and myself because it was very close to conference starting time, and after a long journey refreshments are often vital.

Various people in the room came up to say ‘hello’, to ask how I was, and to ask if they could help. This not only made me feel valued, it also reflected the fact that people recognised getting my rollator around the room would be difficult, so best they came to speak to me; but also that they realised they should ask if I needed help – not assume I did, or that they knew what was best for me. Back in the 1990’s I did some excellent equality training, which highlighted the difficulties of people treating disabled people as ‘non people’ – that is they assumed the disabled person cannot look after themselves, cannot make decisions or even know what they want to do. I find it shocking that over 20 years later some people still make these assumptions, and although mean well, take over and treat disabled people with disrespect. Linking this to safeguarding, this can lead to abuse (of all types) as people can assume that ‘over help’ is good and not look deeper at potential safeguarding aspect, if a disabled (or indeed any child or young person) does not have a voice.

If I feel this as an adult – imagine how disabled children may feel. Yes offer help, but don’t assume help is needed or wanted – and don’t just ‘take over’ no matter how good your intentions.

Laura opened the conference and told a few reflective stories – I think it is important that we all share these stories, so we can all learn from them – and in my opinion, due in part to Laura setting the scene with her reflective story, throughout the day, other stories were shared, within the boundaries of confidentiality.

Christina Gabbitas – Share some Secrets – The Voice of the Child                                  

The first speaker was Christina Gabbitas – someone I had not heard speak before. Christina spoke about her book ‘Share some Secrets’ which aims to support children to have a voice and to speak up about things bothering them, especially things that adults have told them are ‘secrets’ and that they will get in trouble / bad things will happen if they tell anyone.

We were showed an animation of the story, and I could see how useful this would be in supporting children. It was good to hear about the national organisations supporting the project.

However, I would have like a little bit less about the process of getting the book recognised and used, and a bit more about how it was being used and the positive impact it has already had on children.

Nevertheless a good resource and I saw that lots of delegates were buying copies to take back to their settings.

My reflection was, as I no longer work directly with children (other than my grandchildren) rather than buying the book, it would be more beneficial to others, if  I shared the link to the animation – which I have done, by social media and email.

Inspector Jack Rowlands – My work and Metropolitan Police Key Areas              

Inspector Rowlands is one of those people I instantly felt connected to – he spoke my language. He was honest, he was realistic about the challenges – and he had suggestions for solutions. Working in the Met in London, Jack see’s first-hand the continuing cycle of crime, brought about by drugs, drink and poverty. He spoke about young (men mainly) involved in crime but doing so to support their families, particularly their younger siblings. Jack said that he is now seeing some of those younger siblings and even the children of those he arrested 15 years ago now entering a life of crime.

Jack is keen to support these young people into education and employment, so that crime is not the only option. However Jack knows this will take many years if not generations to bring about, and a commitment from many organisations to work in partnership to support these young people and families. He spearheads an organisation called Divert.

One of my personal reflections, is, ‘Here is another professional in a completely different field to myself who has suggestions around the changes needed, and projects he is personally involved with to try and make a difference BUT like me, is banging his head against a wall, where people don’t listen or just pay lip service’. I am left wondering, how can we all effectively come together? How can we join the dots in the different services? How can we share resources and information effectively? And not just Jack and myself but all the other individuals and organisations who are trying to overcome the barriers.

Another personal reflection is – In working in partnership, we need to give everyone an equal role – no, ‘them and us’, no, ‘I am better than you because of my title’. When inviting people to meetings consider who is not there, as age, gender, role, and anything else that might be a barrier to working in partnership needs to be overcome. As a childminder, as a foster carer and as a grandparent, I have often been frustrated at my lack of involvement, and dismayed at decisions made due to decision makers not having the information I hold.

My takeaway from Jack’s presentation is – We can do better, we must do better.

Morning break                                                                                                                            

During the morning break, I was able to speak to colleagues and catch up a little. I also spoke to Jo Fitzgerald about her books and to obtain a signed copy of her book. Thank you Jo, as I now have signed copies of ‘Cold Toes at Christmas’ and ‘How to keep safe’.

I noticed that Inspector Jack Rowlands had a queue of people waiting to speak to him, a sign that he meant what he said about connecting and sharing.

Keynote by Alfie Kohn – ‘Unconditional Parenting’                                                              

As trialled successfully by Laura at the second conference, this was a recorded keynote with Alfie answering set questions. There was silence while we watched the film, and lots of note taking by many. Alfie was talking complete sense as far as I was concerned and my reflection was that this was confirmation that my childminding practice had been on the whole on the lines of what Alfie was saying – but it had not always been so, as like many I developed my understanding over a period of time, and as a result reflected and changed some of my practice. I hasten to add not the ‘big things’ around listening to the child, believing and trusting the child, and unconditional love, but some of the smaller things like less adult direction, not using reward stickers and so on. I think we are all on a journey of discovery and all should be continually reflecting and making changes as our knowledge deepens. We should not feel bad about the past because each and every one of us will have done our best at the time with the knowledge we had at that time. When I think back to my early carer and indeed my early days of parenting, I more or less went on ‘gut feeling’, as there was no internet, not much available research in an everyday readable format, or many accessible training or qualification courses.

Alfie said a few things which stuck in my mind (I was not taking notes), so my understanding, rather than Alfie’s actual words.

Short term it is easier to control children through empty praise, rewards and punishments, but this does not support children to understand why it is in their own interest to do certain things, or to question things. Controlling children is not the answer

 Carrots and sticks not only don’t work – they are an easy option

Talk less, ask more

Rewards and punishments makes children think what is in this for me – and may choose punishment as a negative, easier to get reward

The problem is not the children, it is the environment they are placed in

 Round Table Discussions                                                                                                          

Laura asked us all to discuss on our tables the impact of Alfie’s Keynote on ourselves.

I was the ‘Table Lead’ and so had the role of taking notes and feeding back the tables thoughts to the room. Two people on my table had strong views and a lot to say – nothing wrong in that, but I did have to speak up to ensure everyone on my table had opportunity to speak – although we actually ran out of time before everyone had spoken. I was pleased when at the end of the day, one of those with strong views took the time to thank me for the professional way I had tried to ensure everyone could express their opinion.

The overwhelming thought was ‘Wish I had known all this years ago’, this is not to say that those on the table had no knowledge about the things Alfie discussed because they did but they were all at different stages on their personal journeys. In my opinion that is why it is important to attend national conferences were your personal thoughts are challenged and extended, and so after the conference reflection can take place.

One setting represented at our table spoke about how in September they had completely changed the focus in their setting from Adult led to Child led. They were honest and said at first it was not easy but now after only half a term the children are self-motivated and far more engaged than they were before. One of the key changes was making resources accessible to the children all the time. Childminders on the table spoke about how they had always been mainly child led, and said allowing time and listening to the children was key.


By lunch time I was tiring from my early start and long journey, my painkillers were less effective, and my ability to focus was reducing. However, I enjoyed a nice lunch that met my dietary needs, had a bit of a move about, and spoke to several colleagues, some of whom I had not seen for several months, and some who I knew from social media but was meeting for the first time.

Panel Session                                                                                                                                  

Laura had invited 3 people to sit on the panel, to give short presentations and answer questions from the room.

The people on the panel were

Andrew Ellery who spoke about ‘The Role of Social Workers in Early Years’

Joss Cambridge- Simmons who spoke about ‘My experience as a child and domestic violence’

Dr. Eunice Lumsden who spoke about ‘CPD for staff regarding safeguarding and child protection’.

As you can see 3 totally different but connected subjects.

Some Personal Reflection before continuing with conference feedback                         

I have to admit that I was not really ‘on the ball’ during this session, and if I had been at home, I would have had an afternoon nap! This is not a reflection on the speakers, more of a reflection on my current health. It can be hard for others to understand the impact of long term health issues, and long term pain – but the impact is huge and although ‘mind over matter’ does help, as does keeping busy, actually there is only so much you can do to overcome the difficulties you face day in and day out.

I know from situations faced by family, friends, and colleagues the same can be said for any long term difficulty you face from poverty to domestic violence; from abuse to mental health difficulties and everything else in between. Anything that is long term takes a toll on your well-being and at times you cannot cope as well as you can at other times – no matter how hard you try, no matter how much you want to do something. That applies to walking away from situations, asking for help, making plans, attending school or work and staying on task – and although not the same at all – attending and staying awake at conferences.

It is true that our personal experiences can help us have empathy with those in totally different but equally traumatic circumstances. I think we all need to try and put ourselves in other people’s shoes, to try to understand just how hard it is, that they are not weak or useless, they are actually doing their best. If we all then listen, all support in whatever way we can (knowing we do not have a magic wand) we can make a difference, we can start to turn things round and start the process of stopping the cycle of damage. As someone who has had over 16 years of medical people not believing me because what I was telling them was not the norm, not what was expected, I can tell you how much difference it makes when someone listens, someone understands and believes you, and says ‘I can’t make any promises but I am here for you. I will do my best to help’

Back to the Conference Feedback                                                                                       

Andrew spoke about the often difficult role of social workers, and the boundaries around what they can and can’t do, due to rules and regulations, time restraints and budget cuts. (There was more but as already stated I was not taking it all in)

Joss told an amazing personal story about how he had used his life experiences positively and also taken up unexpected opportunities that had led to him becoming a Manny (a male Nanny). Joss displayed a wide range of emotions during his talk, and I was personally quite emotional just listening to his story. He is simply inspirational. And an excellent male role model within Early Years – we need more like him.

Eunice spoke about the importance of ongoing staff CPD and qualifications, and the impact on safeguarding and child protection. However, the thing that struck home with me was about personal baggage. We all have personal baggage but it is how we deal with it that is important, because if we carry it around with us, it impacts on our work with the children, and on our colleagues and therefore the setting as a whole.

Eunice made the point that your baggage should be contained within a virtual suitcase and you should be able to shut it without things sticking out, and to be able to leave it in a safe place while you are working or studying and same applies to work baggage as should not be taken home). If you can’t shut your suitcase or can’t leave it in a safe place, then you need to take a break from things, to go on holiday if you can, to deal with the overflowing suitcase, so that on your return, you can shut it and leave it in a safe place. If that does not happen – really you need to find other employment.

Strong words but on reflection so very true. I realised that I actually have a lot of baggage that I need to find ways to deal with. A flawed Ofsted inspection – now 4 years since it happened; my inability to safeguard foster children 2 years ago from a flawed system, that did not give myself or the children a voice; my ill health just when all my years of work were about to come together and lead to a new career – oh yes a lot of baggage and that is without family ‘stuff’ that will not be mentioned here, but still has an impact.

Just imagine if everyone working in a setting or a professional specialist team has as much baggage as I do (and I am sure many do – different baggage but still baggage) and are unable to leave it in a safe place? I like to think that I do leave my baggage behind most of the time, but sometimes, subject matters within my campaigning or voluntary work are a bit too close to my heart, and it is hard to stay objective.

NB Since the conference I have reflected a lot about my baggage, and realised in each situation there was nothing I could have done differently, and nothing I could have done since  each situation, over and above what I have already done in raising awareness of the flawed systems. Therefore, as I was not, (and are still not responsible ) for flawed systems and individual / organisational actions the baggage is not mine and can be not only put down but securely stored. Yes, I still wish these things had not happened, yes I wish systems were not flawed but hanging onto that baggage serves no purpose at all.

In the future I will be using the suitcase scenario, described so well by Eunice, to help others (especially children and those who work with children) to deal with their baggage

Round table discussions                                                                                                              

After the panel session we had another round table discussion, with some set questions. My table thought the baggage issue was the one thing they would ‘takeaway’ and do something about it. One manager said that on the following Monday she would be talking to her staff about this issue, and may even have a place (maybe a basket) by the door to the setting where staff could visualise leaving their baggage.

Dr. Prospera Tedam – Identifying children at risk of witchcraft labelling in schools: Research and Practice                                                                                                                      

All I can say is I have led a very sheltered life! Yes, I knew a little bit about witchcraft. Yes, I knew there were elements of witchcraft in the Victoria Climbie case, but actually I had not taken on board the full impact of witchcraft in Victoria’s case or in several other cases in England. I was shocked at what was (and is) going on in the country I live in – and not just in the big cities.

During the round table discussions after Prospera’s presentation, we discussed other practices that we had heard of such as ‘cupping’ or ‘breast ironing, and the things we needed to be aware of so we could spot the signs, and then do something to safeguard the children.

Priscilla Joseph – Poet                                                                                                                       

To conclude the conference Laura had asked Priscilla to read two of her very powerful poems, which following the lines of the whole conference were a personal reflection.

End Conference  Personal Notes                                                                                             

There were refreshments available for those who could stay a little longer, a last opportunity to network and buy books. I purchased Eunice Lumsden’s book ‘Child Protection in the Early Years. A Practical Guide’. I have yet to read it, but when I do, I will write a blog about it.

I asked Eunice to sign my book, which she did with the following inscription ‘We are all part of jigsaw’, which I think sums up the conference, all the speakers, all the delegates, Laura and her admin team Juliette and Kinga, – and indeed safeguarding as a whole.

In my opinion safeguarding in the widest sense of the word is about anything and everything to do with the child – and anyone who has any connection, no matter how small with a child. We are indeed all part of the jigsaw


 If you are interested in attending the  4th National Early Years Safeguarding Conference on 2nd November 2019, you can find out more or reserve your place by emailing



Posted November 16, 2018 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Celia Smith’s Personal Story and memories as part of Networking, Sharing and Making Connections – 2   1 comment

Pre Amble

As promised in the initial feedback from Networking, Sharing, Making Connections – 2, this is the first of several blogs that will record the stories and memories of those who spoke at the event and those who took the time to meet with me prior to the event , or to send information via email.

Celia was one of the people who went to considerable trouble to communicate with me, so her story could be included. Celia was unable to attend as despite still be very active, travelling to Birmingham and attending was a bit too much to undertake.

So I have never met Celia, I wish I had because she is a hero of mine, having been one of the people who set up the National Childminding Association (NCMA). Celia has a remarkable memory, as you will see in her recall of those now distance days. As a registered childminder from 1984 – 2004 and then again from 2010 – 2016, I have a lot to be grateful to Celia and her colleagues because NCMA was my choice of professional organisation and I valued having support and ‘tools of my trade’ such as insurance, accounting system, a member magazine and more.

Further to that NCMA provided me with opportunities to volunteer at a local level, including being a co founder of a local support group in my first registration, and then another during my second registration. This led to opportunities to undertake tutor training, to become an assessor and to use these skills directly for NCMA but also within a local college , and as an independent trainer. These skills and experiences gained through my involvement with NCMA (and my involvement with Pre School Playgroups Association – as in those days I was involved with both – and in fact I am still involved with the renamed current organisations of PACEY and Pre-School Learning Alliance)  also led to my employment with my Local Authority (and indeed with NCMA) as a Network Coordinator.

Without my volunteering and involvement I would not be who I am – and I would not have been honoured with a British Empire Medal because it was PACEY (formally NCMA) who put my name forward for consideration.

Celia would not have known the impact she and her fellow members who founded NCMA would have had on people like me in the future, but I for one am very grateful that Celia and colleagues took the time and effort to form NCMA.

And I am sure many other childminders past and present, will be as grateful as I am that Celia was a Founder member and indeed was NCMA’s first General Secretary in those early pioneering days.



Celia Smith recalls her  memories of NCMA’s early days

The year 1977 was a busy and exciting one for the fledgling NCMA – and for me too!

In January the BBC produced a series of 19 short TV programmes for childminders – ‘Other People’s Children’. These acted as a real catalyst for bringing childminders together into ‘viewing groups’. It was a short step from there to wanting to link with childminders further afield.

Then, in March, Denise Hevey – a parent of a minded child – wrote to The Guardian, to invite contact from childminders, parents and childminding advisers to pursue the idea of trying to set up a national body to work towards improving the status and public image of childminding. Nine people responded, and we made a bold start one Saturday in April in Denise’s house in Southampton, forming what we called the ‘Holding Committee’.

In May, at the invitation of the ‘Other People’s Children’ team (including Sue Owen), Marion McNutt (a childminder from Wandsworth) and I (then working as a childminding adviser in Wandsworth) appeared on the final programme of the TV series and put across the idea of a national childminding association. There was a great response to this, so the ‘Holding Committee’ of nine felt confident in going ahead.

Then, what excitement when in July the Equal Opportunities Commission gave us a grant of £2,000 to cover essential costs – it seemed a fortune! The DHSS then weighed in with a grant of £750 to help with the costs of an inaugural meeting. A huge planning committee of about 35 keen people (mostly childminders) met several times to plan this important meeting. The big day was Saturday 12 December, and some 300 people travelled to Birmingham Town Hall from all over Britain to hear some big-name speakers, and to form a committee and adopt a draft constitution. One memory I have of this meeting is when a childminder raised a point of order, and asked that as this was to be an organisation for childminders, would all non-childminders present please be seated in the gallery. This request was immediately complied with. NCMA was definitely on its way! One of my clearest memories of that day is feeling completely exhausted after it was all over, and not being able to find a pub open in the center of Birmingham!

The months after that are rather a misty haze. I had recently left my job in Wandsworth and agreed to do what I could in the way of administration to help keep the fledgling organization afloat. Well, of course the speed at which the association grew was unbelievable, and the list of tasks grew longer and longer. A newsletter was seen as a priority and funding from the Bernard van Leer Foundation was secured. Denise Hevey produced the first few issues of the newsletter, ‘WHO MINDS?’. One issue was put together from her hospital bed if memory serves me right. NCMA soon became a ‘family affair’ and my husband Keith designed the first logo, which was in use for many years. And I have memories of Patsy Hutchinson doing the ‘pasting up’ of a later issue on my dining room table!

Soon it became essential to set up a proper office, and I was asked to find one. Number 13, London Road, Bromley became the Association’s first home, where absolutely everything happened in one large, rather dilapidated room. We moved no less than five times in Bromley during the next ten years. There was never enough money to do all the things we wanted to do, never enough people to do it, never enough space, we were running to catch up all the time. To start with I was ‘Jill of All Trades’ (official job title Co-ordinator) and life became more and more hectic as things developed. Eventually we had enough funds to employ a few more staff, including Jane who shared the job with me, Eddie, our Finance Officer, and Elaine, my very efficient PA. Irene and Veronica were wonderfully hard working, willing to turn their hands to anything. Both went on to be long serving members of staff. We took on a 17-year old, Sarah, with funding from one of the government subsidised schemes, and she too became very competent, eventually returning to NCMA as head of Human Resources. Sheila was a great support to us all, and was responsible for finding our ‘big’ office in Bromley, in a disused Primary School. We were a wonderful happy family in those far off days.

During the early 1980s I read a book by an American educationalist, Jerome Bruner, entitled ‘Under Five in Britain’. One section of the book was concerned with the isolation of childminders, and promoted the setting up of ‘networks’ across the country to allow childminders to support each other, and to develop training activities. These ideas seemed to be exactly in line with NCMA’s aims and so I wrote them up into a proposal with a view to obtaining funding at some point in the future. Then, NCMA had some luck: the government announced the Under Fives Initiative, offering money for new projects which would improve the quantity and quality of child care. So, I blew the dust of my proposal, refined it with the help of the National Executive Committee, and sent it off to the DHSS. They liked it, and decided to fund three schemes, and so came about the three support schemes for childminders in Stafford, Trafford and Southwark – a pattern for the future.

And then a big job fell to me – I had to choose and arrange for the organisation’s first computer system. I was quite ignorant of computers in those days, let alone having much of an idea about what they could do. So the first thing was to talk to everyone and try to come to some agreement about what we would like such a system to do. Membership records was an obvious candidate, and accounts. Could they be linked? What else? What would it cost? How would we be trained? After consultation we then looked for possible systems and people who could advise us, and ended up with quite a limited system – not too well coordinated I seem to remember. And of course, having made our decision, and plumped for a particular system, we were immediately thinking of other things we should have included, but couldn’t just be added on.

Of course the childminders involved in those early days were just amazing. They were willing to travel the country to attend committee meetings, usually in London on Saturdays. We had to find cheap, or preferably free, accommodation, and a packed agenda allowed for just a quick sandwich break at lunchtime. I do recall the first Chair, Ann Goddard, going the ‘extra mile’ as they say. She suffered from back trouble, but travelled up from Somerset just the same, and was sometimes to be seen chairing the meeting lying flat on her back on a table, as this was the only way in which to get comfortable. What a star!

The wonderful Dorothy Day was our first President, and she was so important to me. Very supportive, and always willing to talk through any difficulties I was having. And she had the most terrific sense of humour. Next came Willem van der Eyken, well known in the under-fives field for his research and publications. He too was most supportive to the organisation, and to me, and in fact gave me my next job when I decided to move on from NCMA in 1987.

I must mention IFDCO – the International Family Day Care Organisation. My memories of going to IFDCO conferences in Holland, Uppsala, Sydney and San Francisco are such happy ones. We had so much fun, and so enjoyed learning how things worked in other countries. And I made wonderful friends, such as Malene Karlsson and many others. Not long after I left NCMA I was asked by the DHSS to visit some Resource & Referral Centres in the USA, and I was actually in San Francisco on the occasion of the big 1987 earthquake. Exciting times.

NCMA was an undoubted massive success – by 1987 there were 23,000 members, numerous publications, training materials produced in co-operation with the Open University, subcommittees working on various aspects of childminding, research reports coming out and, perhaps most important of all, childminding was getting the recognition it deserved and a much improved public image.

But my chief memory of those early days in NCMA is the tremendous enthusiasm, dedication and hard work of a very large number of people – mainly childminders. It is to those early pioneers like Ann Goddard and Toni Rawson, that the present hugely successful NCMA (now PACEY) owes a great debt of thanks.

Celia Smith

March 2018


















Posted October 14, 2018 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Feedback on Networking, Sharing, Making Connections – 2   Leave a comment

Pre Amble

First an apology at the delay in providing this feedback, as this event took place on 12th May 2018. Those who attended will know that due to my health, I struggled on the day, and in fact forgot to do things like show the lunchtime presentation that I had spent hours preparing! This was a shame as it contained lots of comments from people I had spoken to about their involvement, but who could not attend on the day – including Celia Smith one of the Founder Members of NCMA.

Most however, did not witness the state I was in at the end of event – only my husband, Garry and Sue Allingham who happened to be using the lift at the same time. I was exhausted and in tears, hardly able to put one foot in front of the other. With hindsight it had been too much for me, and if I had been able to think straight at the beginning of 2018, I should have cancelled the event – but I didn’t. As time moved closer and closer to the 12th May, I realise that I was struggling to prepare everything that needed preparing.

As a result I think it is fair to say Networking, Sharing, Making Connections – 2  was not as successful as my first event – but from feedback I recieved it was still successful and many people made new connections and friendships were renewed. We heard some fantastic presentations which had a common statement made by most speakers.

‘I would not be who I am today if I’ was not for my volunteering, and / or the early years membership organisations’

This statement is certainly true for myself, as volunteering has given me so much back. Anyone who volunteers does it because they want to help others – individuals / organisations / communities / and society as a whole. It is not until after a period of time, and opportunity to reflect, that you realise that by volunteering you have gained so much;- Confidence, friendships, transferable skills for the work place, a reputation for helping others. You also get to meet new people and often to go to new places both for meetings and social events.

My volunteering started by being centred around supporting the things my children were involved in;- Playgroup committee’s, school PTA’s and Girl Guiding but also extended to areas connected to my chosen  profession;- Childminding committee’s local, regional and national, Early years organisations first at local, then regional and finally at national level. My volunteering  then extending to things like being involved with the Ofsted Big Conversation and NEyTCO being the lead person for both in the West Midlands.

Readers may know that my volunteering also resulted in me having enough confidence to start the first ratio petition and enabled  travelling to London to speak directly to MP’S; and after 30 + years of volunteering to receiving a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s 2016 Birthday Honours.

So it not really a surprise that I chose the subject of my second event to be volunteering and Early Years Membership Organisations.

An apology has already been given at the beginning of this blog, but I want to explain a little bit more about what hat happened  since May 2018.

I became quite ill and it was clear that my diabetic medications were having a negative effect. This was worrying because I am already diagnosed with Diabetic Radiculopathy which basically is caused by a negative reaction to diabetic meds. I had made slow but steady progress from Feb 2017 – May 2018 in that I was able to do more than I had been able to in 2017 – early 2018, but I was still far from well. Another issue was that I was suffering from ‘Brain Fog’ both from the prescribed morphine and the effect of the insulin which made planning and then doing things very difficult – and had a huge impact on my memory. Regular readers will know that I rarely take notes but up to the point of my illness had been able to recall events attended in detail, enabling me to share via this blog.

Basically my ill health meant that between May and August 2018 although I wanted to, and even tried a couple of times to put finger to keyboard – I was asking too much of myself to provide feedback from my event. And so it did not happen.

In August 18 with my Doctor’s knowledge – as in ‘You need to consider your quality of life, Penny’ – I took myself off my diabetic meds and for a couple of months life was good – the brain fog partially lifted, I could do a bit more physically and mentally, and I was hopeful things were on track to improve to a point whereby I could pick up the pieces of my life – including providing feedback to my event, my volunteering and my campaigning.

However, my glucose levels started to rise as I was not taking any meds, and although I felt fairly well in myself, my doctor was concerned and referred me to a new consultant. The new consultant – like my GP – listened to me and more importantly believed me. A new tablet was prescribed which worked but it also created side effects as my body reacted. Every other day tablet taking was tried and although slowed side effects down, the side effects were building, and I was once again losing control of my body functions – and becoming a bit depressed. Bringing readers up to date I am now trying a new non insulin injection – time will tell if this is the right med for me.

So in general things are not brilliant, I am trying to remain positive and trying to remain busy which is not easy when everything is a challenge. I have attended a few events to help motivate me and stop me from getting too depressed (last thing I need is another pill!).

And it is through attending these events that I have some good news!

First, so many people have taken opportunity to meet up with me, at these events, including some of the speakers and attendees from my event.  All have reassured me that it does not matter that I have not provided feedback yet – there is plenty of time, and when I am better will be soon enough.

Second, I have started making contacts with universities about the possibility of working in partnership to create a record of all the information I have gathered, to preserve the personal recollections of the founder members of the early years membership organisations, and to record the personal stories of those who volunteered for early years membership organisations. This is something that I mentioned as an aspiration at my event, and so I am very pleased to report that a meeting with one of the universities is now in the pipeline to explore the possibilities.

So watch this space as I will keep everyone updated with the progress – and if this university decides is not the right project for them, I will approach other universities, organisations and even individuals until I find a way to create a permanent record for future generations.

The Event Overview

Well this part of the blog is going to be shorter than usual as due to the prescribed morphine my memory has let me down, and I can not recall sufficient information. I will be noted the highlights (as in what I can recall) a bit further on in this blog, but really my recall will not do justice to all the speakers.

However, I do have the presentations of some of those who spoke at my event, and I will chase those who did not leave copies of their presentations to send them to me.

My aim is that I will produce a series of short blogs with each blog containing the presentation of one person. I will also produced further blogs containing personal memories of those who were unable to attend but who sent me information. I hope that as the information becomes public knowledge that others will send in their memories because really I have only scratched the surface of the mountain of personal stories and knowledge that is out there.

As an insight as to what is to come here are the speakers from Networking, Sharing, Making Connections – 2, who either attended in person or who sent a recorded presentation

ME! – Penny Webb

Laura Henry (Consultant / trainer / Author)

Sue Griffin (Former National Chair of Pre school Playgroups Association)

Tricia Wellings (Nursery owner / trainer / consultant)

Neil Leitch  (CEO Pre school Learning Alliance)

Ann Goddard (Founder member of NCMA)

Rob Fox  (Founder of Active Childhood / student / Practitioner)

Helen Cazaly (Pacey Trustee)

Sue Allingham ( Trainer / Consultant / Early Education Trustee / moderator  of Keeping Early Years Unique)

Mick McGeowen  (Former Pacey National Policy Forum Member )

Esther Gray (Former Early Years Regulatory Inspector)

Sally McGeowen (Former Pacey volunteer)

Elaine Pitteway ( Childminding UK)

Beth Thomas (Author / researcher)

NB We should have had a presentation by NEyTCO but sadly they were unable to be with us on the day.

All speakers spoke about their personal story, and most spoke with passion for the early years and the early years membership their were or had been involved with. As already mentioned the most quoted phrase was ‘ I would not be who I am today if it was not for my volunteering and involvement with the early years membership organisations’. Even those who had had negative experiences recalled how this had also helped shaped who they are today.

The other people who helped by meeting with me, or by sending their stories via email, will, as already mentioned have a short blog with their story as I think it is vital that these everyday, but vitally important stories are saved for future generations.

These people include

Val Johns

Sue Owen

Sarah Edwards

Celia Smith

Becky Watanabe

Marjie Seaman

Linda O’Rourke


My Personal Recall of the Highlights

Despite several people being unable to attend on the day, we still had over 50 people in the room, which was fantastic.

Everyone had a goody bag with a notebook, a copy of Practical Preschool Magazine (containing Child Care Magazine and therefore one of my articles – thanks To Neil Henty for his support. Plus a large number of other small items thanks to the efforts of Ruth Measure in collecting them from those donating in her area. The final item in the bag was a bespoke card created by my friends Dick and Barbara Skilton, and hand coloured by myself. The colouring in had been a labour of love as had taken hours and hours (especially as due to the morphine I kept falling asleep mid task!


Dick and Barbara has also brought a display of their products and chatted to attendees. There was also a display of all the articles I had written; information from Pacey; Copies of historic issues of Who Minds; a display of historic items from the Pre school Playgroups Association; and a folder of printed copies of information sent to me, some attendees added photos to this folder for all top look at.

As I say I can’t recall all the presentations in detail, so my next recall is of lunch time and the amazing raffle organised by Gemma Tasker. Gemma had brought an enormous quantity of raffle prizes with her by train in suitcases! And some people added extra prizes on the day. The raffle was very well supported and Gemma raised £280 which was split between two charities of my choose –  BloodWise and The Countess of Chester BabyGrow appeal.

Huge thanks to Gemma for organising this, to Neil Leitch who drew out all the winning tickets , and to everyone who brought tickets.

Lunch was served and although enjoyed by most, a few people including myself could not enjoy it as all the choices were based on chilli. Feedback has been given to the venue, because other than this issue all the refreshments were fantastic.

The rest of day was a struggle for me, I was getting tired and struggling to stay on task, but even so I enjoyed all the afternoon speakers and was inspired by their passion.

The day came to a close and people started to make their way home, some though stayed to help tidy up which I was grateful for, as the day had taken a huge toll on me.

My personal reflection is I am glad I organised Networking, Sharing and Making Connections – 2  but wish my health had enabled me to be better prepared and more focussed on the day.

This blog is the starting point of the reflections from the day, the others that follow will contain the personal stories that I have collected so far – starting with Celia Smith Founder Member of NCMA.

If anyone who attended would like to write a guest blog with their memories of the day, please get in touch.

Finally I hope my talks with the university go well, and before long we have a permanent record of the personal stories and memories of the early years membership organisations and their volunteering



Posted October 13, 2018 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Just what is a ‘Good Level of Development’   Leave a comment

So today 11th October 2018, we have an announcement from Ofsted about the new inspection framework – and on the face of it I am personally pleased there is to be less focus on data and teaching to the test in our schools.

However, I am not yet convinced about Ofsted’s intentions because I attended the West Midlands Ofsted Big Conversation on 5th October 2018 (so less than a week ago) and I listened to presentations about what Ofsted considers to be ‘important data’. Data about ‘Good Level of Development’ (GLD) and this was broken down into various compassion tables. It was stressed that good work was being done and more children were reaching this GLD, but more needed doing to in Ofsted’s words ‘Ensure every child reach a GLD’. Of course they were referring to early years but this new framework , like the Common Inspection Framework currently in use, is across all education settings – so from early years, through schools and onto further education. Therefore all comments made by Ofsted about the new framework will apply to all.

Link to blog about West Midlands OBC

So really I am not convinced about their intentions because it seems to me that in the future data is still going to be important to Ofsted and the DfE. My natural conclusion is – if GLD is still important, and data still to be collected, then some ‘teaching to the test’ will happen.

I am not yet sure of the knock on aspects of teachers performance and pay, if their class, their school does not get a higher enough % of children to a GLD. And of course what about inspections judgements – surely their will still be some sort of a link – otherwise why gather the data?  Why record it? Why create comparison tables?

I hope I am wrong, I hope it is just my misunderstanding or lack of information – but at this current moment in time, I am not convinced.

Readers may be wondering if I don’t care about the education of our children, if I don’t want all children to reach their full potential.

It is because I do care, because I do want children to reach their full potential that I am bothering to express my opinion in this blog.

I am well known for my objections to gathering of national data within early years, and my campaigning around Baseline and phonics tests (and more). However, my view about national data covers a lot more areas – the main reason is gathering of data reduces individuals to a piece of averaged data; it is used to create sticks with which to beat people into submission and to try to get them to overcome the impossible and create a standard unit of a human (child or adult) who is the same as every other standard unit of a human. This leads to tick box criteria, and pass and fail levels, with the pass score getting higher and higher year on year.

Well I don’t want to be a standard unit of a human – I want to ‘me’, with my own personal strengths and weakness (not that I like the word weakness because I don’t think the area I don’t excel at are a weakness). I just don’t excel at them – and I have numerous reasons for this, including a lack of personal passion and therefore drive or motivation to excel at some things.

And this is fine!  We do not all have to be the same. we do not all need to excel at everything.  because society needs a wide range of people with different skills. If we were all the same, society would just not work, and people would all want the highest paid jobs, the most perks and so on. What is wrong with being different, being yourself?

I most certainly do not want children to be defined as a standard unit of a human, I do not want their interests (and so passion and motivation) to be stamped on, preventing them from excelling at something, just so they can meet a standard definition of a GLD

So coming back to this GLD, what is it? I would argue that actually it is different for every single person, and also that we currently record development in the wrong way. Each and every child will develop in their own way and in their own time (even the government recognises this). Some children will excel at Maths, or science, or dance, or caring for others, or making others laugh and relax – but none of them will excel at all of those things. Please note that I have included skills not currently valued by tests or GLD records.

Another issue is not all children are going to ‘peak’ and achieve at the same moment in time, and it is soul destroying for children to be assess as failing, or being behind, just because they are the youngest in the year group, or have missed a lot of education due to ill health, or their lives have fallen to pieces due to death in the family, poverty, constant changes of homes and any of  the ACE’s a child may encounter.

Children need to be considered as unique individuals and their strengths, their interests , their personal situation noted. They do not need to be assessed against national criteria lists, or marked against a standard GLD chart and then turned into a piece of national data.

One child may read at 3 and become a life long reader, one may not read until 9 and yet still go to university. one may struggle and not gain a degree until 57, one may not engage in mainstream education at all, but be an expert with computers , one may go to university but fail to gain employment in that field and have to retrain, one may drop out of education and yet become a millionaire – all of these examples are taken from members of my own family – what actually happened to these unique individuals who did not become a standard unit of a human.

So do I think children do not need to be assessed? Far from it – but they do not need to become a piece of data. Teachers have all the skills needed to assess their students, to encourage them to develop in general terms but to their own ability and with consideration to their personal situation. Children will flourish and reach their own potential if they are able to follow their interests, good teachers will support this and forget about teaching to the  test, but will skilfully fit in other skills into areas of interest. This is possible if not teaching to the test, for example being able to read is not just achieved through graded readers and phonics sessions, it can be taught by linking to interests; history does not just have to be via a national curriculum it can be about any aspect of history and any point in time.

I hate comparison charts, I hate lists of who can do what displayed for all to see , such as who is on what reading level, who can count to 20, who can hold a pencil in a triangle grip – none of this is important for the world to know, this should just be for the teachers records and to share with parents.

And don’t get me started on ability tables – what a silly idea. All of us have things we are good at, all of us learn in different ways and all have things we find harder – so what is the point of ability tables? Why not just have tables that anyone can sit at, and use the benefits of children supporting each other.

A GLD – is unique to each child, for some children this will be ‘typical’ and they will make good progress through the ‘norms’ but for other children it will be more gradual, more varied and could be in very small steps BUT for that child it will still a GLD!

In conclusion then, I don’t actually have much confidence that Ofsted will stop collecting data, will stop recording GLD, and therefore that teachers will stop teaching to the test.

It is a step in the right direction but there is a very long way to go.

To ensure every child reaches their own personal potential we all must focus much more on child well- being, on happiness, on feeling positive about themselves, of feeling good about their own achievements and value.

And for that to happen there needs to be a complete rethink about just what is the purpose of education and why GLD needs to standard to all – because logic says that is an impossible task.

Posted October 11, 2018 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues