A look inside Penny’s Place – An interview with Penny Webb (BEM)
16th August 2016
Penny Webb, a long standing childminder since 1984 has dedicated her life to the early years sector. It is from her time in childminding that has built her reputation as well as knowledge base in the industry. In June 2016 Penny received a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s 2016 Birthday Honours list – an incredible achievement for her commitment and love for the work she does. Childcare Expo met with Penny to talk about her experience and hear her views as a now retired childminder as she continues to play an advocate and active campaigner for the early years sector.
Penny, what drew you to the early years sector all those years ago?
I became involved with the early years sector when my second child needed the extra stimulation so I volunteered as a parent helper – and I have been volunteering in early years in one form or another ever since.
I became a registered childminder when another parent of a child at the preschool asked me to look after her child. I said yes, but decided I should do it properly and register.
What makes you passionate about your job?
Now that I have retired from childminding – I am going to answer the question as a volunteer, a campaigner and an advocate for children and early years settings (and in particular registered childminders)
Unfortunately, we are not ‘getting it right’ in early years, and in fact recently things have been getting worse and children are being pushed to achieve things that they are not developmentally able to achieve – they are being rushed through childhood and tested at every opportunity.
I could say a lot more because it is a ‘soapbox’ issue for me – but in a nutshell I try to advocate for the children, their families and the early years settings they attend – the children do not have a voice, their parents often do not have a voice, their settings do not often have a voice – so if I can do anything to make people and in particular government listen to me, even on very small matters I feel I have added to the debate and hopefully as more and more people come together we will be able to make a difference to the lives and futures of the children, their families and ultimately society.
In your opinion, what should children learn and discover from their time in early years care?
That they are loved and valued for who they are – not what they might become.
That they are safe through the care of adults but also through their own risk assessments and decisions.
That they can choose their own learning journey following their interests and the things they like to do.
That there is not a wrong way to do things and not a right way either – just different ways that work in different ways – and that they have the right to decide what is successful and what is not in each individual situation.
That time is something they have plenty of; to explore, to navigate, to discover, to do alone or do with others – and to do again and again if they want to, or leave after one attempt.
To express their opinion and ideas – and to ask for help.
To care for themselves and develop self-help skills – as and when they are ready.
To know adults are available to support, to assist, to model – but not to take over, or direct or insist.
If you could make one change in the early years sector, what would it be?
Take education out of politics …
…and set up an independent advisory board to decide on education policy (supported by volunteers who have recently had / or still have a hands-on role within early years).
Far too much money is wasted on trying things out and then either not implementing or the next government changing focus. Education policy needs to be long term and based on sound knowledge of how children learn – it also needs to be ‘joined up’ from early years to higher education.
Penny shares her views and opinions on her blog – Penny’s Place Childminding. Penny will be joining us at Childcare Expo Midlands to share her ideas at the Early Years Breakfast Summit.