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Grandmother Receives British Empire Medal Just Weeks Before Collecting Degree Certificate

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A grandmother who has dedicated her life to improving early years’ education has been awarded a British Empire Medal.

Penny Webb said she was “overwhelmed” to have been nominated for the honour, in recognition of her work in the field, including more than 30 years as a childminder.

Mrs Webb, who graduates from the University of Worcester next month with a degree in Integrated Working with Children and Families, said: “It was a complete surprise to receive a letter asking if I would accept a British Empire Medal.

“I have spent my life working with young children and volunteering with a number of organisations to raise standards in early years. It’s wonderful to have all that work recognised in this way.”

She received the Medal from the Lord Lieutenant for Worcestershire during a ceremony at The Guildhall in Worcester on Thursday, October 13 and will attend a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace next year.

Mrs Webb, from Kidderminster, joined the University of Worcester in 2006, after visiting with her daughter, who was looking to study for a teaching degree.

“When we were looking around it all seemed really interesting, and I suddenly thought, why not do a degree myself,” said the 57-year-old. “I studied part-time, alongside all my other commitments and feel very proud to be graduating in November.”

Mrs Webb, who has four daughters and 10 grandchildren and is also a foster carer, was nominated for the British Empire Medal by the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY).

She set up support groups for childminders in the area and ran training sessions for them. She also was a Children Come First network co-ordinator for childminders in the county.

In 2012 she started the first petition against Government proposals to cut staff to child ratios in nursery and childminding places, leading to a national campaign that saw the plans dropped.

Karen Hanson, Head of Early Childhood at the University of Worcester, said: “We are all absolutely delighted for Penny and very proud of her. Her award is extremely well deserved as Penny has been a successful advocate for children, families and early years’ providers for many years. She is a wonderful inspiration to our current students and to those who think it's too late to start studying in Higher Education.”