Nursery World Awards 2018: Individuals - Lifetime Achievement Award

Nursery World
Sunday, September 23, 2018

Penny Tassoni MBE

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Few other individuals have succeeded in so many different roles within the early years sector and had such an impact on so many early years professionals and the children they work with.

With a writing career spanning 20 years, Penny Tassoni has penned books on qualifications from Entry Level Certificate to Level 4, as well as for practitioners and parents and numerous magazine articles. Penny led the way in writing books that were truly accessible for students – not by dumbing down but by finding the right voice for her audience and serving up the content in small chunks, making it relevant and practical with plenty of photos, tables and illustrations to support the teaching and learning.

Penny’s far-reaching influence first became apparent to me when I visited a further education college with her. She had been asked to run a workshop with a class of Level 3 childcare students. By the end of the day they had all overcome their shyness, and one by one they queued up for her to autograph their course textbook.

But those of us who work with Penny know she is down to earth, always ready with a practical solution to any problem. She is a master at getting to the crux of new initiatives or policies and ‘translating’ them for practitioners and students. Her Practical EYFS Handbook unpicked the EYFS framework and included more than 150 practical activities to support the areas of learning. Through her consultancy work she has also made a real impact on the quality of provision, helping many settings to become Outstanding. One example is her trademark ‘settling in without tears’ approach.

Unafraid to challenge the status quo, she has used her influence to bring about important change. When the Children and Young People’s Workforce qualifications replaced the old NVQs in 2010, Penny was not alone in realising that they failed to meet the needs of the sector. Over the next few years she brought together employers, academics and other experts to petition the Government for change. The result was the Nutbrown review of early years qualifications.

Five years ago Penny became president of PACEY, where she continues to advise and support the work of the early years community. And earlier this year, in recognition of the high esteem in which she is held, Penny was awarded an MBE for services to early years education.

Throughout her varied career Penny has never lost sight of the children and young people she represents. Somehow she has found time to keep her own practice up to date by childminding on a regular basis. As a proud new grandmother, Penny is no doubt already putting her skills into practice on a less formal basis for her baby granddaughter. All this, while mastering the Turkish language and becoming a student of tai chi.

"Few other individuals have succeeded in so many different roles within the early years sector and had such an impact on so many early years professionals and the children they work with."


Penny began her career as a primary school teacher in 1983, after graduating from Avery Hill College where she was awarded the prize for ‘most promising trainee teacher’. She left primary teaching in 1991 to take up a position at Bexhill College, and by 1999 she was programme leader for some of the college’s childcare courses. During this time she was also a lead examiner for CACHE.

While at Bexhill College she wrote the ground-breaking Child Care and Education, which went on to sell through four editions. Over two decades, to date she has written more than 45 books and numerous magazine articles.

In 1999 she became training and education manager for daycare group Kinderquest. Since 2000 she has worked as a freelance writer and consultant. Her projects have included working as a revisor for CACHE, as a judge for the Heinemann/Nursery World Childcare Student of the Year Awards, and as a trainer with many local authorities. This period also saw the publication of her first Nursery World articles. Since 2013, Penny has been president of PACEY and in June 2018 she was awarded an MBE for services to early years education.


CACHE Child Care and Education, Heinemann (1998)

CACHE Level 2 Child Care and Education Student Book, 4th edition, Heinemann (2007)

Level 3 Diploma for the Children and Young People’s Workforce Candidate Handbook, Heinemann (2010)

Penny Tassoni’s Practical EYFS Handbook, 2nd edition, Pearson (2012)

Supporting Children with Special Needs, Hodder Education (2015)

Reducing Educational Disadvantage: A Strategic Approach in the Early Years, A & C Black (2016)

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