Category: Childminders and Childminding
In the UK, the role of a childminder offers a career path that requires certain professional qualifications and a continued commitment to learning. There's no quick, informal entry into the role. Anyone working for more than two hours a day, and working for reward (ie. payment or in return for other services) must register with their local authority and will be subject to OFSTED inspections to ensure the quality of your childcare provision.
There are no qualifications required before you can apply to register as a childminder, but you must undertake certain training before you are allowed to operate, and you will have to gain a paediatric first aid certificate.
In addition to having to train for the role, if you operate from your own home then you must also work to make your home suitable for bringing other children inside. You will need to buy toys, safety equipment and you must buy insurance to cover your services. You are not required to make your entire house safe for children, but you must secure any areas where children will be, including routes to bathrooms.
Some local authorities offer grants to help with the start-up costs of becoming a childminder so see if you're eligible for help.
If you are considering becoming a childminder then contact your local authority as early as possible. Entry into the profession isn't necessarily rapid, so the sooner you register your interest, the sooner you can comply with the requirements and start your business.
A core requirement for EYFS is that childcare providers must give parents information on the types of activities they are undertaking, the daily routine, food and drink provided and, in EYFS 2012, how the EYFS is being delivered.
This is exactly what ToucanLearn's Daily Diary is intended for. Each child has their own unique Daily Diary and you can create entries during the day. Each Diary can be shared between parents and childcare providers which allows parents to log in and see what's going on at any time of the day. Everyone can even add their own entries.
We recently launched our mobile phone service where you can email a photo directly from your mobile into the relevant Daily Diary - what could be easier?!
This service also processes text messages, so, for example, if you want to quickly report on what the children are eating, just send a text email (not an SMS message) to your diary and a new entry will be logged. Remember to name the children in the subject line or the body of the message, and please ensure that your 'from' address matches your ToucanLearn login. Entries should arrive in your diary within 2 minutes and if it fails to match, you will receive a notice back telling you that.
Find out more here: http://www.toucanlearn.com/daily-diary.
Many of our members are professional childminders and have expressed concern at potential changes to the way that childminders are regulated in the UK. In March, Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector for OFSTED, told a select committee that OFSTED inspections of childminders are disproportionately expensive when compared to school and nursery inspections and stated that their future is 'unsustainable'.
More recently, Elizabeth Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, has published a report examining the high costs of childcare in the UK for parents, compared with other European nations, and proposes a new agency model of regulation moving forwards.
Childminders are right to interpret these as challenges to the way that they work. Currently childcare providers feel that being treated on a par with nurseries sends a positive message to parents that they offering a professional service. Deregulating childcare could allow the market to be flooded by cheap and unqualified providers.
Note that proposed changes will NOT see the EYFS being dismantled, this is expected to stay through any regulatory changes to the industry overall.
If you wish to add your voice to those demanding that the government researches these proposals more thoroughly then add their signature to a petition at this website:
Early years providers should be constantly looking ahead to ensure that they can nurture the development of their wards over time. Short term planning ensures that you know what you are doing with your children day in, day out. Medium term planning gives an overall strategy and direction to your learning. Essentially, following a strategy to push development turns you from a babysitter to an educationalist.
Medium term planning should be done up to 4 or 6 months in advance. Best practice advocates not simply creating a 4 month plan, seeing it through and creating the next one, but revisiting the plan regularly, at least once a fortnight, to ensure that you are on track and to extend into the future. At any given moment, aim to have the next few months in development terms mapped out. In revisiting the plan, adjust it to any needs that may be emerging.
Constantly reviewing and revising your plan keeps it fresh in your mind so that you know what you are delivering at any given point. Buy some books on child development and use this to help work out what milestones you should be reaching, and undertake activities that help achieve those milestones.
Your medium term plan will inform your short term plan so that you can map out activities on a weekly basis. Activities on ToucanLearn are designed so that they are always at the edge of what children should be achieving. By keeping up with activities in ToucanLearn you will automatically be following a strategy for success.
When planning, make sure that you cover all the bases of EYFS. Projects offer a great opportunity to extend activities out over time. The spring and summer months are great for projects because you can study how plants and animals develop, base craft around the notions of insects and animals, and there are plenty of games and songs to take in along the way.
Allow for flexibility in your planning. Short term planning allows you to cater for the emerging interests of your children and to some extent you should always follow their interests above any rigid planning. Children learn through constant interaction with the world and if they show an interest in a particular topic then run with that, ignite that spark and your children will soak up knowledge and learn based on what they find stimulating at any given point in time.
If you have children of varying age groups within your setting then younger children will develop faster as they try to mimic the older children surrounding them. This create a positive impact but at the same time, do not neglect the needs of the younger children, especially babies. Even though they may appear to be less demanding than older children, they still need devoted time for stimulation and interaction.
Your Daily Diary in ToucanLearn will help you achieve your planning aims, you can then share your plans with parents and they can comment and get involved too. There's absolutely nothing wrong, however, in keeping your plans on paper. Planning in any medium is much more important than having no plans at all.
While Nannies, Childminders and Au Pairs are all there to help look after your children, the terms of engagement are very different, and that is what distinguishes the different roles.
A Nanny is paid to come into your house and help look after the children. A nany has set hours and will generally work to a routine, but usually only looks after your children, possibly alongside her own. You effectively employ a nanny and they have certain employment rights, including the ability to take paid maternity leave.
A childminder is someone who you pay to look after your children in their own setting. They may pick children up from your home or from school, you usually have set hours and may be responsible for paying additional for any overtime incurred. They will usually be OFSTED registered and inspected, and will look after a children from various families, often of varying age groups.
An au pair is someone who looks after your children, usually in return for board and lodging and a small amount of 'pocket money' (typically less than £100 per week). Au Pair's are usually foreign nationals and often young women and men taking a 'gap year' before or after higher education and are generally looking to spend some time in this country and improve their language skills. In addition to working an agreed number of hours looking after children, they may do light housework and other chores such as cooking meals. Usually an au pair is a 'live in' position so you must have a spare room for them to live in, and you must share bathroom and kitchen facilities as required.
You will generally have a contract in place for each of these types of role, and you should look at insurance cover to make sure that they are covered for the work they do for you. All may look after children of all ages, including babies, although they are restricted by law as to how many children of different age group they may look after at once. Therefore, for practical reasons, not all child carers have the necessary space to take on your children, and they may focus on offering services to children of a specific age or attending certain settings or schools.
In 2008/2009, only 9% childminders were graded 'Outstanding' but with 55% making 'Good' and 30% 'Satisfactory', there's little to worry about in the provision of childcare on the whole. But what makes turns a Good childminder into an Outstanding one?
OFTSED recognise a number of features that contribute towards the award of an Outstanding review, and it's largely not about what you do in your setting, but what goes on around and outside of it.
The overwhelming contributing factors highlighted by OFSTED are those of continual reflection and improvement...childminders must never stand still! Factors include:-
- Continually working with parents and other carers to exchange information about the child and family (this plays a more important role in EYFS 2012 to be introduced in September)
- Continually reflecting on their provision and looking at how they might improve
- Attending regular training on educational and developmental matters and gaining recognised childcare qualifications
- Having an excellent understanding of the EYFS areas of learning
- Reviewing and revising procedures and policies on a regular basis
- Using external resources including OFSTED self-evaluation forms, childminder advisers and local network and quality schemes to help identify and implement improvements
Having all the toys in the world, cooking the best food or playing the best games with your children alone won't achieve Outstanding status. An Oustanding childminder almost needs to treat their work as a career rather than a job.
Although the EYFS is a prescriptive programme to help cover a wide variety of development topics, almost everything we do covers aspects of EYFS without even having to try, and that's because EYFS is really gearing us up to learning about the real world.
Take a trip to the supermarket for example, your little ones are learning where their food comes from, they can help find products on the shelves, they help you with the money when you come to pay. These activities touch elements of health and bodily awareness (PD), place (KUW), and shapes, space and measures and calculating (PSRN).
Picking up siblings or other children from school and chatting with mum's at the school gate aids language (CLL) and sense of community (PSED) as well as helping grow confidence (PSED), the walk alone contributing to Physical Development.
Familiarity with the goals of EYFS will let you turn every routine task or chore into a learning game. Accentuate the lessons across the different areas of the EYFS and at every step you will be nurturing your children in understanding the world, their place within, and in how everything works. Don't forget to log the lessons learned in your Daily Diary at ToucanLearn!
All three and four year old children are entitled to free nursery education: 15 hours a week of free education is applicable for 38 weeks of the year. This is the case until they reach compulsory school age.
Where can you get Free early education places?
- Nursery schools
- Nursery classes
- Children's centres
- Day nurseries
- Play groups
For more information about free nursery education contact your Family Information Service (FIS) or local council.
When your child qualifies for a free place
If your child is born between: 1 April and 31 August they are eligible for a free place from: 1 September following their third birthday or the beginning of the autumn school term
If your child is born between: 1 September and 31 December they are eligible for a free place from 1 January following their third birthday or the beginning of the spring* school term
If your child is born between: 1 January and 31 March they are eligible for a free place from: 1 April following their third birthday or the beginning of the summer* school term
These details are based on a three-term school year.
Occasionally it might be necessary or useful for a nursery or school to ask for parent helpers - you may wish to go on a trip or need extra supervisors to visit a local landmark. This is great for the parents to get involved, great for the children whose parents are being invited to come along... but it can be less than great for the childcare providers or teachers unless the guidelines are laid down in advance. You don't want the parent just helping their own child and tending to their needs and theirs' alone to the detriment of other little ones.
- Choose the parents carefully - if you can, invite those you know are level-headed and reliable.
- Put parents in charge of a group that doesn't include their child.
- Give parents clear guidelines of what you need from them and what is expected.
- Introduce them to the children and say, loudly, so that the parent hears "Mrs XX will be looking after all of you today." Just so its clear to the parents its not just their own child being taken care of.
- Make sure timings are made clear so parents leave when you wish to return to normality.
- Find out if any parents have any special skills that might be of interest to the children or help... e.g. gardening, sewing costumes etc.
Guidelines for Parent Helpers could include information such as:
- Emergency telephone numbers and all staff numbers in case of separation.
- How often and how to count and keep track of the children.
- Any special needs, equipment, diets or allergies of the children.
- Exact route, timetable and itinerary of trip.
- Reminder about taking the children to the toilet during the trip.
- Make sure they are not over familiar with the children.
- Be clear about importance of confidentiality and encourage discretion.
Parent helpers do not have to be CRB checked if they are working with children in groups and alongside other qualified practioners but they should be CRB checked if they are going to be alone at any time with the children.
A recent survey by the Daycare Trust shows that over half of nurseries in London have seen a fall in demand over the past year. This appears to be part of a wider picture of falling demand for childcare and will be of particular concern to nursery providers. As the economy continues to face uncertain times, more and more mothers are choosing not to return to work after having babies, and that is one factor fueling the fall in demand for childcare places.
Rising childcare costs (more than twice the rate of inflation over the last year) are forcing many mothers to ditch work and look after young family themselves. The average cost of childcare in England is £5,028 a year, rising to over £6,000 a year in London. This is income that has already been taxed, and the cost of putting more than one child into childcare just becomes eye-watering!
Increasingly, at the moment, mothers are leaving work to raise their children at home.
On top of this, nursery providers have found that their costs are rising fast too, which is the main contributing factor to the rising cost of nursery places. Rent rates have jumped hugely over the last few years, but so have many of their other costs including food, staff training and all the essential supplies needed by a nursery. It seems that as the economy has suffered over the last few years, the global reaction has just been to raise prices for goods and services to make up for slump in demand. This isn't going to hold much longer - something is going to break. The logical conclusion of this spiral of rising prices pushing down demand is that we will see nurseries closing and nursery chains going out of business.
This isn't all bad news for private childminders. The additional costs of nursery provision will see a move towards more flexible childminders, with lower associated costs, so we predict a boom in private childcare provision over the next few years. We are also seeing more babies being nurtured by their own families in their domestic setting, and that too has to be a good thing. Whilst nurseries and childcare offer a wonderful service, allowing families to continue working, there is a lot to be said for not having to have two incomes simply to live from day to day. Families that choose to stay home and raise children may have to cut back in some areas, but the marginal difference of a second salary after tax and childcare is making the 'stay at home' option look increasingly attractive!
How can you encourage a healthy and enthusiastic learner and good personal, social and emotional development? There is so much that can be done in the home and in the childcare setting to encourage effective PSED. Here are just a few ideas that can be incorporated into your typical day.
- Play games; take turns and play by the rules.
- Share things; share out snacks or toys or bricks and encourage little ones to do so as well.
- Go to local places of interest, history museums or galleries.
- Look at programmes from theatre or festivals visits. Or pick up leaflets from places of interest and local history museums. Look through the information/booklets together when you get home.
- Take photos when out and about and look back a the photos together. Recall the day, where you were, who was with you what happened etc.
- Listen to what your child wants to talk about, especially if they are anxious or worried about something. It may seem tiny to us, but a little problem can escalate.
- Encourage lots of questions and exploring when out and about.
More and more childminders are taking on assistants to work with them or their settings are proving so popular with parents that they are actually taking on full time partners or co-workers to cope with the demand.
What can the assistant do?
- Help with school runs. The assistant can collect children from school or nursery and drop off.
- Play Games: The assistant can participate in games and watch the children while you cook or prepare the next activity.
- Be watchful: They can observe activities to record children's progress and just be another pair of eyes when out and about with the children.
- Male assistants: Male assistants can also be of great value as they can add a male influence on the setting which is particularly useful if there is no male influence at home. Many parents seek out childcare settings with male childminders or assistants purely for this reason.
Employing as assistant:
- You must inform OFSTED if you employ another worker.
- You must have a Criminal Records Bureau disclosure carried out if the person is over 16. This includes all family, friends and neighbours who might be in your setting during hours when the children are in residence.
- You will also have to be registered with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) and it's against the law not to do so.
- You should get references and check out their backgrounds thoroughly.
- You will have to deal with the tax, National Insurance contributions and other rights (such as sick pay, holiday etc) that employees are entitled to.
- You will need to inform your insurance company and ensure you have employer's liability insurance.
- Wages will have to be negotiated. You must pay at least the minimum wage.
A childminder is required to record observations as part of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and yet, how do you actually 'make' and record observations in a setting while trying to do other things and look after the children?
The easiest was is to use ToucanLearn's unique Daily Diary. By logging what you see, what the children say, any milestones etc on the Daily Diary you get a great personal record for yourself to monitor and to share with parents too... and you don't impact on the care you are giving by having to scratch around for paper and note books. Sign up at our website and start using ToucanLearn for free!
Use a digital camera or mobile phone to record what happens. Take pictures of special crafts, achievements or just everyday shots of the little ones going about their playing.
Take video of the children mastering tasks and having fun. Try to encourage them not to act up in front of the camera but to just be as 'normal' as they can... may be hard!
Have a note book somewhere central at all times and jot down observations. You can then stick them on a poster or add them to the ToucanLearn.
Maintain a weekly observation chart and add an entry each week in order to monitor overall progress.
A review has stated that nursery and childminding targets should be scaled back to allow teachers and carers more time actually teaching the children. Carers are spending so much time on paperwork that they are not spending enough time with the children, inspiring, guiding and helping them.
Dame Clare Tickell, co-author of the report, said that the Early Years Foundation Stage has helped boost standards, but it has also become too focused with meeting targets. The review calls for the EYFS to be radically changed thus reducing the number of goals for under fives from 69 to just 17.
It was said that the current scheme is "cumbersome, repetitive and unnecessarily bureaucratic." Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said the changes would be "a victory for common sense".
It points out that:
- children develop at different rates
- play is vital
- literacy and numeracy can often be taught in too formal a way which may not be productive
Instead, general checks should take place including:
- seeing if a child can negotiate space and objects around them
- communicate their needs (food, drink)
- learn new words and use them
These along with the health visitor checks at age 2 would indicate any educational needs. The report also states that everyone working with under fives should have, at least, A levels, thus ensuring a high quality workforce.
We'll have to wait and see the repercussions!
So many parents - even of toddling or pre-school age children - struggle to get their children to sleep for the whole night without waking up or without them slipping into their parent's bed.
They wake; they demand milk; they need cuddles; they refuse to go back to sleep and they disturb you and everyone else in the house. And, at the sound of the child stirring at night send shock waves through the parents even if the little one is just turning over or breathing a little heavier than normal. So, even when they are not really awake... the parents are!
When sleep is in short supply all sorts of other repercussions occur. You're grumpy, your partner is grumpy, other children in the house are effected; your efficiency slips and everyone has a rotten time! Do you go to a doctor, let them scream it out, get up and give them everything they demand in order to get a easier and quieter life? It is incredibly hard and unless you're in the situation you really don't know how much endless sleepless nights can disrupt all your lives.
Why do they wake? Here are some thoughts:-
- Hunger: they may feel hungry and genuinely need food or some milk.
- Potty training: if they have just started potty training, they may have a more sensitive bladder and be aware when they urinate in the night even with a night time nappy on.
- Disturbed routine: if things have changed at home or school. A new teacher or childminder, things changed at home like Mum working more or Dad not home so often, or starting a new job.
- Outside influences: the neighbours have a new barking dog or a noisy motorbike.
- Bedtime: if you've move bedtime later or earlier this can impact on the sleep patterns.
- Stress or anxiety: are they worried about something at home or nursery?
- New baby: even a pregnancy or thought of a new sibling can effect their sleep.
- Poorly: they may be unwell so keep an eye on them.
- Teething: they may be uncomfortable with teeth emerging or causing pain even if you can't see any evidence.
- Growing pains: see our recent post on Growing Pains to understand this strange symptom.
How to help:
- If they ask for water, leave some by their bed so they can sip and return to sleep alone. Use a sippy cup if you're worried about spillages.
- Favourite toy: make sure any favourite toys are in bed with them for comfort and show them how to cuddle up with their toys at night.
- If you do wake and sit with them, keep it boring: no chat, no lights, nothing except a cuddle and return to bed.
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