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.
Many families don't have the luxury of a parent staying at home to raise their children, many families require two incomes to support themselves, and it's a sad truth that your childminder may see more of your young children than you do. Given the amount of time spent away from your children, how do you know that they are in good hands? ...that your nanny, childminder or nursery is really great with them?
Part of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) mandates good lines of communication between carers and parents. It is important for parents to know what their children have been doing, what they are learning and how they are progressing. ToucanLearn's Daily Diary offers one way in which carers can share their experiences with parents. Nanny's don't have to follow EYFS but it is still good practice for you to develop a formal or informal way that lets them tell you what has been happening.
If you have doubts about the quality of your child care, you should raise it with the care provider in the first instance. If matters remain unresolved, you can take complaints to OFSTED. They will investigate not only people registered as OFSTED carers, but also people providing care services that aren't enrolled on their registers. You can find out more about how OFSTED respond to complaints in this document. Child services are, understandably, a hugely important and sensitive area. OFSTED will take your issues seriously, and will work with both sides to ensure a high standard of care, and the implementation of best practice.
A childminder is a person (male or female) who looks after other people's children in the childminder's own home. The children can be aged from birth up to eight years old. The childminder looks after the children for more than 2 hours a day and is rewarded (usually in the form of money) for the service. If the person is looking after a relative (a grandchild or niece) it is not considered childminding.
Registered with Ofsted
All childminders by law have to be registered and assessed by Ofsted to meet all the requirements and standards set out by Government. The requirements refer to the safety of the premises, the facilities on offer, the suitability of the childminder to care for children, the play and learning opportunities. In addition, insurance provisions and business records are assessed. Checks are also made on all of the other members of the household.
How many children can a childminder look after?
There is a limit on the number of children a childminder can look after. A total of 6 children (including the childminder's own children) is the maximum. Of these, only 3 may be under school age, and only 1 may be under 1 year old. A childminder may have excemption that varies from this if for example they are asked to look after twins or triplets, but their certificate will lay down how many children they may care for at once, and they must display their certificate, in their home, whilst they are acting as a childminder.
How To Find A Childminder?
Word of mouth is a great way of finding a childminder. Friends, colleagues, other parents may have some good suggestions. Alternatively, contact your local Family Information Service for a list of childminders in your area.
There are also agencies and websites that list local vacancies and have a chat to your local Sure Start Centre for some ideas of local vacancies.
How To Choose A Childminder?
Visit a number of settings and talk about any questions you have. Mention your precise needs and make notes before you go if there is anything in particular you don't want to forget to ask.
How Much Is A Childminder?
Childminders are all self-employed and are responsible for their own income, expenses, equipment, tax and national insurance. They set their own rates and charges will therefore vary. You will need to discuss rates and agree the cost with your childminder.
You must sign a contract with your childminder stating:
- Overtime rates
- Non-attendance rates
- Notice period to leave
The contract should be signed by you and your childminder, dated and each of you should have a copy to keep.
Top Tips To Help Choose A Childminder:
- Take your child along and see how they react or settle in the childminder's setting
- Always go to a registered childminder
- Ask to see their registration and assessment documents
- Check their insurance
- Look closely at the areas your child will be based. Are there plug covers, no loose wires or cables? Is furniture in good condition and safe-looking? Are carpets clean and safely fitted? Is it fun and colourful?
- Are there lots of books and toys around?
- Do children there look happy, stimulated and busy?
- Ask about numbers of children and who else will be there?
- Ask about a typical day, about outings, about toddler groups or clubs they will go to
- Ask about discipline and how bad behaviour is dealt with
- Check emergency plans and risk assessments
- Ask about other playgroups and school runs the children do
- Discuss food, snacks and drinks; check the price for meal provision, how and where the food is served and the typical menu
- What are the payment terms for holidays, sick pay, overtime ?
- What happens when the childminder is sick or what if your child is sick?
- Enquire how often and in what form payment should be made
- Ask about pets and other people in the house. Can you meet them too?
Nannies have been depicted in all sorts of ways over the years in books and films, here are some of the most famous...
Mary Poppins: the all singing, all dancing and rather beautiful Nanny of the two sweet little Edwardian children, Jane and Michael Banks. The film saw Mary (played by Julie Andrews) jump into pavement drawings, win a horse race on a carousel horse and take tea and cake on the ceiling! She looked after the children with a firm but certainly magical and neatly gloved hand. She was famous for the tidying of the nursery with a song, a little dance and the famous "spoonful of sugar"!
Nanny McPhee: slightly less beautiful, but all the more direct Nanny played by Emma Thompson in the 2005 and 2010 films. She begins her tale rather grusome and threatening to the wayward children and as time goes by loses her ugliness. She instills five important lessons to the children and as they learn each one, so she becomes more attractive and loses her warts, grey straggly hair and droopy ear lobes.
- Lesson 1: To go to bed when told
- Lesson 2: To get up when told
- Lesson 3: To get dressed when told
- Lesosn 4: To listen and say thank you
- Lesson 5: To do as they are told
Nana: the Newfoundland dog in Peter Pan is a huge cuddly dog wearing a mop cap that looks after the Darling children. It's only when Nana is tied up and unable to protect them that the children head off with the magical pixie Peter Pan and disappear to Neverland to have their adventures. One surmises that had Nana not been thrown out of the house by Father, the children would have remained safe.
Mrs Doubtfire: the wonderfully funny Robin Williams as the homely Nanny of 3 American children. The film was made in 1993 and is hailed as one of the hundred most funny films of all times. The plot tells of an out of work actor who takes a job as a Nanny to his own children by dressing up in full make-up, including prosthetic hips and frilly aprons. The consequences are hilarious!
If you fancy becoming a childminder, here are a few qualities that childminders need in varying quantities and on various days!
Must Like children! It sounds obvious but it is absolutely essential that childminders like children. The idea of spending day after day with them should inspire a childminder rather than fill him or her with horror!
Safety conscious: Provide a safe and stimulating environment for children to play and learn. Rid the house of all possible safety hazards. Be hygienic and offer a clean place for children to spend their days.
Encouraging: Tempt and encourage children to take part and do activities and be sensitive to different children's needs.
Creative: Able to provide ideas for crafts and show the child how to do carry it out. Join us at ToucanLearn for lots of great ideas!
Patient: Have a calm approach to teaching and demonstrating activities.
Love the outdoors: Take children on outings and adventures to the park and in the outdoors.
Willing: ...to undertake the unattractive side of looking after children: such a dealing with dirty nappies and spills and mess.
A good cook - preparing hearty, wholesome and fresh food and snacks.
Good communicator: With children and adults too. A childminder needs to communicate with children of all ages in a calm and assuring way. All sorts of basic, but vital information needs to be shared between the parent and the childminder's setting.
Caring: They need to understand any fears and deal with any problems in a caring fashion.
Fit: It's physically and mentally demanding so health and fitness is essential.
Have business acumen: A child-minder is self employed and therefore needs to submit all the legal and tax documents that that entails.
If anyone ever queries why childminders are now trained and examined by OFSTED; or if someone asks why a childminder's rate is so much higher than a baby-sitter, just reel off a few of the personal requirements needed by childminders and there's your answer! And, I am sure the list goes on...
Anyone think of any other things you need to be a childminder? Perhaps (in the nicest possible way) a tiny bit crazy?!
For more ideas about what to do with children tell all the childminders about ToucanLearn!