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.
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:
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.
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.
OFSTED requires that childminders inviting children into their home carry out a risk assessment in order to identify potential danger, this is a daunting part of preparing to be a childminder - the assessment is evaluated during a home visit.
Risk assessment is not about eliminating risk, but making sure that you are aware of the areas of your home and garden that pose a danger so that you can manage it properly. If you have identified areas that pose a threat to little ones, then you will be aware of those dangers and will manage the situation appropriately.
The Health and Safety Executive recommend five simple steps to undertaking a risk assessment:-
- Identify the hazards
- Decide who might be harmed and how
- Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
- Record your findings and implement them
- Review your assessment and update if necessary
For your OFSTED nspection, you should go into as much detail as possible about the risks in your home. You will need to document the risks in each room that children can enter to show that you are aware of the dangers, and you must cite the actions that you will take to prevent accidents from happening. You will be able to find risk assessment templates from childminding associations, but there is no templated way to fill these in because risks vary in every different situation.
As well as covering risks associated within your home, you must also carry out a risk assessment for your garden and for outings that you take your children on. If you do a school run for older children, taking younger ones with you, then that will also need to feature in your assessment.
Most local authorities offer training for risk assessment which you can often attend for free. They will teach you about how to construct a risk assessment document, how to identify risk within a setting and steps to take to minimise risk.
Having completed your risk assessment, you must revisit it regularly and keep it up to date. Make a point of reading through the documents that form your risk assessment at least once a month. This will reinforce your understanding of the risks, but you will also find it easy to add in new risks you identify along the way, making for an even more thorough and comprehensive document. If you don't keep your risk documentation up to date then you will have more work revising it when your next inspection comes round.
The Government has announced that childcare arrangements made between friends will no longer be legally required to be Ofsted registered and inspected. The Children's Minster, Dawn Primarolo said the rule change would be confirmed in April this year which will mean that friends who share the childcare of each other's children won't have to answer to Ofsted, as if they were professional childcare settings such as childminders or nurseries.
Ms Primarolo claimed she was pleased with the result as it ensured "hardworking parents are not penalised for supporting their friends with unpaid childcare."
The confusion arose when two policewomen, Leanne Shepherd and Lucy Jarrett from Buckinghamshire, who worked on a part time basis, looked after each other's children when they were not working. It was a friendly, non-financial arrangement which meant both women could work without worrying about the the costs of childcare. They simply shared the childcare. Ofsted were told about the arrangement and they decreed the women should register as childminders which included all the professional training, checks, inspections and guidelines that professional childminders have to go through.
This daft situation arose when a piece of ill-planned legislation was introduced in 2006 which required anyone looking after children for 'reward', excluding between 6pm and 2am, on more than 14 occasions a year, and who was not related to the children, were deemed to be offering childcare services and were therefore subject to childcare control. In this case, Ofsted interpreted the fact that by swapping childcare between themselves in order to allow them to return to work, the two police mothers in question were therefore gaining 'reward' and therefore were subject to the legislation. Whilst the 2006 Childcare Act is generally an important piece of legislation aimed at protecting children whilst in the custody of professional carers, it gave no credence to informal arrangements between friends.
The amendment to the Childcare Act 2006 will change the guidelines offered by Ofsted which will detail when childcare is deemed "formal" and thus within their remit.
The proposed changes were put to parents, child carers and children's organisations in a consultation last December 2009. The majority of those consulted replied in favour of the amendments. Public outcry and a petition on the No. 10 website made clear the people's feeling on the matter!