Thanks to Gail Barton for this fab guest post:
Today I spent a fantastic afternoon in our local park playing parachute games and learning circus skills with my daughter and her friends. Undeterred by the drizzly windy weather we enjoyed a picnic, took masses of photographs and came home wet, filthy and very, very happy.
And did I mention I was getting paid roughly £20 an hour for the privilege?!
I have been a Registered Childminder for six years after deciding I wanted the opportunity to stay at home with my baby daughter rather than go back to my full time office payroll job.
Like most new mothers I had very little idea about what childcare options were available. A nanny was for rich people, a day nursery for everyone else. Or at least that’s what I thought at the time. And then I saw a poster on the wall at our Mum and Baby group:
HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT REGISTERED CHILDMINDING?
Well, I’ll be honest. The thought had never crossed my mind. Childminders were a strange species, unqualified, who sat children in front of the TV and fed them biscuits all day weren’t they? Certainly not what I wanted for my child. And as far as a career option I had no other childcare experience than looking after my own 4 month old baby. Surely I was totally unsuitable!
A few weeks later I was having a conversation with my Mother-In-Law about my work options to which she replied;
HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT REGISTERED CHILDMINDING?
This time the answer was yes. I rang the telephone number on the poster and was invited to attend a local authority run briefing session. There I was given an overview about what childminding actually entailed and what training I would need to qualify. Attending was also the ONLY way of getting the Ofsted application form to become a registered childminder.
The actual process varies slightly between local authorities, but mine ran five further workshops (2 ½ hours each), compulsory to registration, that covered essential knowledge of Safety; Meeting Children’s Needs; Child Protection; Working in partnership with parents; and Working With Children.
Other compulsory conditions to registration include a 12 hour paediatric first aid course to be renewed every three years, medical certification from your doctor, a full CRB check and a pre-registration interview in your own home from an Ofsted inspector. The National Childminding Association has a wealth of advice if you’d like to find out more about becoming registered in your area. http://www.ncma.org.uk/childminders/become_a_childminder.aspx
From start to finish the registration process takes about six months, but I’ve know it take close to a year for some, so it’s not a career that you can just jump into. But it is definitely worthwhile.
There is no legal requirement as yet for childminders to gain further qualifications but it is expected (by Ofsted) that a good childminder will constantly improve their skills and knowledge to help them provide the best outcomes for children. Our Local Authority provides regular free training courses for childminders, such as behaviour management or special educational needs. And they are great for getting to know other childminders too.
Since registering I have also gained relevant qualifications, first completing an NVQ Level 3 in Early Years, before moving on to a Foundation Degree in Early Years Education and Care.
Childminding has changed a lot in the past 20 years. As Registered Childminders we follow the statutory requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage. They are exactly the same for every registered Early Years setting regardless of private, local authority or voluntarily run. For this reason there can be a lot of bureaucracy and paperwork to complete, which does sometimes have to be done in the evenings or at weekends. Each childminder has their own individual preferred way of working though. Childminders are now beginning to be viewed as being on an equal footing with more formal setting but I’m sad to say that it’s still far too easy for the media to confuse us with illegal unregistered care and portray home based childcare in a negative light.
I have sometimes felt guilty that my daughter has had to share my attention with other children but friends and family are quick to remind me that she has had my attention. Had I not become a childminder I would not have been able to afford to stay at home. And besides, she loves my job. I’ll never forget picking her up from school last year; When I told her that there would be no other boys or girls coming home with us that day she burst into tears!
It can be very hard to separate your home and work life and for that reason there is one final piece of advice that I always offer prospective childminders.
Childminding is more than a job. It is, in my opinion, a way of life. But it is a very rewarding one.