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What does a childminder do?
A childminder is a registered individual who provides paid childcare to children under eight years old for more than two hours a day in their own home. They are sometimes also referred to as a childcare provider.
Childminders look after small groups of children (no more than six under eight years old) of all different ages, needs, families and backgrounds. They work from their own homes and carry out various duties, including picking up and dropping off children, providing childcare, taking children on outings, carrying out first aid and supporting child learning and development. Being a childminder also involves administrative work, such as writing policies, procedures and risk assessments and record-keeping for statutory purposes.
A childminder’s main aim is to provide professional childcare whilst protecting babies and young children in their care. They also have a role to play in education and learning and helping them to develop. Looking after babies and young children is a huge responsibility that requires passion and a commitment to providing the best possible childcare.
Childminders usually work alone but can also work with other childminders, assistants and childminder agencies. They can also liaise with other external stakeholders, including children, parents, guardians, playgroups, nurseries, schools, local authorities (LAs), Ofsted (England), the Care Inspectorate (Wales), the Care Inspectorate (Scotland) and local Health and Social Care Trusts (Northern Ireland).
Registered childminders are usually self-employed and run their own business. They can also be employed by a childminder agency that provides support services. Some agencies allow childminders to remain self-employed, which will depend on the type of agency.
The exact responsibilities a childminder has will depend on the ages and specific needs of the children and what has been agreed with their parents/guardians. Some of the general responsibilities childminders may have are (this list is not exhaustive):
- Ensuring the health, safety and welfare of children in their care.
- Liaising with parents/guardians on their children’s needs, care requirements and progress.
- Changing babies’ nappies.
- Making up bottles for babies.
- Bathing, dressing and helping with eating snacks and meals.
- Planning, preparing and serving healthy snacks and nutritious meals and involving children in food preparation.
- Planning, providing and participating in indoor and outdoor play and fun and stimulating learning activities, e.g. reading, dressing up and creative play.
- Complying with legislation, standards, policies and procedures.
- Administering first aid in the event of illness and injury.
- Taking children to and from the nursery, school, playgroup and clubs.
- Taking children on various outings, e.g. parks, stay and play sessions and museums.
- Supporting children’s learning and development by working with other childcare professionals.
- Keeping accurate records, e.g. accounts, children’s/parents’ information, accidents, progress checks and medications administered.
A childminder’s working hours will depend on the needs of parents/guardians and their children. The hours are highly variable, but most childminders will care for children whilst their parents/guardians are at work (Monday-Friday). Therefore, working days can be long, i.e. 8am-6pm. It may also be necessary for childminders to work unsociable hours, such as evenings and weekends.
Childminders can look after several children at once. They may arrive and leave at different times, which can extend the working day. It is not uncommon for childminders to work up to 12 hours a day because of children being dropped off earlier or picked up later.
What to expect
Childcare is a rewarding career choice. Childminders help with the education, learning, development, health, safety and welfare of children. They play an important role and can really make a difference to the lives of children and their parents/guardians. Helping to shape children’s lives can be very satisfying.
Being self-employed and working from home can be very beneficial for some individuals, especially if they have young children. They can work around their own family’s needs. It reduces the need to travel, and being your own boss can be exciting and fulfilling. Also, there is no requirement to dress in a certain way or wear a uniform. However, individuals will want to portray a professional image to parents/guardians.
Boredom will never be a problem for childminders, as they will care for children of different ages, personalities and backgrounds. Each child’s needs will be different, so the role is extremely varied. No two days will be the same when looking after children.
Even though being a childminder is rewarding, and there are many positives associated with the role, there are some things individuals should expect, for example:
- Responsibility – there is no doubt that looking after someone else’s child is a huge responsibility and not one to take lightly. Childminders are responsible for children’s health, safety and welfare during their stay. If something happens to a child whilst being cared for, it can be extremely stressful to deal with, which is why childminders need to understand their responsibilities.
- Bad behaviour – some children have behavioural issues that can be difficult and stressful to deal with, especially if it affects other children that are being cared for at the same time. Childminders will need to know how to deal with challenging behaviour.
- Difficult parents/guardians – some parents/guardians may be difficult to deal with. They may be over-protective or have unreasonable demands. They may turn up late to collect their child and may not even pay their fees on time. Childminders must be able to deal with difficult people and situations.
- Registration – becoming a registered childminder is not easy. It requires specific legal requirements to be complied with before registering. It can take months for an individual to become fully registered. It will also involve a visit from Ofsted, who will inspect the premises and equipment. Once registered, childminders must comply with certain requirements to be able to continue providing childcare.
- Lack of adult interaction – some individuals may find that being a childminder is quite a lonely experience due to the lack of adult interaction. Being around babies and young children all day is not for everyone.
- Neighbours – it is advisable to check with neighbours when setting up a home childcare business. Families coming and going and noisy children may be an issue for some neighbours. It is best to discuss whether they would have any objections before registering. Planning permission may also be required, so individuals should check with their local council.
- Increased costs – to become registered, childminders will need to pay a fee and may need to alter their home and/or buy additional equipment. They will need to change their home and car insurance for business use, which is a cost. There will also be training and health check costs. Even though individuals will be saving on travelling to work, lunches and other expenses, there will be additional costs to become a childminder. GOV.UK have cost estimates on their website.
There are pros and cons in every career choice, and prospective childminders must know what to expect before deciding whether the role is for them. There is no doubt that working in childcare can be difficult and stressful at times. The hours can be long, children and parents can be challenging to deal with, there is a lot of responsibility, and there are cost implications. However, there are many positives too, and childcare can be an extremely rewarding career choice.
When considering whether to be a childminder, individuals should look at the pros and cons. They should also ensure they have the necessary personal qualities to carry out the role and responsibilities required.
Personal qualities needed to be a childminder
Looking after children is not easy and, at times, it can be very demanding and stressful. Therefore, individuals need to have the right personal qualities to carry out the role successfully.
Some of the personal qualities that a childminder requires will include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Knowledge of childcare-related legislation and standards.
- Knowledge of child protection and safeguarding.
- Knowledge of food hygiene and safety.
- Knowledge of health and safety, e.g. to carry out risk assessments and record accidents.
- Knowledge of English and maths.
- Knowledge of paediatric first aid.
- Having sensitivity, empathy and understanding.
- Good communication skills, both written and verbal.
- Good interpersonal skills.
- Good customer service skills.
- Good listening skills.
- Good problem-solving and decision-making skills.
- Good organisational skills.
- Good time management.
- Being thorough and having attention to detail.
- Being responsible and trustworthy.
- Being motivated and committed.
- Being confident, assertive and diplomatic when dealing with people.
- The ability to multi-task.
- The ability to negotiate with people.
- The ability to be flexible and open to change.
- The ability to work with others and alone using own initiative.
- The ability to understand people’s reactions.
- The ability to accept criticism.
- The ability to be patient and remain calm in stressful situations, particularly emergencies.
- The ability to use IT equipment for basic tasks, e.g. writing risk assessments and doing accounts.
Qualifications and training
To become a childminder, individuals should register with either:
- Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) (or equivalent); or
- a childminder agency as an employee or self-employed worker.
Registration is mandatory for childminders wanting to care for children under eight years of age for more than two hours a day (Wales – children under 12 years old). Childminders will have to pay a fee to become registered with either Ofsted or a childminder agency, and they will need to meet the registration requirements. It usually takes around 30 minutes to apply for registration and can take up to 12 weeks to become registered. Registration has to be renewed every year and a fee paid.
There are two types of Ofsted registers:
- The Early Years Register – looking after children from birth to 31st August after their fifth birthday.
- The Childcare Register – there are two parts to this register:
– Compulsory – looking after children from 1st September after the child’s fifth birthday up until their eighth birthday.
– Voluntary – looking after children aged eight and over, or if choosing to register voluntarily.
Local authorities provide pre-registration briefings for those wishing to become a childminder, so they know what it entails before deciding on it as a career path. There may be a cost to attend briefings, and individuals should contact their local authority or childminder agency for further information.
Criminal record checks
Part of registration requires childminders to undergo an enhanced criminal record check, as they will be looking after children at their homes on their own.
The organisation that holds criminal records will depend on the country within the UK, for example:
- England and Wales – Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
- Northern Ireland – AccessNI.
- Scotland – Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme.
If there is anyone else (over 16 years old) living in the house or frequent visitors, they will also be required to undergo a criminal record check.
A childminder will need to complete a health declaration form if they are looking to join the Early Years Register. Once the individual has filled the form in, they should take it to their GP for completion and approval. There is likely to be a fee for this service.
Completing a health declaration does not require a medical examination. However, if an individual has concerns about a medical condition affecting their ability to provide childcare, they should discuss this with their GP.
To become registered, individuals will also be required to provide contact details for two references.
Work experience and volunteering
Individuals may find that having work experience or volunteering in childcare can help them decide if working with children is for them.
- Work experience – gaining practical experience working with children can help an individual become a childminder and help them understand what the role entails. Individuals may want to work in a nursery or other childcare setting to gain experience before becoming self-employed.
- Volunteering – there may be opportunities to volunteer with children to gain more experience. There are many children’s charities that offer volunteering opportunities, e.g. Early Years Alliance, Barnardo’s and NSPCC.
Having experience in childcare and knowing what is involved will help individuals become a self-employed childminder.
There are no set academic requirements or specific qualifications needed to become a childminder. However, childminders will need certain training to become registered, for example:
- A childcare course covering the early years foundation stage (EYFS) statutory framework.
- Child protection and safeguarding children training.
- Paediatric first aid.
- Food safety and hygiene training.
Refresher training will be required to stay registered. It also keeps knowledge and skills up to date.
Some additional courses that may be useful for childminders include:
- Childminding business.
- Allergen awareness training.
- Anaphylaxis awareness training.
- Equality and diversity.
- Health and safety training.
- COVID-19 in childcare.
- Managing challenging behaviour.
- Child neglect awareness.
- Understanding bullying.
- Child sexual exploitation.
- Understanding GDPR.
If individuals intend to care for children with special needs or disabilities, they will require additional training, which could include:
- A course covering the SEND code of practice: 0 to 25 years.
- Autism awareness.
- ADHD awareness.
- Children’s mental health.
The exact training a childminder requires will depend on the needs and ages of children cared for in their home.
Attending training courses will be a cost that childminders will need to budget for.
Tests and assessments
As childminders will be helping to support the educational needs and learning development of children whilst in their care, there may be a requirement for them to complete an English and maths test.
For a childminder to become registered, their home, garden and any equipment they will use will need to pass an assessment. Ofsted, or equivalent, will inspect the premises. Further information about Ofsted inspections can be found on GOV.UK.
There are additional responsibilities associated with being self-employed, for example:
- Having the correct insurances, i.e. public liability and home/car business. If employing an assistant, employer’s liability insurance will be required.
- Registering with HMRC.
- Filing tax returns.
- Registering with the ICO to hold personal data (to comply with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the GDPR).
Learning does not stop with experience or once someone becomes qualified. Attending relevant training courses and having additional certifications can help childminders enter the profession, enhance their reputation and keep their knowledge and skills current.
Professional bodies and associations, such as the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) and TACTYC – Association for Professional Development in Early Years, can also advise childminders on how they can continue their professional development. As well as looking on professional body websites, it is worth carrying out some local research to see what the demand is like for childminders in the area.
Having more relevant training and competence will open up more opportunities for childminders and is likely to increase business.
Childminders may be required to pick up and drop off children and take them for outings in their own vehicles. Therefore, they should have a full clean driving licence and may require business insurance.
How much do childminders earn?
What childminders will earn is variable, as most are self-employed and will set their own rates. It will also depend on how many children are cared for, the hours a childminder works and the expenses they have to pay, e.g. utilities and training.
Most childminders are paid hourly and will charge between £4.00 and £6.00 per hour. However, the rate should be agreed upon with parents/guardians, including whether they will get 30 hours free childcare.
Where do childminders work?
Childminders work from their own homes, which are classed as domestic premises. They can also work at other people’s homes with other childminders.
As part of their working day, they may also visit:
- Homes of parents/guardians.
- Parks, gardens, woodlands and recreational areas.
- Playgroups, nurseries and schools.
- Attractions, such as museums, zoos and animal parks.
- Cafes or restaurants.
- Shops and supermarkets.
- Doctors, dentists and hospitals.
- Local police and fire stations.
Types of childminding roles to specialise in
There are different types of childminding roles, for example:
- Early years childminders – look after children aged five years old and under.
- Over 5s childminders – look after children from five to eight years old (or 12 years old in Wales).
- SEND childminders – look after children with special needs and/or disabilities.
- Before-school childminders – look after children before school hours.
- After-school childminders – look after children after school hours.
- Evening childminders – look after children in the evenings.
- Assistant childminders – support childminders to look after children in their own home.
- Weekend childminders – look after children at weekends.
- School holiday childminders – look after children specifically over the school holidays.
- Overnight care childminders – provide childcare overnight, usually for parents who work night shifts. It does require additional equipment and procedures for overnight stays.
- Emergency childminders – look after children in an emergency, usually if the regular childminder is unavailable.
Some childminders may choose to look after children of different ages, and others may focus on specific children, such as those with SEND. It is important that childminders are inclusive and do not discriminate against children, either intentionally or unintentionally. Childminders may also decide to provide childcare on specific days or times or be available at any time.
All different childminding roles will require differing knowledge, skills, experience and qualities. However, most childminders will need to know how to safeguard children, administer paediatric first aid, prepare food safely and hygienically, plan and provide learning and development activities and keep accurate records. Any additional areas of expertise required will depend on the type of childminding an individual wants to carry out and when they want to work.
If childminders do not carry out their role properly, it can result in a poor reputation, removal of registration and even enforcement action if a child is harmed whilst in their care. Therefore, a childminder must have the necessary competence (knowledge, skills and experience) to provide professional childcare. They should also know the limits of their competency and not carry out duties if they have not been trained and are not competent.
Childcare standards, laws and guidelines are updated regularly. Therefore, childminders need to keep abreast with the latest developments and changes in legislation to remain legally compliant and ensure they are providing the best possible childcare. Continuing professional development (CPD) gives childminders the knowledge and skills to keep up to date with these changes and understand their responsibilities.
Joining a professional body can help prospective and current childminders enhance their career and reputation. The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) and TACTYC – Association for Professional Development in Early Years offer membership, information and guidance to childminders.
There is ample opportunity for career progression within childcare. With more qualifications and experience, a childminder may take on a childminder assistant and expand their business or coordinate a team of childminders. They can also decide to focus on a particular area of childcare, such as SEND or early years. Alternatively, they may want to become employed and work in a nursery, playground or another childcare setting.
Having the knowledge, skills and experience can also lead to a career in different industries. For example, a childminder may want to train others to become childminders or work as a teaching assistant in a school.
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