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As an Ofsted Registered Childminder I thought it might be useful for readers to know what we have to do to get registered, how standards are maintained and how we are governed. Becoming a childminder is not an easy option and you do need to be committed to a Childs development to ensure your business is a success. I have met both excellent and not so good childminders (very much in the minority) but, as a parent myself, I do believe childminders offer children a great start in life.
How to become a childminder #######################
Firstly you need to attend a pre-registration briefing session. This is carried out by your local Early Years department (look on www.childcarelink.gov.uk). They will book you onto your nearest course. When you attend it gives you an in-depth insight into what is expected of you as a childminder and it really makes you think about whether you can offer children a service that they deserve and require. Once you have made that decision then you have to complete and application pack. This includes Criminal Record Bureau forms for you and each member of your family over the age of 16. You need to have an enhanced check (highest level) to ensure your suitability as a childminder. This is actually the longest process; mine took 2 months to come through. Then, you need to complete a medical form and have this verified by your doctor, who will add his own comments on your answers and medical history as well as his thoughts on your suitability as a childminder. Doctors surgeries do charge for this service, approx £30 which you pay for. So, all the forms have now been received and Ofsted will call to arrange a visit! The most nerve racking bit of all! Your house will be scrutinised and you will be questioned on your knowledge of the National Standards. These are Government guidelines that have to be adhered to by all within the Childcare sector. I have met several inspectors now and each of them was absolutely lovely. Very very professional and committed to their role but also full of advice and encouragement. They also give you recommendations that you have to complete by your next inspection (6 months). My recommendations were to cut down the ivy from the garden (very poisonous to children) and to ensure my pipes are lagged in the bathroom as they are very close to the sink and a small child could potentially burn their leg if the leant on it.
At last! If everything came back ok and your inspection went well then you will become registered and you can start minding when your certificate arrives, not before! I am registered for up to 5 children, 3 of which can be under 5 and 2 under 8. You do not need to be registered for children over 8 and they are not included in your childminding numbers. So now you can start advertising by means of posters at local schools or shop windows, or, for free, Yellow Pages offer registered childminders a free one line ad. Another option (very successful) is to place an ad in your local paper. My ad cost approx £12 per week and the response was great. Doctor's surgeries are another good place as expectant mums may see your ad. The most successful way of filling your spaces is word of mouth. Get to know your support childminder and other childminders as they will refer parents to you. Toddler groups are fantastic places for networking as well as being great social environments for children to develop in. Another source is the Childrens information Service. They send out lists to parents of childminders who closely meet their requirements.
You need to have completed 2 courses within 6 months of becoming registered. The first one is the ICP (introducing Childminding Practice). This is a 20 hour course and usually available in colleges on a Saturday or evenings. It is a good insight into childminding and the majority of the course is just good old common sense. This course then leads onto the DCP (Developing Childminding Practice) and that then leads onto the 3rd and final part of the CACHE certification, the ECP (Extending Childminding Practice). After this you can go onto to do an NVQ. The second course you need to complete is an Early Years First Aid course. Lifesavers courses are not sufficient, it has to be tailored for children and the course needs to be at least 12 hours long. The certification lasts for 3 years and you will then be required to attend a refreshers session.
Types of minding #############
I mind children 24/7. I am able to care for up to 2 children overnight which has proved successful as I live close by to an airport. Cabin crew find it very hard to find suitable childcare and overnight care can be incredibly expensive so us Childminders offer an invaluable service. At present my 2 overnighters can stay with me for up to 5 days and nights in a row and it workd really well for both the parent and I. My other minded children are Monday to Friday only and usually between the hours of 8 and 5. To be a success you need to be as flexible as you can, but not forgetting your own family and committments. Remember, it is your business and you decide what you can and can't do. Parents do sometimes forget this and treat you as they would a nanny or babysitter. You are a professional and at the end of the day minding their most precious possession. It doesnt hurt to remind them if they start demanding too much from you.
This is entirely up to you as it is your business, however market research will give you a clear indication what the going rate is in your area. You may want to include premium rates for out of hours care, or, meal costs. I charge a set hourly rate between the hours of 7am and 7pm then my night rate starts. I do offer a discount for siblings but you are not obliged to do so as remember they are taking up one of your very few spaces. I charge a fee per meal and during school holidays I have an agreed daily rate as the hourly rate may prove very expensive for some. Again, that is entirely up to you.
My house resembles a scaled down version of The Early Learning Centre, but with careful planning and organisation, at the end of the day, the toys can be cleared away and your home becomes yours again! It can be expensive setting up but you do not need to buy everything at once. Car boot sales are great sources just be careful that the toys you buy there are complete, safe and preferably have the british kitemark. The safety of the children is paramount and so keep all toys nice and clean and in good repair. If broken, throw it away! Some areas offer start up grants. This can be up to £300 and is usually offered to childminders in low income areas. This money can be used for any equipment that you require, not just toys. The best way of seeing what safety equipment you need is to get on your hands and knees, crawl around your house and look at it from a baby's perpective. When you come across something unsafe, i.e. stairs, buy a stairgate. Buy good quality plug sockets as my son can remove the little plug in ones very easily. The lockable types are great and quite cheap to buy.
Have fun! Its a great job, just watching a child grow and develop, learning all the time is so very rewarding. Knowing you have played such an important part can be quite overwhelming, especially when a child leaves you to go to school. Make each day interesting and varied and above all fun. Learning through play is essential in a childs development and enhances their social and intellectual skills. If you think you have what it takes then go for it, there is a mum or dad out there waiting for you to register! Good luck
Extra Info for parents
Childminders should show you their Ofsted report. However, if you have not seen it you can view it online at www.ofsted.gov.uk. You need to have their registration number which will be on your contract. Do not panic if it is not their. It is relatively new and so it should appear within 28 days of their last inspection