Managing a businesslike relationship with parents, childminders are well respected and important to the families who employ them. Childminders' fees vary regionally. Income will also depend on the number of children cared for and the hours worked.
Many childminders join networks linked with local children's centres and extended schools, where they contribute to the centre's outreach service.
Some childminders take leadership roles as network co-ordinators. Liaising with a children's centre team, a co-ordinator enables network colleagues to use the centre's toy libraries, meeting rooms and stay and play sessions. Childminders may use a centre's creche facilities so they can attend staff training and meet other early years professionals. The co-ordinator oversees vacancy co-ordination and holiday cover and represents colleagues at meetings for centre staff and agencies delivering children's centre services.
Local authority grants may be available for newly registered childminders in England. Start-up grants help with the costs of buying toys and equipment, National Childminding Association (NCMA) or equivalent membership, insurance, minor premises adaptation, registration and inspection fees and initial induction, including first aid training.
A childminder's typical day might include visiting a park, local shops, library, playgroup or children's centre. He or she plans fun and stimulating learning activities, monitors each child's development, provides meals and snacks and takes children to and from school, preschool and clubs. Many childminders join in communal activities with colleagues.
REGISTRATION AND TRAINING
Ofsted registration is required by childminders caring for one or more children aged from birth to eight years where at least one individual child attends for a total of more than two hours. Local authorities provide information, application packs and EYFS details. Following an application and payment, Ofsted advises on Criminal Records Bureau disclosures, required for all those aged 16 and over who are regularly in the childminder's home.
Registration involves a premises inspection and interview to check that the childminder can meet the requirements set out in the EYFS. If the application is successful, a certificate is issued setting out the conditions of registration. This must be displayed where parents can read it. Ofsted then carries out regular inspections to ensure the childminder continues to meet the requirements of the EYFS.
Training courses are accessed through NCMA tutors, colleges, training centres or distance learning providers. Prior to Ofsted registration, childminders should complete a Paediatric First Aid course and, within six months of registration, the Introduction to Childcare Practice (home-based) course, which is currently unit one of the Diploma in Home-based Childcare, delivered over 12 hours and examined by multiple-choice question paper.
While this is still being delivered as the DHC 1 unit until 30 September 2010, after this date it is being replaced by the Level 3 Diploma for the Children's Workforce. NCMA has been working with Cache to offer the home-based unit of this diploma and learners can now sign up to this. The home-based unit of the full Level 3 will take around 40 hours' study, including assessment tasks. Successful candidates will be awarded four credits towards the full Level 3. There are flexible learning opportunities - independent home study, online study and traditional class tutoring.
Candidates interested in taking the new diploma should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Childminders should hold public liability insurance.
CASE STUDY - JANICE JINKS
Janice works with the NCMA Children Come First Network, which provides childcare and support to disabled children and their families. The network has close links with children's centres, other professionals and multi-agencies. She says, 'Getting involved with this work was a change of direction for me - I had a genuine interest in providing this specialist care.
'I provide respite care for families with children on the autistic spectrum. The families really benefit and use the time for everyday chores such as shopping.
'The care I provide impacts on the entire family unit, at times restoring the harmony lost in the challenges of caring for a child with a disability.
'My setting is unusual in having a sensory room and garden constructed to engage children with severe autism. There are bubble tubes, UVA lighting and aromatherapy equipment, plus an outside hot tub with laser lights and dancing waters. The children can use the hot tub in the twilight hours, with floating colour-changing orbs, which enhance the visual effects while they watch the stars at night.
'I was recruited as a support childminder for part of Doncaster's first Support Childminding Scheme, now in its fourth year. We are a team of experienced childminders who have completed extensive additional training, including a 12-week basic counselling skills course. We offer support and guidance to newly registered childminders for up to a year.
'We help new childminders identify their own training needs and support them in improving their practice to provide the best outcomes for families and children. We are committed to raising the profile of childminders and the standard of care provided.
'It is important that childminders provide inclusive care and are of benefit to the whole family. I receive great job satisfaction from my role. I believe my input is valued and respected and has a direct effect on the lives of children.'