DfE renews drive to set up childminder agencies

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4Children is supporting nurseries, schools and local authorities to open childminder agencies in a new push by the Department for Education to expand the scheme across England.

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Childminder agencies can match up childminders with families looking for childcare

The children's charity is hosting information events across the country this week in Birmingham, Taunton, Manchester, London and Leeds, attended by around 100 people who have expressed an interest in setting up agencies.

Organisations that are considering setting up childminder agencies include private nurseries, schools and local authorities.

Around 40 people are expected to attend events in London and Leeds aimed specifically at recruiting local authorities to take part in the initiative.

There are currently eight organisations registered with Ofsted as childminder agencies, including training companies, schools and groups of childminders.

So far just one is run by a local authority. Richmond and Kingston registered Leap Ahead Achieving for Children in May last year, which now has 12 childminders on its books.

Others include training company @Home Childcare in Nottingham, which has eight childminders, and Rutland Early Years Agency, which has been set up by a group of three childminders.

Launched by the former education minister Liz Truss in 2013, childminder agencies provide childminders with a range of services, including continuous professional development, training, quality assurance checks and business support. They are also a one-stop shop for finding childcare for parents and can match them with a suitable local childminder.

Imelda Redmond, chief executive of 4Children, said, ‘We are pleased to play this key role in supporting the Department for Education to make childminder agencies a success.

'Childminders are hugely valuable to the early years workforce but many are struggling to see it as a sustainable career choice.

'Childminder agencies can offer practical guidance and help with the challenges they face, offering ongoing training, business advice, and a strong support network.’

Earlier this month Ofsted published a draft handbook for inspectors on how childminder agencies will be inspected.

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