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How to become a childminder


 childminder with babyPursuing a career as a childminder can be a rewarding and enjoyable path for anyone with a flair for working with children. It’s an important role where the safety of children is obviously paramount, but it’s also vital that children are cared for in other ways. The best childminders don’t view their role simply as ensuring that a child is safe during their time together. Instead, these childminders are eager to improve the lives of children in their care, promoting an environment where fun and learning can be intertwined together, and where social skills can be developed.

The decision to become a childminder isn’t one that should be taken lightly, and you should ensure that you know what’s involved and how your career might progress before you commit to the role. It’s also possible that you’ll want to invest in some qualifications to help you develop the skills you need to be an excellent childminder.

 

What does the role entail?

Looking after children for a living is a complex task. At a basic level, you need to meet the physical needs of children in your care, ensuring that they’re kept safe during the period you’re caring for them. Along with looking after their physical health, childminders make sure that children are well cared for emotionally, as well as letting them learn and have fun in a safe environment.

On a day to day basis, then, you can expect to undertake numerous tasks relating to the health and wellbeing of the children in your care. You’ll need to ensure that the children feel secure, are in a warm environment, and are properly fed. This will, in turn, entail planning, preparing, and serving meals to the children. These will need to take account of dietary needs, parental requests, and any other considerations such as religious requirements. If you look after several children with differing requirements, it’s important that you’re able to keep them appropriately fed according to their needs, along with successfully managing the desires of the child.

Other tasks that you’ll need to undertake as a childminder depend on the age of the children you’re looking after. For instance, if you’re looking after a baby or toddler, you’ll need to change nappies and make up bottles. Older children could require walking to school and picking up again afterwards. If you’re looking after children of varying ages, this obviously brings with it logistical issues that you’ll need to consider. You’ll also be required to provide a range of activities both inside and outside the house. That’s why it’s vital that your home includes a secure outdoor area that is as equipped with toys and other materials as the inside of your house is. Childminding is generally not a static pursuit either. You’ll likely take the children on outings to places like the park or to toddler groups or clubs. It’s important, then, that you feel comfortable with caring with children outside the home, and that you have any necessary equipment such as car seats and, indeed, space within your car.

Childminding doesn’t only involve the actual childcare aspect of things though. It’s also important to note that you’ll be required to keep meticulous records and ensure that the environment is fit for childcare. Paperwork is pivotal to make sure that you keep your legal obligations up to date, so make sure that you’re prepared to fulfil all these before you decide to pursue a career in childcare.

In the UK, being a childminder means that you care for children on domestic premises. This can be your own home or someone else’s home, although it isn’t usually the home of one of the children. A childminder either works alone or with a maximum of two other childminders or assistants. To be considered a professional childminder, you have to care for at least one child for more than two hours a day, but this doesn’t have to be a continuous period of time.

The rules of how many children a childminder at care for at a time vary depending on the ages of the children involved. The legal limit is up to 6 children under 8 years of age, with only 1 baby under the age of 1 to be cared for at any given time. There are additional rules relating to school age children and wraparound school care, but just bear in mind that the legal limit is 6 children under 8 at a time.

How much does a childminder earn?

As a registered childminder working in your own home, you’ll be classified as self-employed. In these circumstances, you must remember that you’ll need to register your business with HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) and be responsible for filing your own accounts.

The typical hourly income of a childminder (pre-tax) is as follows. These figures are taken from the Professional Association for Children and Early Years (Pacey) “Childminder Fees Survey 2017”:

No. of Children

1 Child

3 Children

6 Children

Low Charge (£3.00)

£3.00

£9.00

£18.00

Average Charge (£4.64)

£4.64

£13.92

£27.84

High Charge (£10.00)

£10.00

£30.00

£60.00


The following projections are based on the average rate above (£4.64) and 30 hours of caring for children per week. It should be noted that these are based on the average rate being applied to all children under the care of a childminder without any sibling discounts or other individual discounts being applied. They also disregard any holidays taken by the childminder (as a self-employed person, these are necessarily unpaid) and disregard fluctuations in the number of hours and number of children cared for.

Time Period

1 Child

3 Children

6 Children

Weekly

£139

£417

£835

Monthly

£556

£1,670

£3,340

Annually

£6,681

£20,044

£40,089


According to the “Childminder Fees Survey 2017”, the average of a childminder is £18,600.

There are costs associated with being a childminder. Some are detailed below (start-up costs), but others include equipment, food, and fuel. The survey found that the average annual costs of a childminder is £8,500.

Therefore, the average net income of a childminder in the UK is £10,100.

 

What qualifications does a childminder need?

You don’t need to hold formal qualifications to become a childminder, although it can be preferable to hold childcare qualifications prior to registering. These can take the form of basic childminding qualifications such as a Working with Children certificate, which look at safety, food, and health to ensure that a childminder can effectively handle all day-to-day occurrences.

There are also requirements relating to the development of young children which will need to be considered. For example, you’ll need to complete early years foundation stage (EYFS) training to demonstrate that you understand the responsibilities of caring for children under 5 years old. These include standards for care, learning, and development of children from birth up to the age of 5. All Ofsted-registered providers of early years care must adhere to the EYFS in England. There are plenty of resources available to ensure that you’re fulfilling the responsibilities of the EYFS and options for qualifications which will help you deliver it. A Certificate in Child Development 0-5, for instance, will, help you understand the factors which affect a child’s development and growth, along with the different areas of development such as physical, cognitive, and linguistic. While these courses may sound intimidating, they generally work to place things in an effective framework which you can then refer to throughout your career. Therefore, investing in such a course early on can prevent roadblocks further down the road.

 

How to register as a childminder

Registering as a childminder is a process than can take several months and you’ll need a few things in place before you can begin the process. For instance, you’ll need a secure postal address and an email address to allow Ofsted to contact you.

Your local authority is your first port of call when you’re looking to register as a childminder. Every local authority has an Early Years team who will be able to provide you with information about introductory training and any courses that are available in your area. It’s also worth making note at this point of any support that they offer for established childminders, as you may have recourse to it later while you’re working as a childminder.

Before you attempt to register with Ofsted, you’ll need to apply for Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks for you and everybody who will come into contact with the children you’re caring for. This includes older teenagers within your household. You will also need to have undertaken first aid training and introductory training. It’s also possible to provide a date within 8 weeks of the application date when this training will take place so, at the very least, you must have booked the training within this time period.

All applications to Ofsted must be made through Ofsted Online using a Government Gateway account. The system is designed to be as accessible as possible, including guidance notes and the ability to only fill in the sections that are relevant to you and your career. To apply, you must have the legal right to work in the UK. Part of the application is a Health Declaration which will need to be printed and taken to your GP. You can’t complete the application without filling this in first and it’s important to recognise that GPs charge for this service.

Your application to Ofsted will include several references. Be sure to supply names of people who are already willing to act as a referee and can attest to your ability to work with children. Bear in mind that your application can’t progress until your references are received by Ofsted.

All childminders must register on the Ofsted Early Years Register if you’re going to be looking after children who haven’t yet reached the end of their school reception year (5 years old). In order to be accepted onto the Early Years Register, you’ll have to demonstrate that you meet all aspects of the “Statutory requirements for the Early Years’ Foundation Stage” (there are some circumstances where you’re exempt from this). These requirements include elements of safeguarding and welfare, along with learning and development requirements. Registration on the Early Years Register also requires DBS checks on every person in the household to ensure that they’re suitable to be around children.

The second register, the Childcare Register, has two parts to it. If you’re planning on caring for children between the ages of 5 and 7, you must register on the Compulsory part of the Childcare Register. If you’re only caring for children over the age of 8, you should register on the Voluntary part of it.

As most childminders care for a range of ages during their career, it’s general practice to register on the Early Years Register and both parts of the Childcare Register. This saves potential problems in the future if you need to take on, perhaps, a younger sibling of a child over 8 you’ve previously been caring for.

It’s important to note that the above information is correct in England. Steps to registration may differ in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

What are the start-up costs of becoming a childminder?

All businesses come with costs to get started. To become a registered childminder, there are certain requirements you must meet. The following is just a guide, you’ll need to check for up to date information in your local area. Bear in mind, too, that some of the costs relating to equipment and insurance, for example, will vary wildly depending on your individual circumstances. It’s also advisable that you look at the qualifications on offer to ensure the best chance of success during your application and in the early months of your career, which are often the most critical.

    • You’ll need to register with Ofsted which, depending on the registers you choose to join, can cost either £35 or £104.
    • Every person over 16 who lives or works in your home will require a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. The current approximate cost is £52 per person. You can also arrange to be part of the DBS Update Service which involves an annual fee of £13 and this means that any future employers are able to check your status without having to undergo more checks.
    • Before you can apply to register with Ofsted, you’ll need a full paediatric First Aid course. The approximate cost of this is £100.
    • You’ll need Public Liability insurance as soon as you register as a childminder, whether or not you have children to mind immediately. This costs approximately £60.
    • You may have to increase your car and home premiums to cover business use.
    • All safety equipment in your home must be appropriate and up to date. These include fire detection and control equipment, along with first aid kits. The costs of these can vary depending on where you purchase them from, but make sure that they adhere to all legal standards.
    • You’ll have to receive a health declaration from your GP. The fee relating to this can vary from surgery to surgery, as there is no single recommended fee set by the NHS for these services.
    • There will also be costs relating to toys and other equipment. You might have much of this already, but there will probably be additions you need to purchase such as additional car seats or travel cots.
    • Your home and garden must be safe for children. This may require initial outlay in relation to internal safety gates and external hazard prevention such as fencing costs and paving. These costs naturally vary on a case by case basis, so it’s worth thinking carefully about what improvements may need to be done before you decide to proceed.

 

Step by step guide to becoming a childminder

The following is intended as a rough guide to becoming a childminder. Be sure to check for any alterations in local and national guidance.

    • Contact the Families Information Services at your local council to ask when there is a childminding pre-registration meeting near you.
    • Apply for DBS checks for yourself and others within your household.
    • Have a medical check with a medical declaration supplied by your GP.
    • Complete an introductory training course.
    • Complete a paediatric first-aid course.
    • Fill in your application and return it to Ofsted.
    • Be subject to an Ofsted home inspection and an interview.
    • Receive Ofsted Registration Certificate.
    • Obtain Public Liability insurance.
    • Arrange for extra car and home contents insurance if applicable.
    • Register with HMRC as self-employed.
    • Register as a data controller with the Information Commissioner’s Office.
    • Ensure your record keeping systems are in place.
    • Consider your marketing strategy.
    • Start caring for your first charges.

 

Career development options

Gaining qualifications at any stage of your childminding career will improve your skills, particularly in delivery of the EYFS, but it will also open the door to further career opportunities and improve your reputation as a childminder. Therefore, it’s a good idea to look at your course options at every stage of your development to ensure that you’re making the most of your potential.

For instance, along with general courses to improve your knowledge and expertise around childcare, there are also specific qualifications available that relate to certain areas of childminding. With the growing demand for childcare which helps children with special needs, there are opportunities for childminders with interests in this field to broaden their skills. There are courses which can help you to understand autism and work out effective ways of supporting positive behaviour, for example, or courses which can help you deal with speech, language and communication difficulties. Utilising such courses can set you on the path to becoming a specialist in caring for children with certain conditions and problems. If this is something that interests you, or there is demand for it within your area, it can prove to be an excellent career path.

Ultimately, where you decide to take your childminding career is up to you. There are opportunities for you to specialise in the children you care for or simply to improve your professional skills and knowledge to ensure that you’re giving the best possible care to those children in your charge. You may decide to move from childminding into a more professional educational setting, and there are training pathways to assist with that too.

Summary

Becoming a childminder is, in concept, simple. You don’t need qualifications (although they help) and you’re effectively running your own business so you’re in control. However, childminding is a career which puts children at its heart. Fundamentally, then, you must have a passion for working with children which transcends just spending short amounts of time with them. Childminding is a vocation, but it is a rewarding one that can have a significant impact both on your life and the lives of every child you care for during your career.

If you think that childminding may be the right career path for you, be sure to check which qualifications you might want to obtain before taking the first steps. Knowing what lies ahead is the best way to be prepared for working with children.