Looking back on the last 25 years I realise just how many changes there have been to childminding since I took those first tentative steps into childcare.
Back then you simply contacted your local Social Services, they sent you some forms to fill in and after just a few weeks someone came out to have a chat, look around your property to ensure it was safe. (I remember all I had to do was put some safety film on low level glass in my front door). A few weeks later your certificate arrived and you were ready to go! You didn’t need any formal qualifications and no training was available.
I was lucky in that I had good support from a well established childminding group in the area. I soon became involved and joined the committee. However, this was not the case in all areas and I’m sure there must have been lots of childminders who worked with little or no personal support.
The National ChildMinding Association supported childminders on a national basis via membership and that was the main information source at the time. The Association still works extremely hard for childminders and now has many local support teams.
What started as something to do to earn some money while my own children were small soon took off into a well established business and I never felt the need to do anything else. My interest grew and I became involved as much as possible, joining local committees that involved childcare or supported childcare.
In the early days childminding was viewed as a very poor relation in the world of childcare; thankfully that has all changed. It has always been my mission to do all I can to have childminding seen as a valuable childcare option so in 2005 I set up a website (www.childmindinghelp.co.uk) with the hope of bringing information to childminders and prospective childminders from the view of an established one.
I felt that perhaps my experience might help others and from the feedback I get I believe it does. Having searched the internet I also found that there was little support by way of forums or on-line chat, so I also set up the Childminding Forum (www.childmindingforum.co.uk). This has proved to be immensely popular and currently has in excess of 2,000 members.
The first of two of the biggest changes to childminding came in 2001 when Ofsted took over the role of overseeing and inspecting childminders and then in 2008 there was the advent of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).
The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) has proved to be one of the biggest challenges to childminding in my opinion. Childminders are now working to exactly the same framework as nurseries, pre-schools and reception classes. When the EYFS pack first started dropping through our letterboxes it looked the most terrifying pack of booklets ever produced! At the time little was known about what was expected from us and there was little explanation as to how it should be implemented. Therefore one of the Forum’s hottest topics has been the EYFS as members have supported each other with ideas, samples of paperwork and moral support during Ofsted inspections.
Training is now widely available to childminders and through this the standard of care has been greatly improved. Many now have recognised qualifications such as NVQ and Open University Degrees in childcare. A Paediatric First Aid qualification and attendance on an Introduction to Childminding course is a compulsory requirement before registration is permitted.
So, for me, from a beginning where I simply welcomed children into my home, set them down with a variety of toys, offered them the occasional craft activity, read them books and took them out – just as I had with my own children – I now have to keep records to show that the child is meeting targets set within the EYFS to ensure that they are developing in all the areas of Physical Development, Creative Development, Personal Social and Emotional Development, a Knowledge and Understanding of the World, Problem Solving and Numeracy and Communication, Language and Literacy.
This involves observing and assessing the children and making written development records. Many childminders now have written policies and procedures to ensure the smooth running of their business and to give parents full information. They have signed permission forms for a variety of activities to ensure the safety of the children and to make sure they meet the parents requirements and needs plus to protect themselves from any misunderstanding on what they can and cannot do while caring for that child. I believe all this has been a wonderful, positive step forward for childminding and the view that children should be cared for in a safe, secure home from home environment.
Pauline is a Registered Childminder.