The National Childminding Association (NCMA) is a membership organisation and national charity that promotes quality home-based childcare for the benefit of children, families and communities. It already speaks on behalf of the 75,000 registered childminders in England and Wales and, now with a new membership package for nannies and other home-based childcarers, increasingly for home-based childcare in England and Wales. NCMA has been supporting the development of quality home-based childcare and promoting its benefits since 1977.
Registered childminders and other home-based childcarers such as nannies have always strived to provide professional, caring childcare services. However, many parents do not realise that there are training and inspection regulations for childminders and home-based childcarers, just as there are for nursery workers.
All childminders must by law be registered with Ofsted if they care for children under the age of 8 years. Childminders who care for children over 8 years of age can opt to join the Childcare Approval Scheme, which means they voluntarily undergo a Criminal Records Bureau check. The Childcare Approval Scheme, which is separate from Ofsted, applies only to childcarers living in England. All registered childminders take introductory and first-aid training. All Ofsted-registered childminders should have public liability insurance, a health check and a valid first-aid certificate for people who work with children. This means that any parent using their childcare service can claim Tax Credits to support the costs of childcare, if they are eligible.
The childcare sector has seen a great deal of change over the last two years, not least the Government’s 10 Year Strategy for Childcare, which maps all future legislation on childcare. Childminders have a huge role to play in delivering this strategy.
Childminders are developing as a key part of the childcare workforce
Currently two thirds of registered childminders have undertaken 16 days or more of training, with over a quarter of all childminders currently working towards a NVQ Level 3 qualification. NCMA members agreed at their Annual Conference last year that all registered childminders who are members of NCMA should train to at least a Level 3 NVQ qualification within five years of registration or approval in recognition of the fact childminders care for children unsupervised. Members asked that NCMA campaign for this to be a requirement in legislation by 2010, so all registered childminders achieve a Level 3 qualification by 2015.
This would ensure that registered childminders are better able to demonstrate their professionalism, be recognised as part of the wider children’s workforce, gaining respect from other professionals and having the opportunity to broaden their career in the children’s profession if they wish.
In order to help this process the NCMA has revised and updated its specialist training course for childminders, in partnership with the Council for Awards in Children’s Care and Education (CACHE). Now called the Diploma in Home-based Childcare, the qualification is suitable for any home-based childcarer (nanny, childminder) and is a Level 3 qualification. It is taught via five modules, making it very accessible to learners. As each module is completed, a stepping stone is reached and a certificate will be issued. When all are completed, the Level 3 qualification is awarded.
Childminders are supported in their training through Quality Assured Children Come First Networks. There are over 256 Children Come First childminding networks across the country, with more and more becoming accredited all the time.
Childminders also work with extended schools and children’s centres
Children Come First Childminding Networks have a key role in the delivery of the extended schools initiative and working with children’s centres, another aspect of the Government’s 10 Year Strategy. The Government wanted to see schools providing care for children daily from 8am until 6pm, providing parents with more flexible childcare.
Most childminders already offer this wrap-around childcare for school age children and NCMA is actively working with local authorities to ensure schools involve them in the planning of their extended services. Many NCMA members have also contacted their local schools to make them aware of their services. It is important to provide parents with a choice in before and after school care, as many prefer their children to be in a home-based setting after the traditional school day. Childminding networks have also been earmarked to work with children’s centres to complement their childcare services.
There are many examples where childminders are part of wider services within a school or children’s centre, such as running after school clubs, offering individual children home-based care, working with nurseries and reception classes and much more. One excellent example can be seen with the Cheylesmore Childminding Group in Coventry. They have developed a relationship with both the local school and the adjoining nursery school to provide a full range of wrap-around childcare. Other childminding networks are working with children’s centres, hosting drop-in mornings and training.
Help for parents with childcare costs
The registration of approved childminders allows parents to use the childcare element of the Working Tax Credit, making childcare more affordable for families. If a childminder cares for a child aged 7 or under for more than two hours a day for reward, they must by law be registered and inspected by Ofsted. The costs of childminding vary widely, depending on many differing factors. Some childminders, for example, include the cost of nappies, food and taking children on outings as an inclusive part of the service they charge for. Charges also change depending on local factors such as demand for childcare. Average costs among NCMA members vary from £3.06 per hour to £5.18 per hour.
Childminders promote a healthy way of life
Childminders, as part of the Ofsted’s national standards must agree to promote healthy lifestyles and offer healthy choices for children’s meals. To highlight this element of a childminder’s work, NCMA themed its National Childminding Week, Food, Fitness and Fun.
The week ran between 17 and 24 June. Childminders from all over the country organised fun activities and picnics with a focus on active and healthy lifestyles between. NCMA even held its own healthy tea party in the national office, with a magic show. Liz Bayram, Chief Executive, and Susanna Dawson, Chair of the organisation, both joined in with the children in a successful start to the week of celebration! National Childminding Week is also part of a wider month of celebration throughout June. National Sure Start Month aims to increase awareness of and celebrate early years and childcare services.
Finding a local childminder
Your local Children’s Information Service will list available childcare in your area. Visit http://www.o2.co.uk/parents or call 0800 096 0296. NCMA produces a free booklet Choosing a Home-based Childcarer, which provides all the information needed when choosing a suitable childcarer for your family. This is available to download from the NCMA website: www.ncma.org.uk or by calling the free information line on 0800 169 4486.