How to become a childminder: 5 simple tips
Think childcare is for you? From balancing the books to finding work, we cover the essential steps every childminder should follow in order to be a success
Finding decent childcare has never seemed as important – or difficult – as it does today, with an increasing number of parents needing to work full-time, rising childcare costs and a lack of available options all putting pressure on the UK’s working parents.
This UK wide childcare issue has forced the government to develop new ways to lessen the burden – for instance the latest Autumn Statement announced that from 2017-18, the government will invest £30m to increase the average hourly rate childcare providers receive, and at least £50m in capital funding to create additional places in nurseries.
Despite increasing demand and support, the nursery industry – with its significant start-up, staffing and running costs combined with unreliable income streams and tight cashflow figures – has continued to decrease. Research from the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) revealed that the number of nurseries in the UK fell by 1,373 between March and August 2014. So, if you dream of working with children without the hefty commitment of running a full-blown nursery, becoming a childminder could be a viable option – with plenty of demand.
Childminding is a notoriously low-cost business to start. It’s also flexible and a great option for entrepreneurial parents who (while wanting to start a company) also have to look after their own kids. Furthermore, if you still aspire to open up your own nursery one day, becoming a childminder is a more risk averse way to start – enabling you to generate a customer base, build a strong reputation and get essential experience before dealing with the additional costs, staffing and regulations that come with opening up a day care.
If you think that childminding could be right for you, follow these simple five steps to get started.
1. Make sure you have the qualifications: A childminder is not a babysitter
While experience with children, patience and a surplus of energy are recommended traits for any would-be childminder – there are other qualifications and training that are also essential.
Your role as a childminder means that you will be educating pre-school children in basic reading, writing and numeracy that are necessary skills for starting school. You must keep ongoing assessment records according to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) course, which is a pre-school curriculum programme that aims to teach and track the development of children.
In addition to this, and before you even register as a childminder, you should get a paediatric first aid certificate and complete a local authority-approved childminder training course. Your local council will be able to provide you with courses or recommendations on where to gain both. Industry body PACEY runs courses too, which cover a range of set-up and running considerations including advice on ensuring the safety of children, play activities, and working with parents.
2. Follow the rules: Childcare regulations
While becoming a childminder involves fewer regulations than opening a nursery, you will still have to undergo a comprehensive registration process. As well as completing your childcare and first aid course, make sure to secure a DBS check (which checks suitability and for any prior criminal convictions) for you and anyone over 16 years of age that lives with you. You will also need to complete a medical check-up and fill out a health declaration booklet, where you must list any health problems and medications you are taking.
Once you have the above in place, you’ll need to register with Ofsted. An Ofsted representative r will arrange a home inspection, to check if your home is suitable for childminding. The officer will also question you on your learning and development strategy for the children under your care (Ofsted will continue to do check-ups and you will need to supply them with the assessment records mentioned above).
You will also need to get childminder insurance. For more information on childcare courses and regulations, check out our guide here.
3. Childproof your location
Even though becoming a childminder does not involve as many location-centric regulations as starting a nursery does, you must still ensure that your home has enough space and is suitable for children. This may mean making certain adaptions to your house or flat in order to meet regulations, which could include fixtures like plug covers, cupboard safety-locks and stair gates.
There are a few additional features a home can have that will make it more appealing to parents; for instance, a home with a garden or within close proximity to a school or playground is an added bonus.
Ofsted has a list of its safety and inspection requirements, for more information check out their website here.
4. Watch your numbers: Keep a close eye on cashflow
Starting a childminding business is one of the most affordable businesses you can launch. However, whilst it’s low-cost to start, it’s important to try to keep it as lean possible as it’s not the most lucrative business or reliable income necessarily.
The main expenses you will incur include training, first aid, Ofsted and insurance costs. You will also have to invest in some equipment like toys, games and learning materials, as well as the costs that are involved with making your home Ofsted approved and safe.
As mentioned, your earnings can be quite precarious as they depend on the number of hours a parent needs their children to be cared for. This can change depending on the season (school holidays are busier), a family vacation, or if a parent suddenly becomes available.
In order to prepare for this, some childminders set up a fee policy whereby parents still pay the full fee if the child falls ill or goes on holiday. You’ll need to find the right balance between a system that is fair to you but also allows you to remain competitive with nurseries and other childminders in your area.
One way to give yourself financial security while keeping parents happy is to set up agreed payment terms/ contract with parents from the off and try to set up leave for holidays. This way you can plan ahead for financial gaps. Also, make sure to regularly monitor money coming in and out of the business, for more on this check out our section on managing cashflow.
5. Reaching your market: Finding work
Reputation is everything in the childminding business so getting your first child or children in is one of the most difficult parts of starting out. While recommendations are still one of the main ways childminders access the market, there are other avenues. For instance, many start-up childcare businesses put flyers or written advertisements in areas that would be frequented by parents such as the doctors, dentists, play areas or even supermarkets.
You can also advertise on local websites such as your local county council site. Mumsnet, The Childminding Forum and Childcare.co.uk are all great resources, but try to avoid spending big on marketing and advertisement as there are plenty of affordable ways to find business. Another key way to access customers is through your own network – talk to friends, family members or former colleagues and see if any of them need a childminder or if they know anyone who’s looking for an affordable childcare option.
Once you have at least one child on your books, it will be much easier to find others as you can build up a reputation and get parents to recommend you.
So do you still feel like you have what it takes to be the next Nanny McPhee? Check out our comprehensive guide on becoming a childminder here.