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NEWS: DfE publishes findings from childminder research in England

Earlier this year, the Department for Education (DfE) commissioned the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) to conduct interviews with 33 current and former childminders in England.

The findings of this small and qualitative study have now been published in a report looking into four main areas:

  1. Bureaucratic challenges

Some childminders found paperwork burdensome, particularly with rapidly changing requirements. During the pandemic in particular, some childminders found Government communications was tailored to the general sector rather than childminders specifically. Suggestions for improvement include: targeted, childminder-specific information and guidance; making inspections shorter and more frequent; and having access to dedicated support personnel, for example at their local authority.

  1. Reasons for leaving the profession

Childminders said they enjoy working with children, the flexibility the job offers and working around their own children. Those who have left the profession reported reasons such as such as: lack of stability being self-employed; underfunding; low pay; loneliness; and feeling undervalued by government, families and the wider sector. Some suggested a change in ‘childminder’ terminology to reflect their professional status.

  1. Childminder agencies (CMAs)

Few of the childminders interviewed had awareness of CMAs. Those that did felt the assessor visits were less stressful than an Ofsted inspection; in particular because they were conducted by the same assessor who already knew the childminder well. They also felt the training offered was better than local authority training. Others reported concerns about losing control of their setting, failing to attract families and being less regulated than when registering with Ofsted directly.

  1. Childminding assistants

Some participants highlighted benefits to hiring assistants not only in expanding their business and income but also to have adult company. However others have concerns around additional management pressures, ability to pay staff and fill additional places.

PACEY supported with recruiting current and former childminders for these interviews, and we thank the PACEY members who were involved in this research.

Read the report in full

Liz Bayram, Chief Executive at PACEY comments:

“Childminders offer a high-quality, personalised and often flexible choice of early education and childcare for families, so we welcome the Department for Education’s efforts to support more people into the profession to address the increased decline in those leaving childminding. 

Although a small number were interviewed, these findings echo what we are hearing from our childminder members – low income, loneliness and increased uncertainty are driving many to leave the profession. Changes to regulation alone will not reverse this decline. We need a long-term strategy that addresses underfunding, low earnings and low morale in the workforce and champions childminders equally with others in the education sector.”