Childminding is a unique profession and having been registered for eighteen years, I thought I was pretty experienced. But then I decided to take on an assistant and I felt like a newbie.
So, with many questions to ask and wanting to seek accurate answers, my first stop was the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) website. Being a PACEY member gives me access to many training resources such as factsheets and there is one on assistants for both England and Wales.
Practicalities of employing an assistant
First things first, I contacted Ofsted. My potential assistant was also a registered Childminder (albeit newly registered) so I didn’t anticipate any problems and now the requirements and process has changed, this part is even simpler. I must say, I did find it difficult to find information on their website, but that might be me!
I rang my local tax office and spoke to a lady who gave me good advice about how to proceed. I looked at the HMRC website on how to register as an employer - this also had information about when and if you need to register.
Having dipped my toes in to the world of employment, I wondered what I had let myself in for and understand the concerns of one member on the PACEY Local forum who discussed whether her assistant is employed or self-employed. I enjoyed reading the responses as it confirms how supportive our community is.
Practicalities aside and Ofsted requirements conformed to, Public Liability Employers certificate on the wall and the tax man happy!
What does it mean to actually have an assistant?
After working as a single practitioner for many years, how would I feel having someone in ‘my space’? Would we be able to work together and what would my current ‘parents’ think?
It did seem a little strange at first, for both of us, and neither one of us wanted to tread on the other ones toes! But we proceeded carefully and now it feels natural - it’s good to have someone to bounce planning ideas off and share the messy craft, as well as many other benefits.
Some parents have commented on our partnership and feel that our personalities complement each other and this has enhanced the experience their children receive as a result.
It was good to receive such positive feedback from the parents and I know the children enjoy having us both around. When I’m picking the school children up they will often ask if my assistant is at home and then run in all at once talking at her!
There have been a few minor issues along the way, mostly surrounding paperwork, which need to reflect working with an assistant - this involved reading through policies and permission forms.
Would I recommend working with an assistant?
This was unknown territory, but I’m glad I ventured in, my initial concerns were unfounded and it has opened up another dimension to my childminding experience, as well as to the experience offered to the children and their parents.
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About the author
Jane is Chair of PACEY’s Board of Trustees. She has been a registered childminder since 1995, has a degree in Early Years and holds Early Years Professional Status.
The experience she has gained through the combination of study, volunteering and work, give Jane a deep understanding of the early years sector - both its challenges and its many rewards.