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Babygros to the British Empire medal: my childminding journey

PACEY childminder member Sandy Evans recently received the prestigious British Empire Medal award in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours list. We caught up with her to share her inspiring childminding journey and her insights and experiences with you. 

What first inspired you to become a childcarer?

I actually got into childcare almost by accident. A friend said a close friend of hers was looking for a childminder and would I be interested. I met with the Mum and her son, got on famously, registered with Social Services and looked after him for 15 years. 

Jordan has just celebrated his 21st birthday. I looked after him from October 1995, when he was 16 months old, until he was 15. He didn't really need me at that stage but it was hard for us all to admit it was time to move on. Our families remain very close indeed with my own children Scott 27, Emily 23 and Alex also 21 regarding Jordan like a brother. They are still a big part of our family and are coming to our son's wedding this year.

What’s changed the most since you began your career?

Childcare is certainly much more regulated now than it was in 1995. However there have been definite benefits to all, with increased standards of care and a clarity in what is expected from providers and how to achieve the best outcomes.

Why did you choose PACEY?

I joined PACEY (then NCMA) 13 years ago and have never looked back. I initially joined as I felt very isolated working on my own and that I really had no-one to ask for advice or to check with if I felt unsure about something. PACEY have always provided me with the information I have been looking for and with the website going from strength to strength it is now a real community of childcare providers.

What have the children taught you over the years

I learn so much from the children constantly. Over the years I have learnt to always ask the children their opinions and involve them in decision making. The children have also taught me how to value simple pursuits and enjoy them and see the world through their eyes. I feel I have become a much nicer person through following their lead.

What have you found the most rewarding?

I love the fact that families come as virtual strangers but come to trust and value the care provided for their most precious possessions. Over the years my family have made life long friends through my childminding business and we all value these relationships very much. It is definitely rewarding to watch a family grow and change over the years and be a part of that transition.

What has been your proudest moment throughout your childcare career?

I think without a doubt that has to be being awarded the British Empire Medal recently. I still find it hard to believe this has happened to me and I am very proud and humbled to have received it.

What tips and advice would you give to someone looking to get into childcare?

I would recommend childcare as a fantastic job which can combine being at home with your own children with building an enjoyable and hugely rewarding career at the same time. However, I would advise anyone to ensure they have their partner and children on side as it is of course an intrusion into family life. I would also advise making sure you give considerable thought to drawing up the contracts as it best to get them right from the onset and that they meet your needs as well as those of the families.

What has been the best advice anyone has given you?

Before I started chidminding I worked in a bank and was responsible for approving mortgage applications. I was very nervous when I approved my first loan and my manager told me to look at every loan as if I was lending my own money and I would never go wrong. When I started childminding I was determined to apply that ethos again and always tried to make decisions and look after the minded children as if they were my own. 

What top tips do you have for anyone looking to achieve an outstanding rating from Ofsted?

I would advise to keep on top of the paperwork, use the great factsheets, policy documents and assistance on the PACEY website, pay attention to detail and try not to get overwhelmed on the day. I would also advise not to panic or get despondent during the inspection if things don't go to plan. You know what TV presenters say about the difficulties of working with children and animals haha!

What’s your failsafe activity to enjoy with the children in your setting?

I personally find that water play works on every occasion. Children love water, and it is such a versatile, simple activity and easy to adapt by adding pouring receptacles, bubbles, plastic fish and animals, boats, etc . You don't even need to use a lot of water for inside play. A shallow tray can still be lots of fun.

What’s the hardest part about working in childcare?

I think childcare can be a lonely job. As a childminder you can spend long periods of the day without other adult company and support. In recent years I have become part of a great childminding network which provides the opportunity to chat about changes, discuss problems and make friends.

What’s the best part about working in childcare?

I love working in childcare. I love the versatility and that every day is different. I love being able to make a difference to parents and children and get so much satisfaction when parents tell me they can go to work without worrying; and the children come in happily and eagerly. It is such a responsible job but I have had so much fun and enjoyment over the years.

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