Registered childminders work in their own home, caring for other people's children. Regulated and inspected by Ofsted (in England) or CIW (in Wales), you can be sure that your childminder has the training, checks and credentials to give you peace of mind.
Childminders work to the same learning requirements as other early years educators, so you can be sure that your child will be getting all the support they need to learn and prepare for school.
Choosing childcare in a home environment means your children can enjoy real-life learning experiences in small groups, like cooking, shopping, gardening, mealtimes and outings to the park and library. Childminders can be spontaneous, too - making the most of a sunny or unexpectedly snowy day as a great opportunity for outdoor play and learning.
Many childminders are able to offer the free and funded early education sessions all children are entitled to. And, of course, childminders are able to care for children of different ages, meaning brothers and sisters can be cared for together.
Childminders are ideally placed for looking after disabled children, taking into account their unique requirements, and working closely with you to provide personalised care.
What does registration involve?
Childminders in England and Wales must be registered. This means that they have to work to specific guidelines and regulations, and that they are regularly inspected to ensure they remain suitable to care for children. Using a registered childminder helps give you peace of mind when arranging care for your child.
Childminders in England are registered by Ofsted. There are two registers maintained by Ofsted:
- The Early Years Register, for childminders caring for children from birth to the 31st August after their 5th birthday. These childminders have to show that they meet the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage.
- The compulsory part of the Ofsted Childcare Register, for childminders caring for children from the end of the EYFS up to the age of 8.
This means that if your childminder is only caring for babies and toddlers, they only need to be on the Early Years Register. If they have older children as well, including aged 5, 6 or 7, they need to be registered on both parts of the register. If they care only for children aged 8 and over, they don't need to register at all, but can join the voluntary register, if they wish.
To become registered, childminders must have an enhanced DBS disclosure*, undertake training, including in paediatric first-aid, and have a home visit from the Ofsted inspector. Ofsted then approves their registration and gives them a certificate which must be displayed.
Childminders must hold public liability insurance, be regularly inspected and take part in regular training. PACEY offers membership and insurance to registered childminders, helping them to provide the best standards of care and education to young children.
Childminders in Wales are inspected by CIW and as part of the registration process have completed introductory courses in home-based childcare and paediatric first-aid, as well as having an enhanced DBS disclosure*. CIW also requires childminders to have had a medical check and takes up references to check suitability.
Childminders in Wales also have to demonstrate to the CIW inspector how they will meet the requirements of the National Minimum Standards for Regulated Childcare in Wales and the Childminding and Day Care regulations.
*The DBS disclosure, which was formerly known as a CRB check, includes any people on the proposed childminding premises aged 16 or over.
8s and over childminders
Childminders in England caring only for children aged 8 and over do not need to be registered or inspected by Ofsted. They can, however, choose to join the Ofsted Childcare Register.
In Wales, childminders caring for children under 12 must register with the Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW).
If you use a registered childminder, you may be able to claim extra support in paying for your childcare. This could be through tax free childcare or childcare vouchers, for example.
Other advantages of using an 8s and over childminder include:
- Supervised school pick-ups and drop-offs, as well as care before and after school and in the holidays
- Support with homework
- Your child can be cared for with younger siblings
- Your child can easily take part in local and after-school activities.
Benefits of using childminders
In addition to the early education that childminders offer, some parents have found that childminding in a home environment can be more flexible than other forms of childcare. Many childminders are able to offer:
- early starts or pick-ups from your home, plus dropping to and from school
- trips to nursery, pre-school, toddler groups or soft play sessions
- help with homework for older children, and play-led early learning for little ones
- overnight or emergency care and flexible sessions for shift workers.
Because childminders only care for small groups of children, childminders are ideally placed to care for babies and under-2s, giving them the individual attention and secure attachment young children need.
Caring for mixed age ranges also means brothers and sisters can be cared for together, helping them create and maintain a strong sibling bond and making life easier for the whole family. And, of course, being with others of different ages helps children learn to work and play together.
There are childminders in every community and from all cultures and walks of life. Your child will be able to take part in local activities such as playgroup, music sessions or after-school clubs. They will also get to know the sights, sounds and residents of their local community.
Wrap-around care for older children
Childminders are flexible in their hours and can provide care before and after school – including picking up and dropping children off. In the school holidays childminders care for school children while you’re at work and will usually offer a host of different activities to keep them occupied.
Working with your childminder
Starting out on a business-like footing is essential for a successful childminding arrangement.
Having a properly written and signed contract is vital. It should clearly set out:
- the hours your child will be cared for, including details such as holiday arrangements
- the fee the childminder will charge for their service plus details of any additional charges and payment terms
- what to do if you, your child or the childminder are sick
- the retainer fee or deposit and the settling-in period that you agree.
You and the childminder should spend time reading the contract together carefully before signing. Note a date on which to review the contract – usually every six to 12 months. You will need to sign a separate contract for each child, as even children from the same family may have different circumstances and requirements.
Your childminder is a childcare professional – even if they feel like a member of the family. Remember that they are running a business and are counting on you to pay them on time, to keep to the daily arrival and collection times and to let them know of any changes that might occur.
It's good to talk!
Make time for regular chats with your childminder – daily or weekly. It’s a great opportunity to find out how your child is getting on and to ensure that you’re all still happy with the childminding arrangement.
Many childminders use a journal or an online record keeping system to keep notes about what your child has done during the day, including details of nappy changes, food they’ve eaten and naps they’ve taken.
You can use this journal, too, to keep your childminder informed. For example, noting in the journal that you and your child have just read "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" for the first time, your child could continue exploring the story further with the childminder.
What PACEY membership means
If your childminder is a member of PACEY, the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, they are demonstrating a clear commitment to their profession.
PACEY helps and encourages its members to continue their professional development throughout their careers to better support the children and families they work with.
The PACEY Code of Ethics outlines the values all PACEY members sign up to.
Training and support
PACEY members have access to a wide range of free training and associated resources to help them stay up to date with developments in professional childcare.