Shaping the next generation of childcare practitioners

Married to a teacher and having spent ten years working in schools before retraining as a childminder, I have always had an interest in improving the life chances of young people. When I was asked if I could offer a work experience placement to a student from a local secondary school it proved to be just the first step on my journey as mentor and, ultimately, employer.

Taking on an apprentice

Looking back to my beginnings as a childminder in early 2015, it was a change born of necessity. My eldest child had been diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome and ASD so I needed a job that would enable me to be at home to support him before and after school. What I didn’t expect was that I would fall in love with being a childminder and that instead of it being a stepping stone while my own children were young, it would become a thriving business and a long term career.  

For the first couple of years I focussed on shaping my provision. I did lots of professional development to help me build a deeper understanding of how to help children to make the progress they are capable of. In 2017 I was delighted to be graded Outstanding by Ofsted in my first inspection and shortly afterwards I was asked by the school I used to work at if I could offer a placement to a student who was at risk of permanent exclusion. That student stayed with me for almost two years. She was hard working, endlessly patient with the children and so grateful for the opportunity she was being given. For two mornings per week she helped me with outings, led craft activities and read so many stories to appreciative children. Ultimately this wonderful young lady passed her exams and is currently studying childcare at college. We are looking forward to welcoming her back to Little Sunbeams soon on placement.

The experience I had with that first student led to me taking another. This time I was approached by Charlotte who had enrolled on a level 2 childcare course at a local college.  She joined me two days per week initially but we both quickly discovered that we were ideally suited to work together and we swapped her college course for an apprenticeship. This means that she spends 80% of her time at work with me and 20% on off the job learning.

Additional support during the pandemic

Taking on an apprentice was a decision I agonised over. We were in the midst of a pandemic and I knew nothing about being an employer. My mind was entirely made up however when at the beginning of June 2020 (when childcare providers were allowed to reopen to all children), Charlotte was on my doorstep ready to help me support children who had known nothing but their home environment for the whole lockdown. She helped me to implement new ways of working, she settled in babies who had missed out on so much socialisation, and she stayed positive through every uncertainty.

In her new apprenticeship role as my childminding assistant, Charlotte plays a very active and important role in the business. We have been able to increase the number of children we care for because I am satisfied that Charlotte is competent and responsible, so I can count her in the adult to child ratio numbers. This is a huge benefit to parents in our area because demand is very high. We share responsibility for the day to day care of the children and we work together to observe, plan for and assess children. Alongside the obvious benefit of earning a wage while she trains, Charlotte loves being hands on with the children, rather than doing the majority of her learning in the classroom. We continually discuss the development and needs of the children and we share an interest in schematic play so we have enjoyed identifying and supporting their schemas. My next step is going to be to buy Charlotte a Childminding Assistant PACEY membership so that she can access the online CPD and other benefits.

Taking on an employee is a big decision for any small business but by choosing an apprentice I was able to make use of some really important additional support. The training provider we are working with have helped me to set up a government apprenticeship account and to access some funding. I have registered with the Pensions Regulator and running pay roll is actually much more straight forward than I expected. My business is thriving and I am so glad I took the leap.

As childminders we spend our lives nurturing the children in our care. This is a skill that we can easily transfer to secondary school children looking for work experience, college students who need work placements and those seeking apprenticeships. I have never worked in a more passionate industry than ours and I really want to play my part in ensuring that childcare is a viable career choice for our young people. There is no one better placed than us to train the next generation of childcare practitioners and to safeguard the childminding profession against dwindling numbers.

Charlotte says:
"I think I've always known I wanted to follow a career in childcare from a young age. My mum used to work in a nursery and I loved hearing her stories. I would always make friends with younger children on holidays and loved playing with them and helping them.

When I was first looking for a placement while at college, I approached Kim because I really loved the idea of providing high quality childcare in a home environment. Because we work with smaller numbers of children than other settings we know them inside out and they truly become like family to us.

I was over the moon when Kim suggested than an apprenticeship might work better for all of us. I love being in the setting for the majority of my time because I'm a really hands on learner and being able to earn a wage while I learn is the icing on the cake!

I've learned so much through childminding. I'm really interested in schematic play and I get to witness it first-hand every day. For example, we have a child who is an 'enveloper' so I've been able to observe her play, discuss it with Kim and then think of ideas to extend her play and interests through her schema.

In the future, after completing my apprenticeship, I would love to spend a year in America as an Au Pair to gain a different kind of experience before hopefully starting my own childminding business. Being an apprentice has been such an amazing move for me, I would definitely encourage others to look into it if they are considering a childcare career."

About Kimberly:
"I am a childminder based in the North East rated Outstanding by Ofsted. In my previous employment I managed the marketing and website of a local secondary school. My own children are 7, 10 and 17 and were the driving force behind my change in career, a change which has been overwhelmingly positive.