30 hours and partnership

For Kent-based Helen White, offering 30 hours funded childcare has made good business sense. Key to her success has been working in partnership with other providers to offer a seamless blend of childcare to local families.

Thirty hours has been a pretty smooth transition for me, since I was offering the early years entitlement anyway. The rate the local authority pay for funded hours is not enough to match my rate, but I found it straightforward to explain to parents why I have to charge for meals, nappies and other services. Parents have understood the reason for this and as they have seen such a reduction in their weekly childcare costs, they have been happy with that.

One family I work with have 3-year-old twins whose mum works part-time hours in shifts. She didn’t realise that she was eligible for 30 hours so was delighted when I explained she was. The information PACEY provides for parents – both on explaining the eligibility and why charges might be necessary is really helpful – it’s good to have the back up of a professional association explaining why extra charges are sometimes needed.

I have been really keen to work in partnership with other providers to offer funded hours to families. I can see the benefit to children and families in taking their early years entitlement across settings – and by working alongside other providers I feel I can provide continuity of care for the children and reassurance to the parents that their child is getting the best of both worlds.

Over the years I have built up a strong working relationship with the local pre-school and can now join up so that we can cover the full 30 funded hours between us. Many childminders can experience an initial resistance from pre-schools and nursery settings, but by maintaining your professionalism and making it clear that you are confident in your work, you can make real progress in building strong relationships locally. Now I’m at the stage when I feel that the pre-school would refer on to me if they couldn’t offer the full hours a parent wants – and that feels like huge progress from when I first started childminding.

Being able to stretch the funded hours across settings is beneficial to children and families. Children really thrive with both the experience of being in preschool, and being in a home-based setting. For many of my children, I stay involved as they transition into school and having that continuity of care is a huge bonus.

I have built up strong relationships with other childminders locally and more and more I am finding opportunities to collaborate. With the twins I look after, I share hours with another childminder as well as the preschool. We both use Kinderly to track the progress of the children and this is incredibly useful – both in terms of helping us work more efficiently, and also ensuring the children get the most benefit from their time with us. We track and share the boys’ progress and it means it’s much easier to join up on planning activities and setting learning goals and next steps. The parents have really seen the value of two practitioners working together and the boys have come on in leaps and bounds.

For me, 30 hours has helped me fill my books and it has contributed to my business sustainability. It has meant that I have been able to easily fill the extra spaces I had. I know there has been some initial resistance from the sector, but I think as long as you are able to have open and honest conversations with parents about the charges, and explain why this is, I see it having a positive impact on my business.

Top tips:

  • Don’t be afraid to be clear with parents about charging. They can appreciate you being open and honest – and it’s helpful if everything is clearly listed on invoices
  • I thought I’d always be wedded to paper-based learning journals, but online has transformed my work and made me much more efficient – try it and you won’t look back!
  • Look around for the potential to work in partnership. You may surprise yourself and find there are existing relationships that you already have that you can build on to offer a more seamless service to families.
  • Be persistent when dealing with pre-schools and other group settings. Maintain a positive, calm and professional approach and you’ll soon build a reputation as a trusted, expert practitioner.