Championing childminders locally

Samantha, from Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, has been childminding for six years. She started childminding as a way of being at home more with her two children. She has worked in childcare for many years and holds a level 4 Certificate in Early Years Practice. Samantha is a keen champion of childminders locally through her work on the Early Years Consultation Group.

“You never have a dull moment as a childminder. I have 20 families in my setting and children from a wide range of ages – every day is different and that’s what I really enjoy.

I offer funded hours and I have a full setting and a waiting list at the moment, but I am finding the long term work isn’t there like it used to be. More parents are sending their children to nursery or pre school when they turn 3 – particularly as in my area most of the schools are offering funded hours, and some new nurseries have set up specifically to offer funded hours. As a childminder you need to keep your eye on what’s happening locally and adapt accordingly.

Taking on an assistant for me meant that I got the added benefit of someone to work alongside me, and the children also enjoy having another adult around. It can be a great asset to your setting, but you do need to plan your finances carefully. The wage rises and pension contribution have made a big impact and you have to balance this against the additional places you can offer.

It’s important to keep on top of the paperwork so this doesn’t take over. I find an online learning journal on my phone really helpful that I can share with parents – it saves me having to sit and cut and glue into folders like I used to.

I feel very strongly that it’s important for childminders to have a voice in local decisions and planning – I am the only childminder on the Early Years Consultation Group for Nottinghamshire. I’ve been proud of some of our recent achievements – early promotion of 30 hours to parents seemed to be all about schools so I’ve been pointing out that they need to include childminders as well.

We’ve also made some good progress in getting the local authority to involve childminders in discussions around the deprivation supplements – for instance setting up webinars so that we can be involved when it’s difficult to attend meetings in person because of our childcare commitments.

One piece of advice I would give is to look ahead with your numbers – always think ahead so you are clear what vacancies you might have coming up. One of the things I’ve learnt is to be firmer with parents about giving notice – you need to buy yourself time to sort out your vacancy, so asking parents for sufficient notice means your business doesn’t suffer.

I do think of myself as a business – at the end of the day it’s a job. You can say ‘no’ if that’s what your business needs - don’t feel bad about it. I think parents respect you once you are clear with them. When I first started I ruled by my heart, but actually you need to engage your head too. You have to do what’s right for your business.

My advice would be don’t feel isolated – connect with others as this can help you build firm friendships, and help you build business – you never know when you might have an enquiry you can’t fill, but can pass on to someone else and it can work the other way too!

Samantha’s top tips:

  • Always look one step ahead in terms of financial planning – keep a close eye on your numbers and ages of children so you know when vacancies may arise.
  • Engage your head as well as your heart when approaching your business. Don’t be afraid to say no – at the end of the day, it is a job.
  • Stay connected with others – it’s a great way of building firm friendships as well as building your business
  • Ask your local authority about joining their Early Years Consultation group – it’s a great way to gain confidence, grow your skills and speaking up for the important work that childminders do.