Getting to grips with policies and procedures

Anne Leach is an Ofsted outstanding childminder from Hayes, Kent. She has been childminding for 10 years and has a great deal of experience of developing and using policies and procedures in her setting, together with her co-minder. Here, she describes how getting to grips with policies and procedures has helped benefit her setting.

For me, policies and procedures are a fundamental part of building a childminding business as they help to establish a professional framework to work within. They guide the actions of the childminder and any other individuals involved in the setting – it’s really important to have a written agreement so that any assistant or trainee you take on can be clear about how you operate.

When I started working with a co-minder, it was really useful to have everything written down so that we could talk through a consistent approach. Essentially, policies are there to ensure the wellbeing of all children, families, staff, partners and everyone who is connected to or works with the setting.

Policies and procedures should be well thought-out and most importantly, implemented. Policies are an agreed course of action adopted by a practitioner, and they provide a common understanding and agreement on how things should be delivered. Procedures provide clear instructions and guidelines on what should/must be done in a particular set of circumstances or with regard to a particular issue.

Policies and procedures help families to understand the setting’s practices and give them information about what to expect. It’s no good having a lot of paper files gathering dust on a shelf. To work most effectively, policies should be ‘working’ documents that should be regularly reviewed to ensure that they take into account the possible changes that have happened in the service.

What is quite common when you are starting out as a childminder is to develop a whole stack of policies. This is exactly what I did when I was first starting out. When I did my level 3 children and young people’s workforce qualification around four years ago, this really helped give me further insight into what an effective policy was, and also helped me to refine and streamline my policies for my setting.

Well thought-out and implemented policies and procedures can bring the following benefits to your setting:

  • Ensure good practice and helps to establish a professional and effective setting
  • Provide consistency amongst childminder, parents, children and any staff.
  • Help prevent any ambiguity about how particular situations/issues should be handled in the service
  • Promote consistency with all families.
  • Help to protect childminders by establishing and ensuring that all areas of their business is compliant with regulations and health and safety requirements.

Policies do not need to be written but I would always recommend this as it provides transparency to all families. It is not necessary to have endless policies; good practice and professionalism will mean that you will be risk assessing throughout your working day and delivering high quality service. It is however useful to identify key areas of your business/practice that would benefit from clarity or more in-depth explanation eg transporting children in a car policy.

Sample templates can be useful, but you have to be really careful that they are up-to-date and accurate. Policies that are clearly copied and pasted from a website aren’t going to go down well with an Ofsted inspector. Much better to use them as a guide, but then personalise them to your setting. But be warned - if you say that you ‘always’ do something in a policy, then you must make sure that you always do, otherwise you are in breach of your own policy.

Setting up your policies shouldn’t be too onerous, and once you have them in place, you can rest assured that they are there to help guide your practice – and protect you and your staff, children and families. Good luck!