Partnership working

Childminders have been working in partnership with other providers such as schools and pre-schools for decades. This practice is set to accelerate as the benefits of so-called ‘blended’ early education and childcare are increasingly recognised, and the 30-hour entitlement can be taken on up to two different sites per day.

Parents may choose to split their funded hours between a childminder and sessional nursery or pre-school, for example. Or families may use different provision during term time and the school holidays. There is no restriction on the total number of providers that parents can use in a week or a month. However, parents and providers must be mindful of the impact on the continuity of care for the child and that they may not use more than two providers per day.

You should carefully consider whether or not you could deliver the full entitlement(s) yourself or whether your business would be better off delivering these through a partnership. Working in partnership with other providers could help to sustain and expand your business.

If you decide that you would like to be part of a partnership with other providers, you will need to be proactive. When contacting potential partners, you should ensure they are aware of:

  • Your Ofsted registration and inspection grade;
  • Any relevant childcare and early years qualifications you hold; and
  • How many places you can offer and at what times.

You should consider your existing childminding networks, either formal or informal, as it may be more effective to approach a larger provider such as a school as a local network rather than as an individual.

Why work in partnership?

Benefits to you:

  • You don’t have to deliver all 1,140 funded hours yourself
  • It can be a great way of sharing expertise – and learning from and being inspired by others
  • There may be greater, and more cost effective, training opportunities by joining forces
  • Work more efficiently by sharing the planning of activities
  • It could help to sustain and expand your business

Benefits to children and families:

  • Provide flexibility for working families
  • Children benefit from a blend of different early years settings
  • Greater level of support for children, particularly at points of transition (eg starting school)
  • Parents experience a more seamless service, and children benefit from settings working together to support a child’s learning and development.

Top tips:

  • Make sure you are fully aware of the range of childcare that is on offer in your local area, including from schools, pre-schools, playgroups, nurseries, and children’s centres
  • Don’t forget to ask families how they would prefer to take up their universal or extended entitlement well before their child turns 3 to allow time to plan
  • Make contact with potential local partners (e.g. school nurseries, pre-schools, playgroups, children’s centres, private day nurseries or even other childminders) and be clear about what service you are able to offer and why other providers should work with you
  • Decide on your preferred model of delivering funded places and partnership working
  • Plan how you will manage children’s transitions between settings and share information
  • Develop a partnership policy and share with your local authority, parents, and potential partners

Additional resources

The Family and Childcare Trust have produced a 30 hour mixed model partnership toolkit that provides a wide range of practical information on setting up or joining a partnership, maximising the benefits of working together and tackling the challenges of joint working. Designed for all provider types, it includes a checklist for childminders.

The toolkit also includes:

  • Guidance on information sharing, marketing, a draft memorandum of understanding and a draft service level agreement
  • Relationship management tools to help you get started and think about who should be in your partnership, how to develop, manage and sustain your partnership and what to do if things go wrong
  • Tools to help you to explore how to deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) using a mixed model approach and how to involve parents in assessment and learning, as well as information on meeting the needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and things to think about in relation to safeguarding.

Action for Children has also produced a step by step guide for schools and childcare providers (including childminders) on how to establish partnerships. It is focused on school-aged children between the ages of 4 and 12 years.

Working on non-domestic premises

You should bear in mind that childminders may now work for up to half of their childminding time in premises other than their own home – for example, at a local community hall, park, church or school. Ratio requirements will remain the same, though childminders can run larger groups by working together in groups of two or three.

If you wish to operate on alternative premises, you should apply to Ofsted, stating your intention to use different settings. It is also possible to add additional premises to an existing registration, without having to complete a new application. For further information, PACEY members can access our factsheet on working from alternative premises.

Ratios and wraparound care

Some childminders will be delivering wraparound care for a 3- or 4-year-old taking up their 30-hours place at another setting. If this is a maintained school, academy or independent school, then you may be able to invoke the exception to the usual ratios outlined in sections 3.30 and 3.42 of the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage. Although the EYFS specifically refers to 4- and 5-year-olds, the exceptions to the usual ratios also apply to 3-year-olds taking up their 30 hour place in a school nursery.

You may be able to care for more than three children under the age of 5 if:

  • You are able to demonstrate to parents and/or carers and Ofsted inspectors (or their childminder agency) that the individual needs of all the children are being met
  • You only care for the child before or after the normal two-session school day, or in the holidays
  • The total number of children under the age of 8 does not exceed six at any time per childminder; Any care provided for older children does not adversely affect the care of children receiving early years provision.

Please note that this exception does not apply to childminders providing wraparound care for children taking up their 30-hour place at a non-school setting such as a private, voluntary or independent day nursery, playgroup or pre-school.

For further information, visit PACEY’s page on childminding ratios. PACEY members can also download our factsheet on ratios in England.

On-call fees

If you remain responsible for a child when they are at another setting, and the child is taking up one of your places, it is worth bearing in mind that you can charge parents an on-call fee. However, if you are delivering the universal or extended entitlements, this charge must be voluntary and not a condition of taking up a funded place.

Larger partnerships and hubs

You may want to consider being a part of a larger, more formalised partnership of early years and childcare providers. This can take the form of an Early Learning and Childcare Partnership Hub, which offers a highly coordinated service to families.

Some of the benefits of formalised partnerships include:

For further information, see Action for Children’s guidance on Early Learning and Childcare Partnership Hubs which includes a range of guidance and templates of essential documents.

  • Working as part of a larger group
  • Training opportunities
  • Improved marketing of your service
  • Increased take up of your service
  • Formalised partnership documentation
  • Contribute to smooth transitions for children.
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