Policies and procedures - a beginner's guide
One of the most common questions that childminders have when they are first setting up their business is – what policies and procedures do I need?
The important thing to remember is that you don’t need to have a policy on absolutely everything. If you are registered on the Childcare Register in England to care for children age 5-8, then you are only required to have your complaints policy and procedure and your safeguarding children policy in writing.
So before starting to write policies on washing hands, spilt drinks, and jumping on the sofa, ask yourself – "do I really need one?". The EYFS does not require you to have policies written down, although it can be good practice to have a core set of written policies to underpin your practice. Sample policies and procedures have been produced by PACEY to support you.
As a registered childminder in Wales there is a clear position on the policies and procedures you must have in place in accordance with the requirements of the National Minimum Standards for Regulated Childcare. PACEY Cymru has produced policy guidance to support you.
Whether you live in England or Wales here is a handy checklist of dos and don’ts when it comes to setting up policies and procedures.
- Understand the difference between a policy and a procedure: a policy is a written statement about how you will work in one area of your practice. A procedure details the actions you will take to carry out the policy.
- As noted above the position on written policies varies depending on where you live. However it is good practice to consider key areas specific to you where a policy or procedure may support you in your childminding setting. This shows professionalism, and also means that you can give them to parents or carers so that it is easier to revisit and review them. A consistent approach also means that all your parents will have been given the same message which can help prevent misunderstandings further down the line. If you use an electronic system or email, you can allow parents access to policies on a shared platform which you may prefer.
- Take time to go through these policies with parents and carers during settling-in visits. This will help you and the parents to get to know each other and will give parents the opportunity to ask questions about your policies and procedures. There are also parental permission forms which you can download and adapt.
- Remember that having comprehensive policies and procedures will make it easier for you to demonstrate to Ofsted (England) or CIW (Wales) how you manage your practice. This will save you a lot of time explaining your approach when inspection day comes.
- In Wales pre-registration training is a requirement of registration in Wales. In England if you haven't already, consider taking the Level 3 Preparing to Work in Home-based Childcare award. It is the most comprehensive qualification and covers everything you need to become a childminder. It includes lots of guidance on writing policies and will help you to use them in your practice.
- Don't believe everything you read. Be wary of some of the sample policies found online - not only could they be out-of-date, they may even suggest inappropriate policies that are not required. Refer to the appropriate page of the Statutory Framework in England and the policy guidance for Wales to support you to create your own personalised policies and procedures that reflect your individual setting. Sample policies for England are also provided on the PACEY website for you to adapt.
- Don’t panic – there is lots of additional information on the PACEY website and members can always phone the PACEY helpline for guidance on 0300 003 0005.
Policies and procedures top tips:
Although childminders in England are not required under the EYFS to make written copies of policies and procedures available, it is recommended good practice for all home-based childcarers to have written policies, and to give copies of these to parents and carers. In Wales childminders have to ensure these are available to parents and carers to meet the requirements of the National Minimum Standards for Regulated Childcare.
1. Keep it simple
- Your policy should start with a short, clear statement, for example, "It is my policy to keep children safe when they are in my care".
- Keep the language simple and jargon free.
2. Say what you are going to do
- List the things that you will do to ensure that you meet your opening policy statement.
- Say how you will do them and when (e.g. under what circumstances you'll start using your policies and procedures).
3. Make it your own
- Think about your own practice and your setting and write your policies to meet your own needs.
Putting policy into practice: checklist
- Do you review your policies regularly when there are changes in your setting (eg, if you introduce pets to the setting or after an accident or incident)? And do you include a review date on the document?
- Are you following the procedures you have set for yourself?
- Is your policy evident in your practice and not something gathering dust in a folder?
- What do parents think of your policies? Have you asked them to suggest additions or changes? Would you consider making them?
- Your policies can form part of your contract with families. Have you got copies signed and dated by both you and the parents? Have you given a copy to the parents?
- Have you included useful numbers for parents on your policies? For example the PACEY helpline, Ofsted or CIW, social services duty desk?
For more top tips, read PACEY associate Sue Asquith’s paperbusting myths blog.
Read how outstanding childminder Anne Leach uses policies and procedures in her setting.