Childminder agencies in England

What are childminder agencies and how will they affect you?

What about you? Are you planning to join a childminder agency?

What is a childminder agency?

A childminder agency is an organisation that registers childminders and provides a range of services to its members and parents. Introduced by the Department for Education in 2013, childminder agencies are obliged by law to:

  • ensure a childminder’s suitability, including, where appropriate their capacity to deliver the statutory requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)
  • support the training and development of childminders
  • help parents find and work with a suitable childminder
  • improve the quality of provision
  • monitor the standard of care provided by the childminders they register

Childminder agencies may provide childminders with support services such as marketing, administration, training and development. They also carry out assessments of the childminders registered with them. Agencies may provide parents with matching services to help them find a childminder, as well as access to holiday and sickness cover.

Any organisation that meets the requirements outlined in Ofsted’s Childminder agency handbook can register to become a childminder agency. The Department for Education has published guidance for anyone wanting to register and operate as a childminder agency.

How many childminder agencies are there?

There are currently (February 2016) eight childminder agencies registered with Ofsted. It is not clear how many childminders these agencies have on their books.

How much does it cost to join a childminder agency?

It depends on the agency. Childminder agencies are self-financing businesses. This means that they have to charge childminders and/or parents who use their services a fee. Each agency is likely to operate differently and provide different services priced in different ways, depending on how much childminders and parents are willing to pay. They are also likely to have different terms and conditions for childminders who choose to join them. Childminders are advised to contact their local agency for more information on fees, as well as terms and conditions.

Do I have to join a childminder agency?

No. Individual childminders have a choice between maintaining their individual Ofsted registration and joining an Ofsted-registered childminder agency.

Can I register with an agency and still be self-employed?

It depends on the agency. While some choose to employ the childminders who register with them, others allow childminders to remain self-employed.

Can I register with a childminder agency and still retain my individual Ofsted registration?

No. Once you register with a childminder agency, your individual Ofsted registration will be null and void.

How are individual childminders inspected under the agency model?

Childminders who are registered with a childminder agency will no longer be inspected by Ofsted. Instead, their performance will be assessed by their agency, which has a statutory duty to monitor the standard of care provided by the childminders it registers and improve the quality of provision. Each agency will have a different means of doing this, but it is likely agencies will carry out their own inspections of the childminders on their books.

How are childminder agencies inspected?

Childminder agencies are required by law to register with and be inspected by Ofsted. An inspection handbook has been published by Ofsted. During the inspection, agencies are assessed on three main areas:

  • the effectiveness of the leadership and management of the agency
  • the quality of the agency's services
  • the impact of the agency's services on the quality of the education and care provided by its childminders

Inspectors will visit a sample of childminders on the agency's books – normally 10% – to assess the effectiveness of the agency's arrangements for assuring the quality of its childminders and the accuracy of the agency's evaluation of quality.

Following their inspection, childminder agencies will receive a grade of 'effective' or 'ineffective'.

How will childminder agencies affect the quality of care?

It is too early to assess the impact of childminder agencies on the quality of care. However, PACEY is concerned that the agency model does not measure, support or incentivise high quality childcare as effectively as the existing system of Ofsted registering and inspecting individual childminders. Individual Ofsted registration and inspection provides a simple, robust and independent means of comparing the quality of different childminders, as well as other early years settings such as nurseries and pre-schools.

What happens to my PACEY membership if I join an agency?

Nothing changes. We support all our members to provide high standards of care and learning to the children in their care and to promote our members’ professionalism. We will continue to offer membership to childminders whether they join an agency or not.