Sharon's story

Registered childminder, Sharon, from Southend-on-Sea, works with her childminding assistant husband and has 13 children on the books. She has been childminding for 15 years and working with her husband for the past three years. She tells us what she values about offering funded places for 2-year-olds.

People don’t always know about the 2-year-old funding so I make sure I tell as many people as I can and I check their eligibility for them too, if they want me to. Some people feel they can’t ask or they think it’s a bit too complicated, so I try to make the process as easy as possible for them.

I run a well-established toddler group and any one can drop in - childminders, parents, grandparents. If I see anyone there I think could be eligible I always mention it and offer to check for them. The 2-year-old funding helps people go back to work and education and gives them space for themselves too, or whatever their family needs.

If you’re a registered childminder, have been through the early education process for 3- and 4-year-olds, and have good or outstanding rating from Ofsted, you can offer places to funded 2-year-olds as well. In our local authority, you get slightly more money for 2-year-olds than 3- and 4-year-olds.

Childminders can access the same portal we use for 3- and 4-year-olds funding to see if they families are eligible. It’s quick and easy to check, so if the parent is happy to answer questions, then you can check for them. Even if it does say they are not eligible, you can phone up the early years team to check just in case.

I’ve got one child on the 2-year-old funding that started with me when she was four months old under the Care to Learn scheme. The Care to Learn scheme is for parents aged 16-19 to help support them in education. The mum of that 2-year-old finished her A levels, and is now at university. She will now also get help with childcare funding from Student Finance and together with the 2-year-old funding, she will be able to finish her degree.

Looking after 2-year-olds is not always easy! I’ve found courses in speech and language as well as behaviour management particularly helpful. Sometimes their behaviour can be challenging and sometimes it’s down to not being able to communicate. As their vocabulary increases, it tends to get easier. The best thing about looking after 2-year-olds is watching them grow and the small things such as seeing them smile when they’ve had a good day.

Other childminders are a brilliant source of support when looking after 2-year-olds. We’ve got PACEY coordinators based in Southend as well as a network of childminders, and a local group which meets weekly. A lot of childminders are very experienced and are a brilliant source of advice, have usually seen it all before and can answer any questions.

The 2-year-old funding gives you a chance to offer experiences to children who perhaps wouldn’t get the chance otherwise. You can take them places, do activities and they can play with other children too, all while giving the families an opportunity to work, train or do whatever is right for them. It’s wonderful to see the children grow!