The Role Of Ofsted and The National Standards
Allison Lee has been childminding for over 11 years and has cared for children aged from 10 weeks to 11 years. A mother of two boys, Allison's career has provided her with the opportunity to work for The National Childminding Association and she is currently employed.
THE AIMS OF THE REGISTRATION SYSTEM
The Children Act 2004 states that anyone who looks after other people’s children in their own home must be registered with the Early Years Directorate of Ofsted in England or the Care Standards Inspectorate Registration in Wales.
It will be necessary, when applying for registration, for you to be able to prove to your local department that your home meets the legal requirements to provide a safe and secure environment for the children you intend to care for.
You will need to demonstrate that you are a suitable person to provide care for young children and that you take your responsibilities seriously.
The registration system is in place so that Ofsted can aim to:
- ensure that all childminders meet the National Standards;
- protect children and provide reassurance for parents/guardians;
- promote environments where children are safe and well cared for;
- ensure care contributes to development and learning;
- promote high quality childcare provision.
Ofsted regulates childminding in the following four ways:
This process covers checks on you and your premises together with any other adults who live or work on the premises where you intend to carry out your childminding service.
Ofsted inspectors will carry out checks on your childminding service periodically. You will be issued with a report setting out their findings and any actions they feel you must take. This report must be made available to parents.
An Ofsted Childcare Inspector may carry out an investigation into your childcare provision to check that you are meeting all the National Standards and requirements.
If necessary, Ofsted can take action against you if the National Standards and other requirements are not met.
Anyone wishing to become a registered childminder must meet the standards and conditions set out by Ofsted. There are certain factors that may disqualify you from becoming registered and if this is the case you will not be able to become a childminder.
Your registration may be disqualified if you or any person who lives or works with you has been:
- put on the Protection of Children Act list which considers a person unsuitable to work with children;
- convicted or charged with any offence against a child;
- convicted or charged with certain offences against an adult;
- listed on the Department for Education and Employment List 99 which considers a person not fit and proper to work with children.
A Department of Health guide to the Protection of Children Act 1999 is available on the government website www.doh.gov.uk/scg/childprotect.
THE NATIONAL STANDARDS AND WHAT THEY MEAN
There are 14 National Standards for Under Eights Day Care and Childminding. These standards cover all aspects of childcare in a range of settings. Inspectors from Ofsted (England) or CSIW (Wales) will use the criteria set out in these standards when considering your application to become a childminder. For information on what Standards apply in Scotland contact the Scottish Commission for the Regulation of Care, and for Northern Ireland, the NICMA (see Useful Contacts).
STANDARD ONE: SUITABLE PERSON
Adults providing day care, looking after children or having unsupervised access to them are suitable to do so.
For an adult to be deemed suitable to look after children, or have unsupervised access to them, they must first comply with all the conditions of registration. Conditions of registration include a vetting procedure where the information supplied is verified with the relevant sources. Police checks are also carried out to enable the inspector to determine whether the applicant is a suitable person to care for, or have regular contact with, children. To comply with Standard One you must be suitably qualified and agree to notify your regulatory body if you intend to employ an assistant.
Points for consideration
- Do you have the necessary training, qualifications and experience to make you a suitable person to provide day care for young children?
- Are you mentally and physically fit enough to care for young children?
- Are you able to make the correct decisions about the suitability of any assistants you may require to work with you?
- Are you free of any convictions which may make you a potential risk to young children or disqualify you from becoming a childminder?
STANDARD TWO: ORGANISATION
The registered person meets the required adult:child ratios, ensures that training and qualification requirements are met, and organises space and resources to meet the children’s needs effectively.
You should be able to provide resources and activities for children of a wide range of ages and abilities. You need to organise your day so that you are able to get to school, nursery and playgroup on time every time.
Numbers and ages
The maximum number and ages of children a childminder can usually care for at any one time are as follows:
- no more than six children under the age of eight years;
- no more than three of these six children may be under five years of age;
- no more than one of these children may be under 12 months old.
You may also provide care for children aged between eight and 14 years, however the number of children you agree to look after in this age category must not adversely affect the care provided for children under the age of eight years, and you must take into account the amount of space and resources you have available.
Any child aged four years who attends ten early years sessions per week will be allowed to be classed as a child over the age of five years for the purpose of the adult:child ratio.
Although the above numbers are the general rule, exceptions can be made in certain circumstances. For example, if you work with another childminder or employ an assistant the number of children you are registered for will increase. (If you employ a student on a training placement they are not included in the adult:child ratio.) Exceptions can also be made for siblings but it is very important that, should you wish to care for more children than stated on your registration certificate, you contact your regulatory body prior to commencing to care for the child in order to seek permission and to have your registration details amended to incorporate any changes they agree to make.
If you already have three children of your own under the age of five years, you will not be allowed to care for any others between these ages. It is, however, worth considering caring for school-aged children before and after school and during school holidays. This will enable you to build up your business slowly and leave you free to offer childcare for younger children once your own children have grown.
Points for consideration
- Are you able to work with, and supervise the work of, an assistant, ensuring that they understand what you expect of them. Can you give clear and concise instructions?
- Are you organised in your daily routines?
- Do you utilise your space, time and resources efficiently?
- Are your training and qualifications up to date?
- Are you able to maintain the appropriate adult:child ratios?
- Can you keep accurate, up-to-date records of attendance, payments, sickness, medicine, administration etc?
STANDARD THREE: CARE, LEARNING AND PLAY
The registered person must meet children’s individual needs and promote their welfare. They plan and provide activities and play opportunities to develop children’s emotional, physical, social and intellectual capabilities.
As a childminder it will be your duty to encourage children to be independent and confident and you must try to build on their self-esteem. You must be available to listen to, and value, what a child has to say. You must be genuinely interested in the children you are caring for; talk to them, encourage them and help them to have high expectations of their own achievements and to believe in themselves.
As a registered childminder you must select and provide activities and experiences which are appropriate to the child’s age and stage of development and which allow the child to explore and build on their natural curiosity. You must encourage children to develop social relationships, use their imagination and build on language and mathematical thinking.
Children should be encouraged to learn values and to respect other people and their belongings. They must be encouraged to learn about what is right and wrong.
It is important that you organise your resources so that they are readily available to the children and that you make the planning of first-hand experiences and spontaneous play a part of your daily routine. Whilst going about your everyday routines you should encourage the children in your care to ask questions and to use their imagination.
Early Learning Goals must be understood and implemented if you are part of an accredited childminding network and caring for funded three and four-year-old children.
Points for consideration
- Are you a kind, considerate and approachable person who can provide a warm, caring and loving environment for young children?
- Do you enjoy working with and encouraging children, offering assistance and praise when necessary?
- Are you able to manage children’s behaviour effectively, setting fair and consistent boundaries?
- Do you have the necessary resources and experience to enable you to meet a broad range of care, learning and play needs in young children?
- Do you know when and how to listen to children, value what they have to say, encourage them to ask questions and respond to their interests?
STANDARD FOUR: PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT
The premises are safe, secure and suitable for their purpose. They provide adequate space in an appropriate location, are welcoming to children and offer access to the necessary facilities for a range of activities which promote their development.
To meet the requirements of this standard, you must ensure that your premises are welcoming and friendly to both children and parents and are kept in a good clean state of repair and decoration. It is important that you ensure that you have all the necessary planning and building consents as stipulated by your local authority and that you ensure that the following minimum indoor space requirements are met:
- children under the age of two years require 3.5 square metres each;
- children aged two years require 2.5 square metres of space each;
- children aged 3–7 years require 2.3 square metres of space.
As a childminder you will be expected to provide suitable space for quiet activities and rest. Your premises must be well lit and ventilated with suitable washing and toilet facilities and you must have access to a telephone. An appropriate area must also be provided for the hygienic storage, preparation, cooking and serving of food.
If you are to provide an outdoor play area you must ensure that it is safe, secure and well maintained. If you do not have access to an outdoor play area then you will be expected to make arrangements for trips to the local parks or playground so that children in your care have regular fresh air and physical exercise.
Points for consideration
- Are you able to provide a clean, safe, secure environment for children?
- Can you provide the necessary outdoor exercise?
- Are you able to plan and organise regular trips to your local park or playground if you do not have a suitable outdoor play area?
- Do you have appropriate washing, toilet and nappy changing facilities?
- Is your home adequately heated and ventilated?
- Can you provide the necessary space required for a number of children?
- Are you able to organise the space you have available effectively?
STANDARD FIVE: EQUIPMENT
Furniture, equipment and toys are provided which are appropriate for their purpose and help to create an accessible and stimulating environment. They are of suitable design and condition, well maintained and conform to safety standards.
All toys and equipment in your childcare setting, including any outdoor equipment, must be in a good state of repair and conform to BS EN safety standards or the Toys (Safety) Regulations (1995). You must ensure that all your toys and equipment are checked regularly in order that they remain in a good state of repair. Sufficient appropriate equipment must be provided for the number of children you are registered to care for so that the needs of all of the children can be met with regard to eating, sleeping and travelling.
As a childminder it is your responsibility to prove that you can provide sufficient, suitable toys and equipment for both indoor and outdoor play which will enable the children in your care to develop their emotional, intellectual, social, creative and physical skills. All equipment must be appropriate for the age and developmental needs of the children you are currently caring for.
Points for consideration
- Do you know how to carry out effective safety checks on your premises, toys and equipment and understand the necessity for regular checks?
- Do you understand how to choose toys and equipment, to suit a broad range of ages and abilities, which are interesting and stimulating as well as providing the necessary fun?
- Are you able to supply sufficient suitable toys and equipment for all the children you are providing care for?
STANDARD SIX: SAFETY
The registered person takes positive steps to promote safety within the setting and on outings and ensures proper precautions are taken to prevent accidents.
It is your duty to ensure that the children in your care are supervised at all times and are not subjected to any hazards whilst on your premises. You must make sure that your indoor and outdoor areas are secure and safe.
- You must ensure that ponds, drains, pools etc are inaccessible to children and that you closely supervise all water activities.
- Children should not be allowed access to greenhouses, garages or sheds unless these are made completely safe.
- You should ensure that your premises are kept free of any hazardous plants or substances.
- If children are to be taken on outings they must be escorted safely at all times.
- Any vehicles which you intend to use to transport children in your care must be properly maintained and conform to all legal requirements. You must have a valid driver’s licence and the appropriate insurance. Children must be suitably restrained with the appropriate seatbelts or car seats.
- Written parental permission must be gained prior to outings and for transportation in a car.
- All gas, electric and other appliances in your home conform to safety standards and do not pose a hazard to the children in your care.
- You must ensure that all electrical sockets which are accessible to children are fitted with socket covers.
- It is important that your premises are fitted with smoke alarms which conform to BS EN standards and that you check these regularly.
- A fire blanket which conforms to BS EN standards must be kept in the kitchen at all times.
- It is your responsibility to ensure that children are not exposed to any dangers and that they are supervised at all times.
- You must ensure that you have a suitable emergency escape plan which is regularly practised with the children in your care.
- You must comply with any recommendations made by your local fire safety officer.
- You must have valid public liability insurance.
Points for consideration
- Do you know how to ensure the safety of children both indoors and out?
- Are you confident when planning and arranging outings for children?
- Do your premises and equipment conform to all the necessary safety requirements?
- Are you able to ensure the safe arrival and collection of the children in your care? Are you aware of how to arrange suitable effective systems with parents?
- Do your premises have fitted working smoke alarms, a fire blanket and fire extinguisher? Are you aware of how to use this equipment and the need for regularly checking that it is in good working order?
The registered person promotes the good health of children and takes positive steps to prevent the spread of infection and appropriate measures when they are ill.
As a childminder it is your duty to ensure that your premises and equipment are clean and that you and any assistant you may employ complies with good hygiene practices in order to prevent the spread of infection.
You must ensure that each child in your care has their own towel, flannel, bed linen, hairbrush and toothbrush (if this is appropriate). You should discuss with the parents who will provide them.
You should encourage the children in your care to practise good hygiene methods and to learn how to avoid spreading infections during your daily routine. Remember that you are setting the example for children to follow when it comes down to basic hygiene practice. You must teach the children to wash their hands after visiting the toilet, playing outdoors and blowing noses and before eating, and to cover their mouths when coughing and sneezing.
If you keep any domestic animals on your premises you must ensure that they do not pose a threat to the health of the children in your care and that they are safe from the risk of infection.
If you have a sandpit on your premises you must check that the sand is clean and, if left outdoors, that it is covered to protect it from contamination.
It is your responsibility to ensure that food is hygienically stored, prepared, cooked and served.
Medicines and first aid
You must not administer any medicine or treatments to a child unless the parent has provided it along with prior written permission. If you have been requested to administer medicine you must ensure that it is stored, according to its instructions, and in its original container and that it is clearly labelled and out of the reach of children. You must ensure that you understand what you are administering, and why.
You must keep written records of any medicines administered to children and ensure that the parent signs to acknowledge the administration. If you care for a child who has a long-term medical condition it is your duty to ensure that you fully understand the nature of the condition and obtain prior written permission to administer any medication.
You must hold a valid first aid certificate and keep a fully stocked first aid box on your premises at all times, the contents of which you must check regularly and replenish when necessary. It is advisable to purchase a travel first aid kit to take with you on outings.
When a placement starts you should get written permission to seek any emergency medical advice or treatment if necessary.
You must maintain signed records of any accidents in your care.
You must have a policy in place regarding sick children and this must be discussed and understood by the parents of the children in your care. This policy should include the exclusion of infectious children and your procedure for contacting parents or other designated adults should a child become ill whilst in your care.
You must practice a no-smoking policy whilst childminding and ensure that others on your premises refrain from smoking whilst you are carrying out your childminding duties.
Points for consideration
- Do you understand how to apply high standards of hygiene and why these standards are necessary?
- Are you aware of the ways in which infections are spread and how to prevent them?
- Are you aware of how to promote personal hygiene methods to children?
- Are you aware of the potential health and safety risks posed by animals and how to eliminate them?
- Do you know which medicines you are allowed to administer and follow the correct procedures when doing so?
- Do you know how to keep accurate records of all medicines administered to children?
- Do you understand the implications that smoking in the presence of a child has on their health, and can you ensure that no one is allowed to smoke on your premises whilst you are carrying out your childminding duties?