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.
Childminders in England are required to complete the mandatory course. At the time of writing this book, the course was entitled Introducing Childminding Practice (ICP). However, early in 2006 this course was altered to include all home based child carers such as nannies as well as childminders. The units which make up the Certificate in Childminding Practice are still recognised and it may be that you are already part way through one of the units so we will look at these in a little more detail in this chapter.
Introducing Childminding Practice was a mandatory course which childminders were required to undertake. ICP could be taken either as standard in a classroom or through a distance learning college. In January 2006 this course was amended to take into account all child carers working in a home based setting not just childminders. The new level three qualification is called the Diploma in Home-based Child Care.
In addition to the ICP all childminders in both England and Wales must take a pediatric first aid course. First aid courses for childminders have changed significantly over the years and it is now compulsory for childminders to be trained, in depth, in all areas of childcare first aid. Your local authority will be able to give you details of the requirements in your area together with dates and venues for suitable courses.
It is essential that you do not underestimate the importance of a first aid course, and to ensure that you keep your training up to date. This is also a compulsory requirement of Ofsted. First aid qualifications usually expire after three years. A first aid course will ensure you are fully prepared for any accident or emergency which you may encounter and it will give you the necessary training and confidence to deal with a situation professionally and proficiently. The National Childminding Association stipulates that a suitable first aid course for childminders should be at least 12 hours long in order to successfully cover all aspects of accidents and emergencies.
CERTIFICATE IN CHILDMINDING PRACTICE
The Certificate in Childminding Practice, or CCP as it was generally known, was made up of three separate units. The units could be completed individually but you would not achieve the CCP award unless you completed all three units. The units were:
- Unit One: Introducing Childminding Practice (ICP). This is the introductory course which we have just looked at.
- Unit Two Developing Childminding Practice (DCP).
- Unit Three Extending Childminding Practice (ECP).
The units followed on from one another and become more involved as they progressed. The complete certificate (CCP) was a level 3 qualification and was designed specifically for childminders. The award was developed by CACHE (Council for Awards in Children’s Care and Education) and the National Childminding Association, and it is nationally recognised.
Unit Two: Developing Childminding Practice (DCP)
This course studied some of the topics covered in the ICP unit in more depth. DCP laid the foundations for the whole range of skills required by professional childminders.
Topics covered, in addition to those studied for in the ICP, were caring for babies and toddlers, children’s development and working in partnership with parents.
This course was specifically designed for people already working with children so you had to be registered and caring for children in a home-based setting before enrolling on this course.
Unit Three: Extending Childminding Practice (ECP)
If you had successfully completed ICP and DCP this final course enabled you to gain CACHE’s Level 3 Certificate in Childminding Practice.
ECP is aimed at experienced childminders and, like DCP, to study for this course you had to be registered and caring for children in a home-based setting. The course covered topics such as child development, working with professionals, supporting parents, and working with children affected by disability, behavioural or emotional difficulties, HIV, Aids or abuse.
The full CCP course was widely available throughout England and Wales at centres approved by CACHE. In addition to colleges and adult education centres, the National Childminding Association also offered the course in areas where funding for childminders’ training was available.
It is also possible to complete the CCP as a distance learning course and was invaluable to childminders who work very long hours or shift patterns and found it difficult to attend classes. The National Extension College offers the complete CCP course and can be contacted by visiting www.nec.ac.uk/courses or telephoning 0800 3892839 for a prospectus.
As I mentioned earlier in this chapter the Certificate in Childminding Practice is in the process of being changed. At the time of writing, plans were being made for two new qualifications to come into effect from January 2006, namely the Level 2 Award/Certificate in Approved Child Carers and the Level 3 Diploma in Home-based Child Care. These courses differ from the Certificate in Childminding Practice as they take into account all individuals working with children in a home based setting such as nannies, as well as childminders.
The two new qualifications offered by CACHE are as follows:
Level 3 Diploma in Home-based Child Care – this course is made up of five units which are as follows:
Unit 1 Introduction to childcare practice (home-based)
Unit 2 Childcare and child development (0–16) in the home-based setting
Unit 3 The childcare practitioner in the home-based setting
Unit 4 Working in partnership with parents in the home-based setting
Unit 5 Meeting children’s individual learning needs in the home-based setting.
In addition to this Diploma, CACHE are also offering a Level 2 qualification which will be called the Award/Certificate in Approved Child Carers (subject to QCA approval).
For more information about these new qualifications contact CACHE on 0127 847636 or look at their website www.cache.org.uk
NATIONAL VOCATIONAL QUALIFICATIONS FOR CHILDMINDERS (NVQ)
Some childminders choose to study for their National Vocational Qualification Level 3 in Children’s Care, Learning and Development. NVQs are nationally recognised qualifications and students who have got to this level will already have gained valuable knowledge and understanding about childcare and all it entails. As childminders usually work alone, and therefore plan and organise their own work without any supervision, they should be studying at a level 3. Although it is not strictly necessary for childminders to have completed the CCP before enrolling on the NVQ level 3, I would definitely advise this course of action as the CCP provides the underpinning knowledge required for the NVQ level 3.
An NVQ is based on your actual working practice and it is necessary for your work to be assessed.
Childminders can continue to develop and build on their training throughout their careers and Quality Assurance is a way of showing prospective and existing customers that you are committed to your business and that you are a professional childminder.
Quality Assurance schemes help childminders to be ‘reflective practitioners’ and encourage them to think about their practice; the way they do things and ultimately how improvements can be made. The government, and indeed the parents of the children you will look after, are demanding higher standards of childcare and it is your duty to ensure that you provide the highest possible standard of care. Quality Assurance is a way of proving that your service has been checked and that it is of a high standard.
Childminding networks are run by many different organisations including local authorities and the National Childminding Association. As a registered childminder you may have the opportunity to become involved in a childminding network and the services and support they offer are useful. Childminders who are part of a network will receive regular visits from a coordinator who will assist with training, support meetings, loan schemes etc.
It is possible for some childminders to become involved in community childminding networks. These networks are set up in order to arrange care for children who have been referred by social services. They may offer respite care or perhaps temporary full-time care for families who are experiencing difficulties. Childminders who are involved in community networks will receive extra training aimed at caring for children in need, or from vulnerable or distressed backgrounds.
ACCREDITED CHILDMINDERS AND EARLY YEARS EDUCATION
It is possible for network childminders to take extra training to become accredited. This enables them to offer early years education for three and four year olds.
All three and four-year-old children in England are now able to receive five free nursery education sessions per week, if their parents wish. At present the free nursery entitlement is 12½ hours per week. By becoming accredited, childminders are able to claim government funding for offering this service to families. Childminders who are accredited on the National Childminding Association’s Children Come First approved networks are, at present, the only childminders able to offer early years education sessions.
Accredited childminders, along with all other early years education settings such as nurseries and pre-schools, must be inspected by Ofsted if in England and the National Care Standards Inspectorate (CSIW) if in Wales and agree to follow a set curriculum.
FURTHER TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES
In addition to the recognised qualifications it is possible for childminders to access a variety of other training courses including seminars, conferences and workshops. It is a good idea for childminders to assess which areas you feel you need extra training in; and contact your local authority with regard to the availability of workshops or conferences which cover these topics.
Local authorities often run extra training in areas such as equal opportunities, managing children’s behaviour, record keeping and food hygiene to name but a few. Additional training for child protection is also available and I would strongly advise all childminders to consider taking up this training. Your local authority can advise you about available courses and a short, distance learning programme, run through the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) and Educare, is also available. Child Protection Awareness Programmes highlight the basics needed to understand, recognise and report on acts of child abuse. For details of these programmes and others which you may find useful you can contact NSPCC Educare on their programme hotline 01926 436219.
Finally, it is important for childminders to recognise the need for on-going training. To provide a professional service you need to be aware of any changes in procedures and legislation and never allow your training to become stale. The more skills you acquire, the better your childminding service will be, and you should always be looking for ways to improve and add to the knowledge you already have.