Support for Ofsted Registered Childminders

12th December 2022

Guest Blog by Childminding UK

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Childminding UK has been supporting childminders for over 30 years. Formed in 1991 by and for local working childminders in Northamptonshire, we now support childminders across the country.

A registered charity, we are the only national organisation that solely supports childminders and we have recently achieved the Princess Royal Training Award for ‘Ensuring high quality childcare through training and support’. All staff and trustees are experienced childcare professionals, staff have been childminders themselves and the majority of trustees are working childminders so we have a good understanding of the sector.

Following a government consultation on the relaxation of childcare ratios, other areas to deregulate childcare and reduce childcare costs, we carried out a survey of our members to ask their views. We received a higher than average response rate and responses show the depth of unease and worry among our members, ranging from those who are in the registration process and others being registered for over 10 years.

Childminding numbers have reduced significantly over recent years according to Ofsted figures with a fall of 7% between August 2021 and March 2022. Historically, childminding is a transient profession but with numbers remaining reasonably static. Sensible measures to reverse this trend should be investigated to enable parents to have the option of good quality regulated home from home childcare that is the uniqueness of childminding, while giving childminders the registration choices they request and the support they need.

Registration Options

Childminding is not something to go into lightly but can be an excellent career choice for many when it is the right choice both for the childminder and their family. Childminders generally work alone from their home and make all the decisions for the running of the business and the care and education of their minded children, giving total freedom to plan their days, activities and outings as they wish.

Since 2014, there has been a choice of registering with Ofsted or with a Childminding Agency. The most recent Ofsted figures show that out of around 31,400 childminders, over 30,000 have chosen to register with or remain registered with Ofsted.

The difference is that Ofsted provide regulatory duties, which means they register new childminders and inspect existing ones leaving childminders free to choose their training, resources and support, whether that is a one-off training course or a full membership that includes everything needed apart from registration. Childminding Agencies provide their own registration, inspection, training and support. Some may produce their own training with others buying in the training they provide.

Ofsted operate throughout the whole of England (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own regulatory requirements).  Some Agencies operate across England with others operating in specific areas only and some areas not having access to Agency registration.

The other difference is that Ofsted regulatory services are government subsidised. Agencies will charge a monthly fee or a % of income to cover all their costs.

In our survey, over 78% of respondents said they should have a choice of registering with Ofsted or an Agency, with 53% stating that if registering with an Agency was made compulsory, they would give up childminding. The reasons Members gave were mainly that they value their Ofsted inspection grading and that they want to be totally independent. One respondent commented that remaining with Ofsted ‘keeps it professional’.

Registration checks and time frame

Ofsted have a legal requirement to register childminders within 12 weeks of application unless something outside their control prevents this. (DBS checks and training need to be completed before applying.)

Examples of situations that may delay registration are:

  • Ongoing health conditions that need investigation to ensure that an individual is well enough to childmind and that childminding won’t damage their health further
  • Queries around DBS Checks– including if people have lived in lots of different countries that need contacting during the process
  • Social Services checks that are carried out with the Local Authority to check suitability

Agency time frames vary from agency to agency with no specific legal timescales. Currently Ofsted are running a pilot to help reduce the length of Ofsted registration further.


Support for Ofsted Registered Childminders

It is vital that childminders can access support while carrying out their complex and unique role. Most childminders work alone, and regular support can help reduce feelings of isolation and help provide information and a safety net when needed. Support needed varies depending on the individual childminder’s experience and training needs.

There is a choice of organisations that offer training and support for registered childminders including Childminding UK. Membership organisations have a good relationship with Ofsted, and work together on e.g., focus groups regarding documentation and registration processes and Ofsted attend organisation events such as conferences where they can.

Many membership organisations also seek members views and lobby government on their behalf regarding changes to childcare policy. Membership organisations offer a variety of different levels of support with some offering a choice of membership packages.

Childminders can choose an organisation that supports all early years practitioners or one who just support childminders. They can choose generic training or training written specifically for childminders. Support is delivered in a variety of ways from general support via newsletters, virtual sessions and online training to dedicated specific support on topics ranging from safeguarding concerns to advice about ratios, inspection support, working with parents, childminding fees or taking on an assistant. Peer to peer support is valuable for childminders too and most organisations provide set platforms for childminders to ‘meet’ others and share ideas. Most membership organisations offer discounted public liability insurance and other discounts with external companies and organisations. Some also include discounts for childminders to use with their families such as days out, holidays etc.

Each Local Authority has a duty to include details of all childminders in their area on their local website for parents who are searching for childcare. They also have a duty to support new childminders before their first Ofsted inspection and those who receive a less than good grading.

Benefits of Ofsted Registration

Ofsted are totally impartial when carrying out registration or inspection visits- they do not offer a support service, so any comments and grading are completely independent of any information or support childminders receive with no conflict of interest.

Ofsted offer a government subsidised service, with their annual fee of £35 for early years childminders, giving childminders maximum choice to then purchase training and support and can mix and match their own package with different training providers and organisations.

Ofsted offer regulatory services only and do not expect a childminding setting to be run in any particular way, but of course they inspect on safeguarding and how effective children’s care and learning and development are provided for.

Parents are familiar with Ofsted and value Ofsted grading. Almost 50% of our survey respondents said they value their Ofsted grading and want to remain independent to run their setting as they choose.

In Summary

Childminding UK believes that childminding is a much needed part of the childcare workforce as well as being a viable career option. The role of childminders in our society needs protecting.

The biggest benefit of registered childminding is that it is home from home childcare. A home is familiar and there are places to play, rest, snuggle and sleep. Many children who don’t settle well in larger non-domestic premises can flourish in a caring and nurturing home environment. Children are cared for in mixed age groups and have many opportunities to explore their communities and have meaningful outings in nature as well as providing those essential school/pre-schools pick-ups for older children, which has been identified as one area of childcare there is a particular shortage of.

In order to maintain and grow the number of childminding settings, policy makers need to address the issues that make childminders give up childminding or prevent them joining the sector in the first place.

Government is right in looking into this issue and this involves listening to the people who are actually doing the job. We will continue to conduct Members surveys and send the survey reports to policy makers to help them consider as many views as possible when making decisions on policy changes.

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