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Being professional

It is vital that you portray yourself and your childminding business in a professional manner at all times. Registered Childminders can build an excellent reputation which will enable them to be more sustainable as a quality childcare option for parents and their children. The following points will help you to achieve this. Many are common sense, others you may not have considered, but they are all equally important to ensure that others see you as a professional.

Being Ready

Make sure you are ready and fully dressed before the first minded child arrives - you wouldn't go to work anywhere else in your nightclothes and so you shouldn't start your childminding working day in nightclothes either.

Make sure there are some toys/activities available so that children can start their day of playing and learning as soon as they arrive - you are providing a service and that service needs to be available from the minute your service users (minded children) arrive. This doesn't mean you need to set your home up like a nursery with all activities planned throughout the day available first thing, but it does need to be welcoming with things available that children can see and be invited to do as soon as they walk through your door.

Watch your language

Never use inappropriate language or swearing to minded children or to other adults in front of minded children and always challenge others who do!

Telephone manner

When you receive a telephone call, always answer it as if it was a potential customer of your childminding service or another professional body such as Ofsted. Try to ensure that family members answer the phone politely too. Some childminders have a dedicated childminding phone.

Use an answer phone

The nature of childminding means that childminders are often out with their minded children. Consider providing an answer phone to take landline messages when you are unavailable and/or use the answer facility on your mobile phone for when you can't take calls. Parents looking for a childminder may not keep ringing back again and again. Make sure your message tells callers that you are a childminder and will ring them back even if it's your home phone you are using for your business too.

Be organised on outings

On outings make sure you have everything you need for any eventuality. Consider nappy changing supplies, phone, parents' contact details, first aid kit, suitable clothing, enough petrol and breakdown cover for the car if you are using one.

Be friendly and polite at all times

Think about what other people see and hear when you are in the playground, walking to school, in childminding/toddler group and talking to parents and other childminders. People who know you are a childminder will form an opinion of you from what they see even if they don't know you.

Maintain confidentiality

Never pass on sensitive information about children, parents or other childminders. Gossiping is never professional behaviour. Make sure you are registered with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) if you need to. Our Legal Requirements web page has more information about ICO and Data Protection. LINK TO LEGAL REQUIREMENTS PAGE

Data Protection Online Training

Our online Data Protection Course is unique in that we give you all the information you need regarding the Data Protection Act, but also go step by step through the Data Protection Principles and link them to the EYFS explaining what you actually need to do

Keep your knowledge updated

You can keep up to date by attending training, reading any publications or magazines you purchase and reading any publications you may be sent by companies such as your Local Safeguarding Boards or your Public Liability Insurers. And keep looking on this website and our Childminding UK Facebook page - we update the information on here regularly.

You can help extend your childcare knowledge by reading our information e-books and completing our online training courses, which are all available in our shop.

Online training can offer a more flexible way of learning than traditional classroom based courses. You can login and learn at any time of the day (or night) that you choose. There are no added costs involved such as petrol, babysitting etc. You can dip in and out of online courses and do not have to complete all in one go, meaning that online learning is often the most viable option for busy people. On completion of the course, you print off a certificate for your records. Unlike some other courses, Childminding UK does not limit the number of times you access the course in order to complete it.

Visit our shop to see the full range of online courses available.

Seek advice when you are unsure

If you are unsure of something, it is professional behaviour check details so you are sure you have the correct information to use in your business. Don't forget that if you are a Childminding UK member, you can access our telephone support helpline.

Childminding UK Annual Membership

Buying our membership gives you the best value on our downloadable resources and many of our online training courses. Plus you will be able to access our telephone support helpline, receive discounts on Public Liability Insurance and much more.

Childminding UK Annual Membership- Monthly payments

Buying our membership gives you the best value on our downloadable resources and many of our online training courses. Plus you will be able to access our telephone support helpline, receive discounts on Public Liability Insurance and much more. You can now pay monthly for your membership if this suits you better than a single annual payment.

This is what one of our Members said about how valuable they found their membership with Childminding UK

Without your advice I wouldn't have achieved half of what I've managed to do in this past year, you have given me the confidence to do more and at a higher standard.

Another childminder said this

Having all the discounts that are available as a Childminding UK member is a real bonus

Make sure your paperwork is up to date

All registered childminders have a legal responsibility to keep certain records, policies and procedures. Ensure that your polices are reviewed regularly and that invoices etc. are prepared in good time.

Proof read all documents

If using a computer, make sure you spell check all policies and procedures and adverts you produce. It is helpful to get another adult to read them through for you too, as someone else can often spot things that you miss if you have written it yourself.

Emails

If you currently have one email address for your whole family, you will need to create an individual one for business use.

This should be the e-mail address that you give to everyone who is communicating with you regarding your business.

Ideally you should not use your personal e-mail address for business use.

Consider your email address

Does your email address seem suitable for a Registered Childminder? Email addresses that may sound fun for you personally may sound inappropriate for your business. Your email address should reflect the professional childcare service you are offering.

Check emails regularly

Make sure you check your business emails on a regular basis. Parents, those looking for childcare or other agencies may have sent you important information or requests that need acting upon. If you only respond to emails periodically, enquirers may think you are not efficient and may decide they no longer want to consider you as the childminder for their child.

If you are going on holiday or will not be able to access emails for any reason, use the autoresponder facility so that a reply is sent for each email received so the enquirer knows the reason for the delay and when to expect a response.

Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means Albert Einstein

Beware of what your body language is telling people

Remember that our largest communication tool is our body language. Only 7% of our communication is made up of the words we use, 38% is our tone of voice and the other 55% is our body language which consists of our stance and facial expressions.

Interviews with Parents

Never offer a negative opinion about another childminder the parent is visiting before deciding where to place their child. It’s unprofessional to repeat unfounded allegations and could be deemed as slanderous. Instead, make sure the parents are aware of what they should be looking for in a childminder.

Well-being. A Parents Guide

Working in partnership with parents is vital and what could be more valuable than working together on children’s well-being? This guide - based on Rosemary Roberts 4 A's of well-being gives parents information about what to look for in a childcare setting that will help build and maintain their child's well-being.

Social Media

What are you telling people about yourself?

Social media sites such as Facebook, Bebo and MySpace are a very popular way of communicating and sharing your interests online. We know that many of you use these to talk to friends, other childminders and even parents. But we would like to make sure that you protect your professional reputation by following a few simple guidelines.

  • Before setting up your profile, think about who you want to see your personal information
  • Do not share any information online that you would not share with people face to face
  • Some social media sites have a range of settings between public and private so select the one that is appropriate for you
  • Remember, when you go public, it is not just friends of friends but also complete strangers who will be able to see your content, search and find you online, including parents looking for childcare
  • Just to give you an idea, Facebook alone has over 250 million active users, more than 120 million log on each day and the average user has 120 friends on the site!
  • So be very careful about the kind of information (including images) you share about yourself and how you manage your online reputation
  • When you have posted information, other people are able to pass it on or change what you have said and you might not be able to stop them or delete it afterwards
  • Don't share your passwords - only you should be able to access your site
  • Remember that images of the children that you are minding should not be posted unless you have written parental permission to do so.
  • The last point also refers to sending photos that you have taken on your mobile phone to other people. These images can be misused and you will need parental permission to use forward in this way.
  • Sites such as Snapchat will hide your picture messages after a few seconds, but they will remain with the site provider and the terms and conditions of using these sites mean that you can't prevent them from using your photographs if they choose to do so.

Snap Maps

There are concerns by Police, NSPCC, The Safer Internet Centre and others about Snapchat's facility called Snap Maps which uses GPS to track where the user is and will show a map to viewers about the persons location-even the child's school or home!

Snapchat is used by lots of children and concerns are raised about children not fully realising how to keep themselves safe online. As a childminder, if you are out and about with your minded children, other users will be able to see where you are and this may pose a danger to children's safety (and your own of course).

It is possible to turn off Snap Maps to help keep children safe. Follow this link to find out more about the concerns and how to turn Snap Maps off

Policies and procedures

A policy is simply an explanation of the way that you work. For example, you will have ideas of what behaviour you would like to see, how you encourage the behaviour you want and how you respond when children use behaviour that you don't want. This is your policy even if it isn’t written down. By thinking about the ways that you will work with minded children, it can help you be consistent for all children and families all of the time.

Why have written policies and procedures?

The EYFS states that childminders must have polices and procedures but that they don't all have to be written. For those of you who are registered on the Childcare Register to care for children aged 5-8 years, it is compulsory to have your Safeguarding Children policy and Complaints Procedure in writing. (If you are in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, check which policies and procedures you need to have in writing and any particular information that your policies must cover).

It is considered good practice to have written policies and procedures even though it is not a legal requirement for all of them because:

  • It helps you think about whether you have the correct procedures in place
  • Reviewing policies helps develop a self reflective practice
  • it helps keeping parents informed
  • providing parents with copies of your policies and procedures means they can revisit them and check out details they may not remember from your verbal information exchanges; which can help prevent misunderstandings
  • It ensures consistency because all parents are given exactly the same message and not relying only on verbal information exchanges
  • It shows professionalism
  • It is easier to provide evidence for Ofsted about how you manage your practice than verbal conversations alone. Think about how long it would take to tell Ofsted all the detail about everything you do if you don't have them in writing

Producing a policy

There are 2 ways of producing policies and procedures for your childminding setting. You can write your own from scratch or you can buy ready made policies that only need tweaking to make sure they reflect your individual childminding practice.

All childminders work slightly differently and you should never use ready made policies until you have read them carefully and tweaked them to fit your own childminding practice

Writing your own policies

It is up to you how you write a policy and each childminder will do it differently - there is no set way a policy should look. But before you start, think about why you are writing the policy, what it is about, and how often you will review your policy. It should be a working document, reviewed regularly to reflect changes to the way you work and any statutory changes.

Points to consider when writing your policies:

  • Read through the Early Years Foundation Stage Documents. You may want to refer to them or include sections of these in the policy
  • You may want to include a statement about keeping up to date with training and legislation
  • You may want to refer to relevant legislation in your policy
  • Keep it as short as possible- you want parents to read it
  • Use no jargon or abbreviations, keep it clear and simple
  • Use positive language, say what you will do rather than what you won’t do
  • Make sure the policy is an accurate description of your practices and attitudes
  • Your policies should be reviewed regularly
  • Feedback from parents and children about your service will help inform your policies
  • Policies should be signed and dated by you and must include a review date
Policies and procedures should be reveiewed at least annually. If you are a new childminder, it is worth carrying out your first policy review after 6 months as you can easily outgrow your first policies as your practice progresses
To help you produce your own policies, we have created FREE suggestions of what you need to consider adding to your policy which are all available in our shop.

Buying ready made policies

All our policies come ready for you just to read through and tweak to make sure they accurately reflect your individual childminding practice. They are all compliant with the EYFS requirements. If you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you will need to check if there are any specific things that you need to include in your policies.

Policies and Procedures Resource Pack

Our Policies and Procedures Resource Pack covers all the policies you will need for your standard childminding practice -whether you work alone or with others. They are updated regularly by our team of childminding specialists and once purchased, you will receive any future updates FREE OF CHARGE. The pack also includes guidance and examples of logos and strap-lines you can adopt if you would like to personalise them further- or of course you can just add your existing logo if you have one. Also included are forms to record the policy reviews you carry out.

All our policies can also be purchased individually if you prefer.

Policies to consider

Scotland Wales- Northern Ireland

STATEMENT ABOUT OUR POLICIES FITTING IN WITH WHAT THEY NEED BUT CAN BE AMENDED?

Compulsory Policies

The following policies are compulsory to have in writing if you live in England.

  • Safeguarding Children
  • Staff Behaviour if you employ others
  • Non collection of children
  • Complaints
  • Lost child (can be included with risk assessment)

Other policies/procedures

It is considered good practice and strongly recommended that you have these policies in writing too:

  • Managing Behaviour
  • Bullying - can be included in behaviour policy
  • Children’s illness/Infection
  • Accident/Injury
  • Medicines
  • Equal Opportunities/inclusion
  • Confidentiality
  • Health & Safety
  • Working with Parents
  • Nutrition (Healthy Eating)
  • Smoking
  • Admissions and settling in
  • Alcohol, Drugs and Adult Medication
  • Safety on outings
  • Television and games consoles
  • Trampoline if applicable
  • Risk Assessment

Presenting your policies/procedures

  • Include all policies in your portfolio to show to parents.
  • Share them with parents. Some childminders give parents hard copies of their policies, others email them to parents. If you have your own website or use a software programme you can upload your policies to this so parents can access them at anytime. Some childminders do not give copies to parents, but invite them to request to see them if needed.
  • You may want to produce a sheet of all your policies so parents can sign when they’ve seen or received copies of them
  • Remember to share updated policies with parents so they always have access to the correct version.

Building a Childminding Portfolio

We have produced a FREE guide to building a childminding portfolio that you can use in your first interviews with parents to help showcase what your childminding practice has to offer. It looks professional and also helps you make sure that you don't forget to cover anything you want to discuss. It can help put parents at ease as they may not know what to ask you and so you have all the information available for them to look through.

Contracts

While there is no legal requirement for registered childminders in England to hold contracts with parents, it is a legal requirement in other parts of the UK. However, it is strongly recommended that you do keep contracts for all your childminding arrangements even if you don't have to.

A written contract clearly states what is expected from both the childminder and the parents/guardians. The information recorded gives a lasting account, which both parties can refer to if needed and can prevent misunderstandings and disagreements in the future.

Verbal agreements can be easily forgotten and cannot easily be confirmed as accurate in the event of a misunderstanding

Completing a contract with parents can help the childminder to cover all the aspects that are needed to ensure that the child, parents and childminder’s needs are met regarding the arrangement and that important aspects are not missed. It also helps the childminder to start any new childminding arrangement in a businesslike way, which will help with future conversations and negotiations regarding the care of the child(ren).

A contract is built by both parties agreeing to terms and conditions that should include the following:

  • Hours of childminding provided
  • Payment for childminding (some hours may be paid for by the Government for 2 , 3 or 4 year olds funding or by other agencies paying for the childminding place such as Social Services)
  • Payment for absences such as sickness or holiday
  • Who is responsible for payment?
  • Date payment is due (It is recommended that payment be made in advance i.e. the first day of the week or month that the child attends)
  • Who will provide meals?
  • Who will provide equipment?

The contract needs to be signed by all parties and copies provided. The contract will be valuable evidence of terms that were agreed if there is a dispute later about the details of the contract or there are fees owed to the childminder and if the childminder needs to take legal action.

How do I provide contracts for my childminding business?

There are two ways of providing childminding contracts.

  • Buy ready prepared contracts to complete
  • Write your own

Points to consider when writing/completing your contracts

  • A contract, once signed, is a legally binding document.
  • Both parties are agreeing to abide by the terms and conditions listed. Any breach of this by either party could result in legal action by the other party involved
  • It is recommended that contracts are reviewed regularly, as situations change and your contract needs to reflect any changes to the original agreement. It is recommended that contracts are reviewed every 6 or 12 months or as situations change. If when reviewed, no changes are needed, both parties can sign and date the existing contract to show the review.
  • A separate contract is usually needed for each child.
  • All sections must be completed or marked as not applicable because otherwise the contract will be deemed as incomplete and may not stand up in court.

Contract Pack

Everything you need to provide childminding contracts. This comprehensive pack includes contracts and guidance in how to complete the contract. It also includes consent forms, child record form, authorisation for collecting children and information about Parental Responsibility which all form part of your agreements with parents.

Working with Parents

Childcare Vouchers

The Government offers a salary sacrifice childcare voucher scheme for employed parents where they can choose to have part of their salary paid in vouchers rather than money.

These vouchers can be used as payment or part payment for childcare fees for children until 1 September following his or her 15th birthday, or until 1 September following his or her 16th birthday, if he or she is disabled, as long as the care is provided by registered childcare providers.

Employers are not required by law to provide employer supported childcare to their employees. The decision to do so, and the type of employer supported childcare provided, is up to the employer but it is worth all employed parents asking to have childcare vouchers paid as part of their salary as the employee will not pay Tax or National Insurance on this amount and the employer will not pay employers' contributions on the amount thus saving both the parents and their employers money.

There are several providers of childcare vouchers. Employers will choose the provider and will provide parents with an application pack that includes information about how the childminder registers to redeem the vouchers.

The childminder redeems the vouchers as payment or part payment of childminding services.

If a parent is entitled to the Childcare Element of Working Tax Credit, it may not be beneficial for them to also claim Childcare Vouchers from their employer.

More information on childcare vouchers and tax credit from HMRC and the Family and Childcare Trust

The current Childcare Voucher Scheme is closing to new applicants in April 2018.

Tax Free Childcare

The Governments new Tax Free Childcare Scheme is being rolled out gradually throughout the year with the youngest children and disabled children being able to be signed up first. By the end of 2017 all families will be able to use the scheme.

You will have received a letter from the Government in September or October 2016 telling you about the scheme and inviting you to sign up.

Parents will not be able to use the Tax Free Childcare Scheme to pay you if you are not signed up to the Scheme.

Once you have signed up, parents will be able to see that you have on the new digital tool where they can search for childcare providers that use the scheme.

This is how it will work. All parents living in a household will need to be working and each earning the equivalent of 16 hours per week at the minimum wage or national living wage (around £5,980) up to a maximum of £100,000 per year. They will open a special online account through the Government website and put money into the account to pay you. The Government will then top up the account with 20% of the childcare costs up to the maximum allowance of £2,000 per child or £4,000 for disabled children.

The scheme is not reliant on an employer to operate and it is open to self-employed people too. Parents can use the scheme for children up to age 12 years or 17 years if the child has a disability.

The current Childcare Voucher Scheme is closing to new applicants in April 2018, but parents can continue to use Vouchers instead of the new scheme if they are signed up before then. Recent research suggests that 66% of parents will be better off using Vouchers than the new scheme. Parents can check which scheme they would be better of using

30 hours of Free Childcare

From September 2017, the Governments new 30 Hours of Free Childcare comes into being. Some children of working parents will be eligible for 30 hours of Free Childcare. The 30 hours will made up of the current 15 hours of Free Entitlement and an additional 15 hours of childcare.

Parents are eligible if all parents in the household are working (single parents- 1 parent working; 2 parents in a household- both must be working). Parents must earn the equivalent of 16 hours at the national minimum wage, up to a maximum of £100,000 each which is the same amounts as for Tax Free Childcare.

Most childminders can register with their Local Authority to deliver these places.

Visit the Childcare Choices website for more parents information about 30 hours of free childcare.

The Government has produced 5 documents to provide information for local authorities and providers reguarding the delivery of the 30 hours.

Early years entitlements: operational guidance for local authorities and providers –April 2017 Early education and childcare - statutory guidance for local authorities - March 2017 Model Agreement: Early years provision free of charge and free childcare - March 2017 Early Years Workforce Strategy – March 2017 Early years entitlements: operational guidance for local authorities and providers- revised July 2017

Because lots of you have been contacting us with questions about the 30 Hours of Free Childcare, we have put together a Guide that is aimed at what childminders need to know. Our Guide is based on information from the documents listed above and the results of the Pilot areas that have been trialling the 30 hours since September 2016.

Guide to Delivering the 30 Hours of Free Childcare

We have created this FREE guide to help you know what you need to in order to deliver the 30 hours of free childcare, including information about the extras the Government will let you charge for.

Listening to Children

For many years, research & government policies have established the importance of listening to children. Through all this legislation we have hopefully diminished the belief and opinions that children should be seen and not heard and that children’s views are perceived as unreliable and inaccurate. Truly listening to children will promote real opportunities for them to communicate their experiences, views, concerns and aspirations in turn practitioners will understand and be able to meet the needs of each child.

Practical ways of listening to children

  • Observations
  • Visual arts
  • Discussions / Interviews
  • Stories/Role play
  • Questionnaire
  • Using IT equipment

The Know How Guide for the progress check at age two has a section (2.4) 'Listening to the voice of the child'.

Information about a child's preferences can be gained through a simple questionnaire given to children. We suggest to only have a few questions such as:

  1. What do you like best about the time you spend with me?
  2. What would make it better?
  3. Would your friends like it here?

Older children will be able to write their responses while younger children may draw their answers For even younger children, you could sit with them and ask the questions and write their answers for them - or ask parents to.

Listening to children impacts on the children’s sense of well being.

There are many ways in which children can be listened to – truly listened to and not just heard. Really listening to young children can be a self-reflective tool and bring about change in your practice.

You can help show that you are listening to children by using our FREE resource called the Wish Fish. Wish Fish is a way of showing how you respond to children's requests for activities etc. that you can't carry out straight away. Simply add a postit to the Wish Fish with the child's name and date of the request so they understand that you have listened and that later they will get their wish.

Wish Fish

Using the Wish Fish helps children know you are listening to them and boosts their well-being because you are showing their wishes are important to you too. Our FREE resource comes with an image of the Wish Fish to laminate and put on your wall and full instructions of how to use it.

Duty of Care Resource Pack

Our popular Duty of Care Resource Pack includes a child's questionnaire as well as other questionnaires you can use to gain parents view about your childminding practice. The pack also contains accident and medication records, consent forms, record forms, risk assessments, emergency evacuation forms, variation forms and lots more.

All the records in the Duty of Care pack can be purchased individually if you prefer.

Why not consider reading our e-book about children's well-being which includes the parents e-book FREE of charge We also have an e-book about understanding attachment. Using the information in these will help you listen to the children in your care.

A Practitioners Guide to Well-being and Involvement e-book

Well-being and Involvement are two key frameworks within childcare which are the building blocks for all children's development. Based on Professor Laevers’ work, this e-book gives you practical guidance on how to improve children’s well-being and involvement levels in your setting. Why not share the FREE Parent Guide with parents of your minded children so they are fully aware of all the steps you take to enhance and maintain their child's well-being?

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