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. Make sure there are toys/activities available too so that children can start their day of playing and learning as soon as they arrive.

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.

Buy an answer phone

The nature of childminding means that childminders are often out with their minded children. Consider providing an answer phone to take messages when you are unavailable. 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.

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 Public Liability Insurers. And keep looking on this website - 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 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.

Courses currently available:

Safeguarding Children

Food Hygiene

Understanding and Managing Children's Behaviour

Recording Children's Development

Getting ready for your Ofsted inspection

Data Protection

Prevent Duty and British Values

Working with Children who have Special Educational Needs or Disablity

Other titles are coming soon... including Completing your Early Years SEF and a two part course about Nutrition.

Other titles will be produced over the coming months. Keep checking here or in our shop for more details and to access the courses of your choice. If there is a particular topic you would like to see in our online training library, please contact us and we will see if we can produce it for you.

Seek advice when you are unsure

If you are unsure of something, it is professional behaviour to ring up and check details so you are sure you have the correct information to use in your business.

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.

You can save valuable time by purchasing ready made policies and other childminding forms.

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.

Consider your email address

If you currently have one email address for your whole family, you 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. You should not use your personal e-mail address for business use. 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.

Check emails regularly

Make sure you check your business emails on a regular basis. Parents, those looking for childcare and other agencies may have sent you important information or requests that need acting upon.

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.

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 are using 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 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.

Policies and procedures

Why have written policies and procedures?

  • Helps you think about whether you have the correct procedures in place
  • Reviewing policies helps develop a self reflective practice
  • Informs parents
  • Ensures consistency
  • Shows professionalism
  • Evidence for Ofsted about how you manage your practice
  • There is a legal requirement that certain policies and procedures are in place. Some of these are required to be written. However, it is strongly recommended that you produce written policies for all.

Writing a policy

It is up to you how you write a policy and each childminder will do it differently. 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 statutory changes. If you are new to producing policies, it may be worth considering purchasing ready made policies which only need tweaking to your own practice.

Points to consider when writing 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

Written policies/procedures that are compulsory:

By clicking on the title of the policy you will be able to read suggestions for including in your policies if you want to write your own. Alternatively, purchase ready-made policies that you can either use or amend according to your own childminding practice.

Other policies/procedures - it is strongly recommended that you have these policies in writing:

Presenting your policies/procedures

  • Include all policies in your portfolio to show to parents. How to build a portfolio.
  • Some childminders give copies of all policies to parents
  • You may want to produce a sheet of all your policies so parents can sign when they’ve seen them

Our Policies and Procedures pack includes a form that you can use to get parents to sign that they have read or accessed your policies.

Contracts

While there is no legal requirement for registered childminders to hold contracts with parents, it is strongly recommended that you do keep contracts for all your childminding arrangements.

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
  • Payment for childminding
  • Payment for absences
  • 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.

  1. Buy ready prepared contracts to complete
  2. Write your own

Childminding UK are in the process of producing childminding contracts. These will be part of the CUK Membership package and also available individually in our shop.

Points to note

  • 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 needed for each child.

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 employer­supported 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.

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 childminders register 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

Tax Free Childcare

The Governments new Tax Free Childcare Scheme is here! The 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 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 between 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 here. http://www.tax-free-childcare.info/resources/childcare-vouchers-vs-tax-free-childcare/

Listening to Children

Within recent times 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 NCB Know How Guide for the progress check at age two has a section (2.4) 'Listening to the voice of the child' and further advice in their factsheet

Information about a child's preferences can be gained through a questionnaire

  • 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 show that you are listening to children by using a resource called the Wish Fish. Wish Fish and instructions can be dowloaded here.

Why not consider reading our e-book about children's well-being which includes a FREE parents e-book about well-being for their children? We also have an e-book about understanding attachment. Using the information in these will help you listen to the children in your care and can be found in our shop.