Erin Whiles, Registered Childminder
How did you get into the job? I have worked in other areas of childcare but after getting pregnant with my second child, I wanted to be at home with my children but also working at the same time. As I had experience of working with children, childminding seemed ideal.
What's your job history and education? I went to catering college after leaving school but soon discovered that this was not what I wanted. I secured a placement in a day nursery and began to work towards my NVQ Level 3 in childcare. When the training company went into receivership, the nursery offered me a full time job. After about a year I became pregnant with my daughter. At the same time, a parent of a child in the nursery offered me a job as a nanny for her daughter - so I accepted. I stayed with her for over 7 years until my second pregnancy with my son.
What are the best bits/worst bits of the job? There are lots of things I enjoy about this work. Being there for my own children is number one, but watching the children I care for achieve is wonderful. I love being my own boss, choosing where we go and what we do, and having the satisfaction of running my own business. I also get to meet lots of different people and have continuous training opportunities.
The bad bits (though they are not that bad, really!) are that paperwork can sometimes go into overload, and finding time to fit it in can be difficult. As well, although I am there for my children, they don't get my 100% attention given to them as they have to wait and share me. Also, there is mess at the end of the day!
Do you have any advice for 'wannabes'? Make sure you enjoy caring for children! Ensure you have a lot of patience and don't expect parents with children to be knocking on your door immediately. It takes time to build your business up unless you are living in an area that is lacking in childcare providers. Develop a basic routine - it makes your day so much easier. Get out and about with the children as much as possible.
What are the CV essentials for the job? To like children is first and foremost! And to be patient, caring, and also being creative helps, especially on a rainy day when you can't get out.
To become a childcarer of any kind you are subject to a Disclosure and Barring Sevice (DBS, which used to be called a CRB) check to ensure that you have no convictions that might exclude you from working with children. In applying for jobs, you'll find that some employers ask for specific qualifications. For instance, at least half the staff working in day nurseries must be qualified in early years care and education. However, there are employers willing to take on unqualified staff for on-the-job-training.
For Erin's job as a Registered Childminder, she says that it took some time to go through the process. "I had to attend an initial meeting then submit the paperwork, attend an initial course and have my suitability and premises checked by Ofsted. I also had to wait about four months for my CRB check to come back."
Since jobs can range from working in nurseries, play pre-schools and playgroups, in playwork, or as a professional childminder at home or a nanny in someone else's home, your day-to-day routine depends on which area you working in, and whether with babies, toddlers, primary age or older children. You might be changing nappies, or performing educational tasks, and you might opt to work with specifically with children with special needs. Whichever, your level of responsibility will be immense.
"I ensure all the children I care for are given opportunities to play and develop at their own individual pace," says Erin "I supply them with a healthy diet and lots of exercise, and the play comes in all different forms such as structured, adult led, outdoor, role, free choice or physical."
For some childcare jobs you can start from scratch, but with many, qualifications are necessary in the first instance. At the least, you need to be willing to take a qualification while on the job. It's important to remember that you'll play an important role helping children to develop and grow - socially, physically, creatively and emotionally.
For Erin, gaining a CACHE Level 3 Diploma in Home-based Childcare helped her a lot. "It also meant I qualified for the National Childminding Association Children Come First network - which enables me to access workshops and additional training and provides new ideas of ways to aid children's development and assist with the running of my business."
This type of work suits people who are patient, enthusiastic, imaginative, organised and have a genuine love for working with children and helping them develop and learn. "You also need to be an approachable person that can take criticism in a positive way," adds Erin. "It suits anybody that is serious about childminding or childcare, but this kind of work is no longer a job for the mum who wants to stay at home to earn a bob or two whilst drinking coffee and watching daytime TV!"
What are the career prospects?
From local authority nursery assistant roles to managing a private childcare establishment, or becoming a childcare professional in your own home or someone else's, there is a lot of scope for different and challenging careers, depending on what you enjoy.
Erin says "If you are serious about childminding you can virtually get to wherever you want to go in the childcare field, from running a nursery or pre school or assisting in a classroom and so on, as long as you are determined. I am currently studying for a degree in early years education, something I never thought would be possible."
Pros and Cons