Finding a great childminder is a priority for many parents, particularly where both work. Making sure that you choose the right business or individual to look after your child is something we all worry about.
Whether you are choosing a home-based childminder, picking a nursery or want to employ a nanny, asking a few important questions can help you make up your mind.
Here’s our list of top questions to ask your childminder before you hand over your child:
- What qualifications and experience do they have?
For a childminder to be registered they must complete a course so they can deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage. Your childminder might also have a level 3 qualification. You should also ask how often they take extra courses or CPD to improve their knowledge or service.
- How many children do they care for?
A home-based childminder is able to care for up to six children under the age of 8 (including their own). Some may group together to provide more care but you should always check the premises are suitable for taking that number. Some more information on childminding ratios here. If a childminder can demonstrate to parents and/or carers and Ofsted inspectors that the individual needs of all the children are being met, the usual ratios can be relaxed, for example, when childminders are caring for sibling babies, or when caring for their own baby, or to maintain continuity of care.
- What are their ages?
You might also like to check the age ranges to see who your child will be spending the day with. Some parents prefer a mix of same age and older children because it creates the right social environment. At Kwicare, we believe that multi-age settings are ideal for young children as it offers them opportunities to develop more sophisticated social skills.
- What activities do they provide for the children?
You want to make sure that your child is going to be engaged. It’s worth checking what they have on site, including any outdoor facilities and play areas as well as whether they organise outdoor trips to the Museum and other venues. Generally, these visits are not part of the tuition fees.
- How do they support the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)?
Childminders are expected to deliver on the Early Years Foundation Stage, though this can vary depending on the age of your child. That includes developing personal, social and emotional intelligence as well as physical ability and expressiveness in areas art and design and language. You can learn more about the EYFS at the government website.
- How do they keep parents informed?
Communication is a key thing that Ofsted look for when they check any childminder or home-based educator. Find out how the staff keep parents informed, not only on the progress of your child but if anything goes wrong at the property. Kwicare includes the Ofsted inspection report on every childminder report. The inspect report covers the rating of the childminder and a few observations on their practice. The government website has a wealth of information on Ofsted inspections and other related matters.
- What safety measures do you have in place?
Before any childminder can take on children, they have to carry out a risk assessment on their property. You want to make sure that your child is going to be in a secure and safe environment. For example, check that there is no easy access to the property. Any Ofsted-registered childminder needs to clear his/her DBS checks which ascertains that the childminder has no criminal history. DBS checks have to be cleared for every individual who lives under the same roof as the childminder so as to make sure that your children are on safe premises. Understand what DBS checks meanon the government website. Every childminder must have a paediatric first aid certificate to ensure the safety of their children in their care.
- Do they employ assistants?
Some childminders employ assistants, people who are not registered but who help provide care for the children. It’s worth finding out how many and what they do. If a childminder has assistants, each childminder (or assistant) may care for up to 6 children of a certain age*. Children may be left in the sole care of childminders’ assistants for two hours at most in a single day48. Childminders must obtain parents and/or carers’ permission to leave children with an assistant, including for very short periods of time.
- How do they recruit staff?
If the childminder business recruits staff it’s important that they do all the relevant checks, including the new enhanced Disclosing and Barring Service Check (what used to be called the CRB).
- What meals/food do they provide?
Most childminders also provide food and nourishment to their charges. You naturally want this to be healthy and it’s worth having a look at the menus they produce. If you require special dietary needs, feel free to ask the childminder whether s/he can accommodate.
- What do the fees include?
Some businesses will have varying fee structures, for example, adding costs for providing food. This can help parents budget better. However, your childminder should be transparent about what they charge.
- What happens if the childminder is not well?
If your childminder is ill, that can mean you need to find an alternative pretty quickly. Some childminders have a network where they can help you place children in emergencies.
- What was their last Ofsted report like?
Last, but by no means least, you should ask for sight of their latest Ofsted report. These can be found online as well if a copy isn’t immediately available. Read it carefully and check there are no issues.
To note on ratio*, Of these six children, a maximum of three may be young children, and there should only be one child under the age of one. A child is a young child up until 1st September following his or her fifth birthday. Any care provided for older children must not adversely affect the care of children receiving early years provision (as worded in the EYFS).