Childminders look after other people's children, usually while the parents are at work. Much more than simply 'babysitting', this professional role involves care, education and helping in children's development.
It is essential for childminders to provide a safe environment for children. They must also make sure the children have the chance to take part in stimulating activities, appropriate for their age.
Childminders work from their own homes. At any time they are allowed to look after up to six children under eight years old (under 16 in Scotland). Sometimes childminders are parents themselves, caring for their own children alongside those of their clients - if so, their children are included within the limit of six.
The work may include:
Childminders may look after some children for several years. It is important that they appreciate and cater for each child's individual needs.
Some childminders look after children with special needs, such as a physical or learning disability.
Childminders have some control over the times that they work, though they must agree their working hours with their clients.
Those caring for children under school age generally look after them from 8am or 8.30am until around 6pm or 6.30pm. Children who go to school may need a childminder before and after school hours.
Some childminders look after children overnight, or at weekends.
Because they are self-employed, childminders are unlikely to get paid holidays. Most charge a retainer to cover holidays, or cost it into their fee.
As most childminders work from home, they must make sure that it is a safe and hygienic environment for children; it must be inspected. Some childminders may have to pay for adjustments to their homes, for example fitting safety gates.
A driving licence can be useful, for taking children to and from school or nursery.
Childminders are self-employed and negotiate their own fees. Earnings may start at around £5,000 a year, not including expenses.
There are more than 80,000 registered childminders in the UK. There are opportunities in all parts of the country.
Childminding is a very popular childcare option for working parents.
As childminders are self-employed, they need to promote their businesses in order to find clients - usually through personal contacts, local advertising or websites.
Childminders must be at least 18.
Young people can study for childcare qualifications. They may also gain experience in a different childcare setting, such as a crèche, nursery or playgroup.
At present no set educational qualifications are required. However, all childminders must be registered.
In England, childminders must be registered with Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) before they can start to care for children under eight. This involves:
The registration process can take up to six months.
In the rest of the UK, the process follows a similar pattern but registration is through different bodies:
It may be possible to prepare for work as a childminder by taking an Apprenticeship in Early Years Care and Education.
Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.
Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Childminders in England and Wales must take an introductory course in home-based childcare and gain a certificate in child first aid as part of their registration. This is not yet a requirement in Scotland and Northern Ireland, although introductory training is strongly encouraged.
The Diploma in Home-based Childcare (DHC) is available in England and Wales. It can be studied as a distance learning course, or through local colleges and training providers. Candidates first take the Introduction to Childcare Practice, which is delivered over 12 hours. After successfully completing a multiple choice exam, they can take the four remaining units of the DHC in any order. Each unit takes 30 hours.
Childminders can work towards NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in Children's Care, Learning and Development.
Childminding networks and support schemes put new childminders in touch with experienced childminders for support.
Advice and support on training, qualifications and childminding networks is available from the professional associations:
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
A childminder must be:
Some childminders go on to become childminding network co-ordinators, supporting other childminders in their area. Others become tutors and train new applicants.
Childminders on a childminding network in England and Wales can become accredited to deliver early years education. This means they can deliver nursery-level education for three and four year olds in their own home.
With experience and further training, childminders may go on to work as teaching assistants, or run after-school and holiday clubs.
Care Inspectorate, Compass House,
11 Riverside Drive, Dundee DD1 4NY
Tel: 0845 600 9527
Council for Awards in Children's Care and Education (CACHE),
Apex House, 81 Camp Road, St Albans AL1 5GB
Tel: 0845 347 2123
Healthcare Improvement Scotland,
1 South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh EH12 9EB
Tel: 0131 623 4300
National Childminding Association of England and Wales (NCMA),
Royal Court, 81 Tweedy Road, Bromley BR1 1TG
Tel: 0845 880 0044
Northern Ireland Childminding Association,
16-18 Mill Street, Newtownards BT23 4LU
Tel: 028 9181 1015
Ofsted, Royal Exchange Buildings,
St Ann's Square, Manchester M2 7LA
Tel: 08456 404040
Scottish Childminding Association (SCMA),
7 Melville Terrace, Stirling FK8 2ND
Tel: 01786 445377
Helpline: 01786 449063
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.