I had the privilege of attending the most recent meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Childcare and Early Education at Westminster on Wednesday 29th June. The theme of the meeting was 'a levelling up opportunity' and we were lucky enough to hear from an amazing line-up of speakers. Helen Hayes MP, Dr Julian Grenier, Dr Nathan Archer and Rebecca Swindells all made excellent contributions, which helped paint a fuller picture of the challenges faced by the sector. I had a personal interest in the final speaker though, as I am fascinated by the impact childminders make on our youngest children's lives. The following is a transcript of a section of Doreen Barton's presentation:
“I asked some of my local childminder colleagues about their path to becoming a childminder. Only 1 of the 5 I asked had always been in Early Years, the others came from various sectors and professions. The single similarity is, that following the birth of their child/ren they became home based early educators. The sector is highly educated, sometimes graduates leaving senior management roles and/or successful careers in an attempt to have work life balance, an income and be home based.
So what is a childminder? What do they do and how are they different from other settings in the Early Years sector? At a nursery or larger settings, multiple staff are dedicated to various responsibilities covering all aspects of running the setting. An Ofsted registered childminder does everything. As the owner, manager and practitioner the buck stops with them for all aspects of their business.
· Lead professional – from tracking changing legislation to remain compliant, to completing starting points, learning journeys and planning for children’s individual development needs
· First aider
· SENCO – making referrals when required, designated safeguarding officer – working in partnership with other professionals
· Key person
· GDPR / data protection named officer – including when marketing, advertising and using social media
· Admin secretary – ensuring policies, procedures, permissions, contracts are up to date
· Finance officer, including accounting and invoices
· Caretaker – including maintenance and general fixer
· Chef – food hygiene and rating required
· Health and safety officer
· Fire warden - on call out of hours for parent support
· Family counsellor
· Sleep consultant
· Behavioural management expert
· Administer of medication
· Emergency contact for children at school in loco parentis
I could go on… these tasks mean that they work beyond their operating hours in the evenings and weekends. Living at your place of works means it is often difficult to switch off. No two childminder settings are the same. They each adapt their service based on the needs of the families who use them or local community. Their service can be highly flexible e.g., they may provide weekend and overnight care, extended care (e.g., I have had an older sibling whilst mum was in hospital having the newest baby). They can support shift workers, students, and home-schooling families amongst many situations and dynamics that can’t be supported by other setting types.”
It was exhausting just to listen to Doreen talk about the long list of roles she is required to adopt. One thing that came through strongly was that her setting was ultimately a place for learning.
The conclusion of Doreen’s presentation provided an opportunity for some ‘myth-busting’ about this particular career, including the fact that this isn’t a profession only occupied by women, and that children don’t spend their day watching the TV!
Doreen Barton, speaking at the APPG for Childcare and Early Education at Westminster on Wednesday 29th June 2022
I can vouch for everything that was said by Doreen in this important space, because when my first child turned 12 months old, I entrusted my most treasured possession in her care for the next 2 years. The things he learned from her and the values that Doreen helped to shape are still so obvious when you meet the 6-year-old he has become. For a third of his short life, Doreen was a huge influence on him, so much so that when he had a bump in the local park, in the first few months of our new life 300 miles further north, the first thing he said was ‘we need to get the train, I need to see Doreen’.
The work of Childminders needs sharing and elevating. The Doreens of this world are priceless.
By Stephen Kilgour, SEND Advisor