Flexible childcare is the Holy Grail of many working parents today, whether they are shift workers, self employed, freelancers or simply work different hours to those normally covered by traditional childcare providers.
Necessity is the mother of invention, as the saying goes, and it certainly was for Tracey Blake. A journalist at Metro and a mother of two children aged six and four, she works long hours and gets home around 7.30pm or 8pm. After school clubs finish at 5.45pm, leaving a couple of hours to cover. She knows only too well the challenge of getting childminders to cover the odd few hours.
She hired a nanny to cover one day a week who was doing an arts foundation course near her home in High Wycombe. Her daughter loves art so she does arts and crafts with her. She also babysits for the family.
Tracey had already been thinking about solutions to her childcare problems. She thought that student nannies could present a win win all round: parents of school-aged children could get a nanny who was studying a subject that matched their children’s interests and who could provide the flexible childcare they needed at an affordable price and nannies could get a job that fit around their studies and paid better than many student jobs. Tracey recommends similar rates to babysitters which she says is well above the minimum wage for 18 to 21 year olds in her area. Plus they could choose to work for parents who had contacts in the sectors they wanted to work in. Children, on the other hand, would get to come home to the comfort of their own home after school.
The idea has been in the pipeline for a year and Tracey launched Student Nannies Ltd’s website three weeks ago. She has been working with other parents, including a lawyer, marketing expert and graphic designer. “It’s by working parents for working parents,” says Tracey.
The website works like a dating agency, matching up students and parents. “We provide a platform for them to connect,” says Tracey. Parents tick options, for instance, they can choose students by subject area, by availability [such as term time or holiday time] and by what other skills they might need, such as cooking. Tracey says it has been more work than she anticipated to set it all up, particularly on top of a demanding job, but adds that it is fun. A lot of that work has involved making connections on social media and reaching out to universities, colleges, students and parents.
Signing up to the site is free. If parents or students want to make contact with a potential match, they become a VIP Member and can send and receive messages. VIP Membership costs j£10 a year for students while parents pay a monthly subscription of £15.
Tracey adds that Student Nannies Ltd takes safety very seriously and says parents can message each other about nannies. The site recommends they ask if students have a DBS check. For peace of mind Student Nannies Ltd can also organise an Enhanced DBS check on a potential student nanny, with their permission. This includes checks for spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings, plus any additional information held by local police that is reasonably considered relevant to the role being applied for. The website has also partnered with Devon County Council’s Safer Recruitment Service to offer a thorough, fast service.
The website also offers lots of advice about where to hold the initial parent nanny meetings, what to ask and how to check references.
“Students’ timetables fit well with children’s school dates. They’ve often got little brothers and sisters and are used to babysitting. They see the career connections they can make through the site as invaluable,” says Tracey. “It’s a dream team.”