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When Rashada Bashir became a mum, she needed childcare outside the traditional nursery hours. She was doing a variety of jobs, from running exercise classes to working on market stalls. She looked around for the kind of quality flexible childcare she needed, but couldn’t find it so she decided to set up her own. She studied for a Level 3 in childcare so she could become a childminder.
That was in 2000. She then started to employ more childminders. From 2008, the business, named Kids Around The Clock, really started to take off. Rashada set up a nursery in her house, converting the bottom floor, including her garage, into a space for children run by childminders. She and her family lived upstairs.
She offered childcare to staff working at the nearby Wythenshawe hospital. Many of them had come from abroad to work in Manchester. They were often working long hours and had no family nearby to help out with childcare. Some worked nights. Early Years Manager Elizabeth Cummings recalls one child who stayed overnight at the nursery four nights a week.
In 2013 when a local Sure Start centre in Woodhouse Park was closed, Kids Around The Clock won the tender to provide childcare there and Rashada got her house back. Since then the childcare provider has opened a setting in Oldham and a play centre in Warrington. It now employs 25 members of staff and has just won another tender for a former Sure Start building. “We are expanding rather quickly,” says Elizabeth.
The centres provide childcare from 7am to 7pm from Monday to Friday. They are looking to open at weekends in Benchill which is near where Amazon are creating 13,000 new jobs. It is proposed that Amazon will operate on a four day on four day off shift work pattern, possibly including weekends. Kids Around The Clock also provides holiday care from 7am to 7pm for children up to the age of 13.
For many childcare providers looking to provide flexible childcare the main challenge has been ensuring that they keep the required staff to child ratios. Elizabeth says Kids Around The Clock do this through a flexible rota system. Staff are paid on a weekly basis or their pay is worked out over the year on a pro rata basis. “It means we are quite unique and flexible to parents’ needs,” says Elizabeth.
Moreover, there are five members of the management team who are all qualified childcare workers who are not allocated to any age group. “If there is a need for extra staff, we can jump in,” she says. Kids Around The Clock also have a number of part-time staff who are able to do occasional overtime and they have used bank staff in the past.
Rashada gives out her mobile phone to parents so they can text her if they need childcare on different days. Many only receive their shift patterns for the week ahead at the weekend. Elizabeth says Rashada then sits down and works out a rota on Sunday nights.
Elizabeth, who is able to bring her 10-year-old daughter to the nursery after school, says the rates Kids Around The Clock charges are competitive with other nurseries in the area. “We are flexible so parents can afford the childcare they need. We try to make the childcare we offer as accessible as possible,” she adds.
Another key concern is quality. The childcare provider has its own quality assurance system and won Manchester Council Quality Assurance’s ‘Gold‘ award. It constantly reflects on its practice and Elizabeth says it is on its way to being named outstanding for quality by Ofsted.
“We are keen to make sure that we offer the best possible service we can,” she says. “We operate an open door policy to parents so they can come and talk anything through. We want to be sure parents are happy and their children are developing.”