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Childminder? Nanny? Day nursery? What’s your preference? And will the qualifications needed for the job be stepped up once the election is over?
Childcare is one of the issues under fierce debate in the run-up to the General Election, so be aware that if you’re considering looking after children for a living there could be some changes introduced after May 6th. If the Lib Dems are in a powerful position in a hung Parliament, either the Conservatives or Labour may be willing to accede to the Lib Dem manifesto pledge to require all registered childcare workers to have at least NVQ level 3 qualifications.
But don’t be put off by a possible shake-up in childcare if you like children and would like to make a career out of caring for youngsters.
The most obvious attribute for the job is a genuine love of children and their lively company. Being physically fit with plenty of stamina is helpful so you can keep up with the youngsters and make sure they’re safe and entertained. Enthusiasm is vital, as is the ability to communicate well with parents and other carers. You also need to be up to speed with health and safety issues and have to be able to stay calm at all times.
Which different types of childcare are needed?
Becoming a childminder is a good move if you have children of your own and you need to be flexible around school pick-up times. It also means you can work from home. Some childminders do school drop-offs and pick-ups and are available for babysitting. If you have a child of your own, one of the plus points of childminding means it will have other youngsters to play with. Often, childminders and parents forge life-long friendships.
However, the introduction of the Early Years Foundation Stage has proved controversial – some childminders gave up their work in September 2008 because they felt overwhelmed by the constraints of the new legislation which called on them to guide children towards specific early learning and development goals.
In England and Wales, childminders have to be registered by Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) to look after children under the age of eight. Your home will be inspected to make sure it’s safe and suitable for young children and you will need to complete a basic registration course, including first aid training. You will be allowed to care for six children under the age of eight, but of those children no more than three should be under the age of five. In Scotland and Northern Ireland the stipulations apply to children under the age of 12. Childminders who look after children over the age of eight do not need to be registered by Ofsted, but they can apply to register on the voluntary part of the Childcare Register.
You will be categorised as self-employed and therefore free to set your own fees. Regionally, costs vary, but childminders tend to charge between £3 to £8 an hour.
National Childminding Association of England and Wales, www.ncma.org.uk
Scottish Childminding Association, www.childminding.org
Northern Ireland Childminding Association, www.nicma.org
The introduction of the EYFS has also been blamed for the closure of nearly 900 nurseries and playgroups in England since last year. Nursery owners have claimed the new legislation has led to professionals leaving the industry, but other groups have blamed the credit crunch for parents keeping their offspring at home. Childcare charity The Daycare Trust says parents are turning to families and friends for childcare because they’re put off by high fees at nurseries at a time of economic recession.
Nursery nurses can work in day nurseries or creches and look after children from birth to eight years. Work is varied and can involve changing nappies, organising sleep times, early education, play and outings. Hours can be part-time or full-time. Many parents require ‘wrap-around’ care so nurseries can open at 7am and continue for the length of the adult working day and beyond.
Academic qualifications are not absolutely necessary, but as a guide 3 GCSEs (S grades in Scotland) are considered a good idea. To be able to work with children under supervision you will need:
* CACHE Level 2 certificate in child care and education
* City & Guilds Level 2 progression award in early years care and education
* BTEC certificate in early years care and education
* BTEC first diploma in early years
* NVQ Level 2 in early years care and education from CACHE, BTEC, and City & Guilds
Higher qualifications are needed to allow you to work unsupervised.
Starting salaries for nursery nurses are around £7,500 to £10,000 per year. A full-time experienced nursery nurse could earn up to £13,000 per year. And managers can earn £15,000 plus.
It’s probably unusual for a mum with children of her own to work as a live-in nanny or daily nanny, but if your personal circumstances suited the situation, you could earn around £300 in London (live-in), or around £250 elsewhere in the country. You do not need childcare qualifications and your employer would be responsible for paying your salary and deducting tax and National Insurance.