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Lisa Williams knows about childminding. After nearly 7 years as a childminder, she has developed a business idea geared to helping childminders negotiate a new world of bureaucracy which is putting many off the profession.
Lisa Williams knows about childminding. Having been a sales manager for a hotel company, she set up her own conference agency business, but after giving birth to her first child, she decided that she didn’t want him to go into childcare so became a registered childminder in order to be around for him. That was around six and a half years ago, but her business and sales experience have not gone to waste.
When the Government introduced its Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum last year, Lisa realised almost from the outset that it opened up a can of worms for childminders – not because of the content, but because of the enormous amount of paperwork childminders were expected to plough through.
She decided to do something about it and, since last October, she has been working day and night on an online toolkit for childminders which helps them organise all their work and plan ahead. Her daughter had just started school full time and this opened up new possibilities for her. She woke up one Friday morning after the idea had been circulating in her mind for a while and wrote it all down. She did her market research and started contacting relevant companies and got in an independent developer and a marketing company, using her savings.
She started working every evening and every Saturday on the project. “It was a huge personal commitment as I worked as a childminder from 7am to 6pm,” she says. As the work has grown, it has taken over some Sundays too and she has had to stop working full time, meaning she had to say goodbye to two children she was looking after full time.
But she is convinced her product, called Noble Minder , is needed by childminders.
As a childminder, Lisa has looked after over 20 children, aged from around four months to 12 years old and still keeps in touch with many of them. She says that over the years she has also seen how childminders have become “more and more disheartened” by the amount of paperwork they are having to do. “They have usually not run their own businesses before and are overwhelmed by the accounting, tax returns and sifting through hefty documents that the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum expects,” she says.
She adds that childminders have to go through the same documents that nurseries and schools do to find out what applies to them, even though much of it doesn’t, and many find this daunting. There has been a lot of speculation in the press that recent falls in the number of registered childminders is due to the introduction of the EYFS. Some 4,000 childminders have come off the National Childminding Association register since the EYFC became law. Lisa says she wants to do something about it. “We don’t want to lose people who are talented with children. I know people who have left childminding because of the paperwork,” she says.
Although she is based in Buckinghamshire, her website has been tested by childminders across the country. She says: “I wanted to put together something that was really professional and business-led and something which was based on my knowledge and skills and research.” Her company is entirely independent. She has advertised the site in the National Childminders’ Association publication and she launched at the start of this week which has put even more pressure on her since her children are on holidays.
The initial package, which costs £14.50 a month, offers book-keeping help, EYFS observation records, risk assessment and inspection information and contains calendars and reminders about what childminders need to do and by when, for instance, checking their smoke alarms and renewing medical kits. Lisa describes it as a detailed personal organiser for childminders. It even has a policy writer giving advice to childminders on what they should include.
Every childminder has to have a policy on what they provide. “I have looked at all the legislation and gone through the documents so they don’t have to,” she says, adding that currently there is no advice or guidance from Government which is aimed specifically at childminders. “The EYFS document is intended for so many different settings, “ she says, “but in lots of cases it says things like ‘except for childminders’. However, they still have to read through it all. It’s like digging through mud.” She adds that this means there has been some misunderstanding about what the EYFS means for childminders and they have ended up thinking they have to do more than is in fact the case.
She plans to develop the website to offer forums and online training as well as to encourage childminders to swap tips and reviews on good places to go with children.
She says her family have been very understanding and her children are very aware that the website exists. The only thing is that they think it is all the work of her web developer, rather than their mum.