Nottingham, UK – 26th June 2019
Once again, we were saddened to read a negative mention of childminder agencies (CMAs) in a recent Early Years Alliance (EYA) article that commented on the very important issue of the continual decline in childminder educators registered with Ofsted. The remark was repeated in Nursery World.
The 800 reduction in childminder numbers since December 2018 does not reflect the full picture. The reasons for the decline are varied but what if I told you that some of those childminders left Ofsted to register with childminder agencies? It is small, 5%. The actual total number of childminders registered with agencies is 394, of which 40 transferred directly from Ofsted. 130 childminders are due to be registered with CMAs in the next two months. Although the Ofsted leavers joining agencies number is still small, it is significant considering the adversity we have had to face over the years with the general lack of awareness and continual perpetuation of myths surrounding CMAs, and represents nearly 400 more childminders in the sector. Some of these might have left within their first year or even during the registration process, if they did not have the support of an agency. The story around childminders registering with agencies have not been publicised. Why?
“We are doing our bit to increase childminder numbers and to keep them in the profession. Just take a look!” says Social Enterprise Childminder Agency.
Childminders are leaving Ofsted to go to agencies because they want more support and regular regulation including annual inspections. After 5 years, it really is about time the wider sector, including EYA and others, took a closer and objective look at the important work good CMAs are doing to drive up improvement and enrich children’s lives. It is simply unfair to be critical of childminder agencies without taking the time to find out the truth. Good CMAs are definitely making a positive difference to the professional lives of childminders, and the children they care for. The negative remark in the EYA article about the worrying fall in childminder numbers, “not helped by government interventions, such as childminder agencies” is simply false especially when we are all working for the same cause. Without the input of childminders agencies, the overall number of childminders would be even greater than reported. If we are not criticised, we are often ignored. Educators registered with agencies are often told to leave certain Facebook forums. CMAs are often not mentioned at some LA childminder briefings and, if they are referred to, childminders are advised to best avoid them, hence they are denied a choice. Why?
Organisation for Childminder Agencies (OFCMA) launched earlier this year. Although we were not asked to comment on the continual drop in childminder numbers story, we are grateful Nursery World released a story about our inception in April, as did Foundation Years newsletter. However, more coverage about how our work is progressing is needed. We welcome more collaborative working in the sector so that we can collectively reverse the decline in numbers and help raise the profile of the profession.
We are doing all that we can to support childminders to enter and remain in the profession. And, it is working! Childminder educators who have been registered for over 3 years with good agencies enjoy the role and appreciate the regular quality assessment, support and consistent monitoring. My own social enterprise agency, @Home Childcare is removing barriers to help more people register. We even piloted a new employment model by recruiting two childminders through a local job centre. We collaborated with work coaches to select people who genuinely wanted to become childminders but were deterred by having to set up a business and the associated cost. The agency provided funded start-up training, equipment, pre-registration support and continued support and guidance. This is a major feat as we have successfully progressed two individuals off government benefits into a valued career.