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Getting into a career in early learning

motherchild-finalTrain to work with children and you’ll be able to enter a passion-filled industry where every day is packed with exciting challenges…

Working with children involves exciting challenges and is incredibly rewarding, no matter which of the many career paths you choose. No two days will ever be the same, and you will definitely trump all your friends for the most laughs and smiles enjoyed during any working day.

Do you have a suitable personality for working with kids?
It takes a special kind of person to make a positive, lasting impression on a child, and your influence could stay with them for life. To work with children you will need to enjoy their company, and be able to build up good relationships with them and their parents.

You also need to be patient and caring, and a good sense of humour will go a long way. You should have a creative flair that you can bring to the table when playing and planning activities, and be interested in their education and development.

What career choices are available?
There are a variety of flexible career paths available for people who want to work with children. By 2015, the government aims to have all early years services graduate-led, with a requirement for all staff to have a minimum Level 3 qualification.

Qualifications: Ideally, you will need a Level 2 or Level 3 Diploma in Playwork. If you are starting out, you will need to do a Level 2 Diploma – for people who will be working under supervision. Level 3 is aimed at supervisors and senior playworkers who want to advance to the next level of their career.

If you want to get a head start in playwork, you could consider doing an apprenticeship while you study. This will give you valuable ‘hands-on’ experience, leaving you far more confident in your abilities than learning from course materials alone.

Checks: Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted).

The role: You will be put in charge of improving and promoting children’s playtime, ensuring there are plenty of recreational resources for children aged four to 16. You will be required to plan, organise and supervise imaginative playtime activities, and maybe even join in!

Playgroup or crèche leader
Qualifications: You will need a Level 3 qualification – these are for people who work on their own initiative, planning and organising their own work and supervising others. You will also need Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) clearance, and at least two years’ playgroup or crèche experience.

Checks: Ofsted.

The role: You will be working as part of a team, planning and providing educational and fun activities that promote learning and social skills, for the children in your playgroup. You will also be required to work closely with parents and carers and be able to address any issues relating to their child.

Qualifications: Many employers and employment agencies prefer their nanny to have a childcare qualification such as a CACHE, Certificate or Diploma in Child Care and Education (, CACHE Level 3 Diploma in Home-based Childcare or a Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) Certificate or Diploma, Levels 2 and 3 in Children’s Care, Learning and Development.

Checks: As a nanny, you are not legally required to be registered or inspected by any specific organisation, but you do have the option of becoming an National Childminding Association (NCMA) registered nanny. Being registered demonstrates a level of professionalism that enquiring parents will find reassuring, and it also means they are entitled to the childcare element of working families tax credit if you are registered.

In order to become a member of the NCMA, you’ll need to join the Ofsted Childcare Register, and be over 18 years of age. You will be required to have completed a Level
2 qualification in childcare, have first-aid training, hold public liability insurance and have a CRB check.

The role: This job can be done either on a part-time or full-time basis, and you will be responsible for looking after a child or children in their own home while their parents are at work or not available to supervise them. You could be expected to help with the school run, take the children to their extra curricular activities, assist with homework or manage a play date.

Career in the spotlight: Childminder
If you are patient, creative, organised and responsible, and have an instinctive love of the company of children, a career as a childminder could be just the vocation you are looking for.

Not only is it incredibly rewarding, but also this is a flexible job that allows you to work from home, so you’ll be able to look after your own family at the same time as running your own business. Another benefit
is that your local council might be able to assist you with a childminder start-up grant, to get the ball rolling.

Sign me up!
Before getting started you will need to register with Ofsted, the regulatory government body for childminders. Ofsted requires you to get a Criminal Records Bureau check, as well as any people over the age of 16 that will be present in your home on a regular basis.

To make sure you’re ready to help in an emergency, you will need to gain a paediatric first-aid certificate before registration can be accepted. And to prepare you for the wonderful world of childminding, you will need to complete an introductory course in home-based childcare within six months of registering.

Once you and your home have been approved and you have your gleaming Ofsted certificate in pride of place, you are ready to start. The maximum number of children you will be permitted to mind is six, and no more than three of those may be under the age of five, (this includes your own kids) but Ofsted will decide the specifics based on the capacity of your home, and if you have an assistant to help.

Your daily schedule will include things like fetching the children from school or pre-school, feeding them (healthy stuff, of course!) and entertaining them with stimulating activities that comply with the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), a play-based framework that helps children’s development.

To up your appeal for prospective parents, register with the NCMA, the professional association for Childminders. You will also benefit from industry specific support if you are registered.

 Parent corner
Here are some things to consider when choosing a childminder:

  • Do they live locally, and is the journey to theirs walkable, or would you need to drive? If you’ll need to drive, is it a convenient route or will you have to fight your way through the rush-hour traffic?
  • Are they registered with the NCMA, and what level of training and qualifications do they have?
  • How long have they been in a childminding career?
  • The ages of the other children in their care, and the size of the group. You need to decide whether your child would benefit from a smaller group with more individual attention, or would she fare better in a large, more social, group?
  • What is their policy for school holidays, and what are the rules when they (or you) fall sick?
  • The childminder’s age as this will affect the type of activities your kids take part in.
  • Will there be any pets around the children?
  • What is your budget? The typical cost of a full-time under-two’s place with a childminder in England is £141, but this will vary, depending on which area you live in, and the demand. Childminders are self-employed, so you won’t have to pay any tax on top of the fee.

Visit to find childminder information for your area, and speak to other parents for tips and advice.

Be chipper about using a childminder
Your children can benefit from being looked after by a childminder as well as learning to socialise with other children during the day.

Your career won’t be put on hold by having to look after your children during the day, and they’ll benefit from having other kids to socialise with and play with each day. You’ll know your children are in the safe hands of a professional, who delights in their progress just as much as you, and is investing time in their personal development. A childminder provides consistency in your childcare, as often they look after the same children for several years and build up very close and meaningful relationships. You can negotiate hourly rates, and there is flexibility should you need to add on a few unforeseen hours.

This article was first published in at home’s ’Parenting with Jo Frost’ July 2011. [Read the digital edition here]

 Illustration: Nicola Scott

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