The parents’ guide to after-school childcare: childminders
How do you find an after-school childminder?
To find an after-school childminder, your first port of call is your Local Authority’s Family Information Service. The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) also has an online directory of registered childminders, and many childminders advertise on local parenting listing sites. Your child’s school may also be able to help. ‘Some have lists of childminders serving the school,’ says Sue Asquith, registered childminder and PACEY spokesperson. ‘Asking other parents is another good starting point.’
Ideally, start looking for a childminder a few months before you need a place: for example at the end of the summer term for a September starter. ‘If you leave it too late you may miss out, but signing up too early means you may have to pay a retainer,’ says Sue.
What should you consider when choosing a childminder?
First, decide what you’re looking for. ‘Because childminders are self-employed, their provision varies hugely,’ says Sue. ‘If there are several with spaces, visit them all so you can compare.’ Consider ratios: some childminders only look after school-age children, whereas others have babies and toddlers too.
Childminders can care for up to six under-eights at any one time, but there’s no set limit on how many over-eights they look after. There’s also no compulsory register for childminders of over-eights, although most join the Ofsted voluntary register.
Other things to ask include:
- Which areas of the house are used for childminding?
- Will your child walk or be driven home from school?
- Will the childminder be looking after other children – including their own – at the same time?
- What activities are provided – and is there flexibility? ‘Sometimes children need to chill out after school; at others, they might want to run off energy in the park,’ says Sue.
- Does the childminder provide a drink and snack and/or a meal?
- If you’ll need extended childcare for the school holidays, can the childminder provide it?
- If your child has time off for holidays or illness, will you still have to pay?
- What happens if the childminder is ill? ‘Some have arrangements with other local childminders to cover illness, where ratios allow,’ says Sue.
Before you sign up, make sure that…
- You’ve read and are happy with the contract (and make sure you have a written agreement)
- You’ve seen references from other parents
- You’ve seen the childminder's Ofsted report and public liability insurance documentation
Handling tricky areas
Because your childminder is likely to be looking after several children, balancing their needs may be difficult. Here are some potential flashpoints to discuss in advance:
‘Some childminders, particularly those looking after younger children too, might provide space and facilities to do homework, but not actually help with it, while others may be more involved,’ says Sue.
Will the childminder pick up from clubs held on school premises, or transport your child to and from off-site activities? Don’t sign up for anything without checking first. Also, ask if the childminder’s own children go to any clubs, and how that will affect your child: will he spend half the afternoon watching her son’s tennis lesson?
If the childminder cooks a meal but you’d prefer your child to eat dinner at home, what will he do while they’re eating? If he eats with the childminder, will she consider his food preferences?
How much is allowed, and on what equipment? How will the childminder ensure it’s shared fairly between all the children?
If you’re delayed at work, what will happen? Some childminders impose a fine, especially if it’s a regular occurrence.
After-school childminding: how much will it cost?
According to the Daycare Trust, the average weekly fee for an after-school childminder is £72.78. Some accept childcare vouchers.
What mums say about after-school childminders…
‘The advantage of using a childminder is that William gets away from school at the end of the day: it’s a home-from-home environment. She also looks after my toddler so the boys have time together.’
Becky, mum to William, eight, and Max, three
‘My childminder’s daughter is in the same class as my son, and the friend/employee relationship can be difficult, especially if Joseph has misbehaved at school and the childminder has to relay the message.’
Jenni, mum to Joseph, seven
‘Although they love playing on the Wii or watching TV, I feel my kids get less attention than the pre-schoolers who are with the childminder all day.’
Deborah, mum to Maddie, 10, and Charlotte, seven