Evidence to date has shown a steady decline in childminder numbers in England and Wales over the last 20 years. The loss of childminders and the childcare and early years (CC&EY) places that they offer is in contrast to other parts of the sector and the expansion of CC&EY policy initiatives. The loss in childminders poses a threat to the statutory responsibility placed on Local Authorities to secure sufficient CC&EY services for children and their families, while leading to the demise of a unique CC&EY service. Funded by PACEY, researchers from Plymouth Institute of Education undertook an analysis of childminding provision in England and Wales. The research entailed:
- an analysis of existing literature and data on childminding
- a survey of childminders, local authorities and other relevant stakeholders exploring the perceived reasons for the decline in childminders
- a series of case studies of local authority areas to offer a detailed analysis of the core themes arising from the survey
1. In both England and Wales, there were criticisms that the registration process was time consuming and that paper work and regulatory burdens prevented childminding from being seen as a desirable profession. Childminders also reported that they felt inspection processes failed to recognise the uniqueness of a home-based pedagogy.
2. Both the survey data and case studies provide evidence for the view that childminding lacks professional status and that it is not a professional role that was understood by the wider CC&EY community. Specific problems that emerged across the data and participants included:
- Childminding being presented as a starter profession, rather than a career in its own right.
- Minimum qualification requirements not being in line with the rest of the CC&EY sector.
- A lack of national representation of what childminding entails.
3. Childminders felt isolated from the wider CC&EY sector, support networks and other childminders. Data from those providing support for childminders and the wider CC&EY community illustrated variable systems and models, but with no consistency of support. Both formal and informal professional development opportunities, which were once seen as a way of networking, were also identified as being in decline.
4. There is a commitment to, and pride in, the quality of childminding in England and Wales. 99% of respondents ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ that childminders deliver high quality CC&EY provision.
The childminding profession has a number of unique characteristics, which do not always align with the wider CC&EY workforce. While there are strengths in aligning childminders to the wider workforce, childminders are often expected to fit into initiatives that focus on group-based care, such as registration and regulation requirements and the development of professional qualifications. The ‘fitting in’ fails to account for the distinctiveness of childminders and childminding amongst CC&EY services.