Early Years Childminding Initiative
The Early Years employs over 70 people, the vast majority of whom are parents with childcare needs. Research showed that quality childcare is limited in the area and in response to this need the Early Years Childminding Centre was born.
Currently housed in a local secondary school, the childminding centre is expanding. The project is building two new state of the art centres which will provide a total of 48 full time places. Completion of these buildings will allow the childminding service to be opened to the wider community.
The childminding centre is a unique initiative in Northern Ireland. Based on a model seen in the Soho Family Centre in London, childcare is provided by self-employed childminders who each care for 3 to 4 children in a centre managed, equipped and maintained by the Early Years Project.
This system has advantages for children, parents and childminders. The children benefit from the one to one care associated with home based childminding, while at the same time having access to the wider variety of experiences associated with private day care. Parents can feel confident that their children have access to developmental activities as well as the reassurance that one person has responsibility for their child and will work in partnership with them to develop the child's full potential. For the childminders the centre offers many advantages. They have access to a wide range of equipment which would be virtually impossible for them to provide in their own homes, and the move into a centre with other childminders reduces the social isolation that might otherwise exist.
Childminders are recruited from the local community. All complete social services preregistration training and are then registered with NICMA. After registration they are required to compete a 5 week training programme, which includes basic child development. The childminders have also completed a first aid course and obtained basic food hygiene certificates. In addition many plan to begin their NVQs in childcare this year. While there is no legislative stipulation that the childminders should be qualified, it is felt that the quality service the centre offers can only be improved by well trained staff.
Another progressive feature of the centre is the use of HIGH/SCOPE approach to pre-school education. This involves the implementation of a child development curriculum and develops children's thinking skills helping them to become more effective learners, both now and in the future through a process known as active learning. Skills are developed in a number of areas including social relations, communication, language, space, movement, time and comparing and counting. The children are also encouraged to develop a sense of self awareness.
The centre also provides a range of additional activities, including swimming, French conversation, day trips, music and arts & crafts.
We hope that through the unique and inclusive approach to caring for children used in our childminding centre, the children will develop skills for life, and parents will have peace of mind that their children are cared for in a safe and secure environment enjoying a one to one relationship with their childminder.