Childcare options for parent teachers

“Choosing childcare can be a long, involved process” says Alison Garnham, Joint Chief Executive of the Daycare Trust, a national childcare charity.  “But it is one of the most important decisions any parent will make.” Findingthe right kind of care can be even trickier if you’re a teacher because there are special considerations.  The first one is finding a child care facility that offers term-time only care. 

Anna Vaughan managed to resolve this difficulty when she discovered Mowlem Workplace Nursery in Tower Hamlets, London.  “The nursery is great because it is only open during term time so it fits in well with teachers.  There’s a lovely family atmosphere because it’s such a small unit; only 14 children attend.  My son, Rudy, aged two, has been at the nursery since he was six months old and it works really well for us.  He’s very happy.”

Early morning starts, and meetings after school don’t present as a problem either.  “There is flexibility with hours so if I need to collect Rudy a little later than usual, that’s not a problem.  I arrive at 8.15.a.m. so that I can get to school in time to prepare for the day,” says Anna.  But term-time only day care nurseries for the under twos is hard to come by as most nurseries for this age group are open for 50 weeks of the year to cater for different working patterns. Most offer early starts, though.

Do other types of daycare offer the same degree of flexibility?  Moira Anderson, primary school teacher, has experienced a few difficulties.  “I use a childminder because I wanted a more personal, family type of environment for my daughter, Ruby,” she says.  “But when I first started looking, I came across minders who expected full payment during all school holidays when Ruby would not have been there.  Luckily, I found a minder who wanted to mind children during term-time only so that she could spend time with her own children during school breaks.  It worked out perfectly,” says Moira.

Whichever kind of daycare you choose, it will be a personal decision and one to be taken with a lot of care.  Alison Garnham, Joint Chief Executive of the Daycare Trust says “Parents should never be afraid to ask searching questions of a childcare setting. We wouldn’t choose a school for our children without ensuring that it offered the highest-quality education available. So why would we settle for anything less when our children are at their youngest and most vulnerable?”

Here are some tips from the Daycare Trust:

  • Use only registered provision and look at reports – you’ll need to get a childminders registration number to access their reports from Ofsted’s website
  • Find out if others recommend it
  • Good nurseries will be happy for you to visit unannounced, that way you can see the nursery as it is
  • First impressions count:  happy, calm children and safe, clean premises bode well
  • Qualifications really matter. Research shows that children do best – socially as well as educationally, in childcare settings with high levels of qualified staff. And teachers will not be surprised to learn that the presence of at least one qualified teacher on the staff is one of the best indicators of quality.
  • Young children need stability and continuity of care from a reliable adult so ask about staff turnover.  If there are more comings and goings than in a cabinet reshuffle, then you may need to look elsewhere. 
  • Find out if there is an outdoor area as this is a real plus
  • Check how they manage children’s behaviour
  • Ask how they meet the individual needs of children, e.g. sleeping habits,
  • Have a look at the menu to see if meals are nutritionally balanced, interesting and appetising

Useful organisations:

Financial help with childcare fees: www.payingforchildcare.org.uk
Childminder advice: http://www.ncma.org.uk/mainwebsite/resources/document/choosing_home_childcare.pdf
Registered day care providers: www.childcarelink.org

Need more workplace advice? Visit Teachers’ survival guide