Babysit course a nice little earner

29th October 2004 at 01:00
Lessons in babysitting might seem superfluous. What teenager needs educating in finding the remote control, eating all the biscuits, and pocketi ng some easy money?

A new course in Carmarthenshire, however, promises to transform the standard of care offered by teenage babysitters to their charges. Covering topics including first aid, age-appropriate play, accident prevention and verbal contracts, organisers aim to deliver the course through schools, youth clubs and doctors' surgeries from January.

Students from the pilot scheme say their new-found knowledge has changed their practice - and upped their earning potential.

"I thought I would know about everything on the course but I didn't," said Leonie Butler, 16, of Coedcae school in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire.

"Before I would leave the kids to get on with it, but now I spend more time with them because I am able to play with them more. It has also helped me to get jobs because my next-door neighbours think they can trust me more."

The course was the idea of Karen Pereira, a childcare development officer with Carmarthenshire Children's Partnership.

She wanted to ensure that quality childcare was being offered by teenagers, as well as building up their self-confidence and giving them valuable parenting skills for future use.

Backed by the local NHS trust, she co-wrote an eight-week course with a health visitor and piloted it in Coedcae school with a group of 13 Year 10 girls earlier this year.

Each voluntary after-school session was given by a different specialist with topics varying from verbal contracts (for example, can I smoke in your house? Do I get paid more after midnight?) to accident prevention (checking where the bleach is kept, keeping hot coffee out of toddler reach) and personal safety (what to do if a drunk parent offers to drive you home).

Students also looked at child protection, different types of age-appropriate play, caring for babies, and took a day's first-aid course run by the Red Cross.

Stacey Moore, 16, said gaining her first-aid certificate was the best part of the course.

"I once looked after a baby that had a fit," she said. "I didn't know what to do and so I felt too scared to babysit again. The first-aid course showed us what to do if it happened, so I feel much more confident now."

Justine Allen, head of history and school community officer at Coedcae school, said: "When pupils saw what was in the full course they realised what they could learn."

"Kids you wouldn't normally expect to be bothered were banging on the door.

It was something they felt they could really achieve and use in the immediate future."

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