Exceptions to usual childminder to child ratios

At the Waltham Forest Early Years and Childcare Business Conference held in July 2018, which was attended by a number of Childminders, a question was raised with regards to the Childminder to Child ratios for 3 years olds taking up a 30 hour place in a school or PVI setting and receiving wrap around care from a childminder.

It was brought to the early years and childcare team's attention, that Pacey had provided some information on their website that appeared to suggest that exceptions could be made to the usual ratios where a childminder is providing wraparound care (before and/or after school) for a 3 year-old child taking up their 30-hour place in a school (please note, no mention is made with regards to private nursery’s or committee run pre-schools).

The team have done their best to seek clarification in this matter and have been in contact with the DFE (Department for Education) with regards to the wording on the PACEY website. DFE have confirmed that what PACEY have written does reflect advice that the DFE gave to PACEY around exceptions to ratios for childminders. The DFE have also confirmed that they have provided this same advice to Ofsted on ratio requirements; however, crucially the DFE has not been able to confirm if this advice has been filtered out to inspectors. The DFE have simply told us ‘it is for Ofsted to decide how to disseminate information to inspectors’. Furthermore, as things stand at the moment there is no mention of 3 year olds in the EYFS statutory requirement around exceptions to ratios. The DFE has only told us they ‘will consider whether it would be helpful to clarify the ratio requirements when the EYFS is next revised’.

Currently the statutory requirements state;

3.41. Childminders may care for a maximum of six children under the age of eight (Including the childminder’s own children or any other children for whom they are responsible such as those being fostered). Of these six children, a maximum of three may be young children, and there should only be one child under the age of one. A child is a young child up until 1st September following his or her fifth birthday. Any care provided for older children must not adversely affect the care of children receiving early years provision.

3.42. If a childminder can demonstrate to parents and/or carers and Ofsted inspectors or their childminder agency that the individual needs of all the children are being met, exceptions to the usual ratios can be made, for example, when childminders are caring for sibling babies, or when caring for their own baby, or to maintain continuity of care. If children aged four and five only attend the childminding setting before and/or after a normal school day, and/or during school holidays, they may be cared for at the same time as three other young children. But in all circumstances, the total number of children under the age of eight being cared for must not exceed six.

If you chose to care for additional children of any age, under exception to usual ratios please bear in mind that you must still be able to demonstrate how you are meeting the needs of all the children you are caring for. Further support about how you might go about ensuring this can be found below.

Continuity of Care

Statutory requirement 3.42 also talks about exceptions to the normal ratios to allow for continuity of care.

3.42. If a childminder can demonstrate to parents and/or carers and Ofsted inspectors or their childminder agency that the individual needs of all the children are being met, exceptions to the usual ratios can be made, for example, when childminders are caring for sibling babies, or when caring for their own baby, or to maintain continuity of care. If children aged four and five only attend the childminding setting before and/or after a normal school day, and/or during school holidays, they may be cared for at the same time as three other young children. But in all circumstances, the total number of children under the age of eight being cared for must not exceed six.

Continuity of care can only be used to provide continuation of care for a child you are already caring for. Below we have tried to provide some examples to help with clarification.

Example one: you are already looking after a 3 year old child. The family has a new baby and would like you to care for the new baby as well as the older child. However, you are already caring for three early years children so caring for the new baby would take you over ratio. However, in order to provide continuity of care for the older sibling you would be able to mind over ratio and care for the baby.

Example two: you have been looking after a child on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. One of the child’s parents starts a new job that requires them to have full time childcare and they would like you to provide this care. But you already have three early years children on a Thursday and a Friday. However, in order to provide continuity of care for the child you could mind over ratio.

Example three: you are approached by a new family. They have 2 year old twins, or a 1 year old and a three year old and would like you to care for them full time. However, you already care for two early years children on a Monday and Thursday, meaning you only have space for one new child on those days. In this instance you would NOT be able to take on the new family as you have not already been caring for them so there is NO continuity of care.

In example one and two, while ‘continuity of care is met’, please bear in mind that if you chose to care for additional children you must still be able to demonstrate how you are meeting the needs of all the children you are caring for.

What to do next if you are thinking about taking on additional children under exceptions to the usual ratios.

If you are thinking about taking on additional children, you might find it helpful to consider the following points to help you decide if you can meet all children’s needs and to confidently talk through your decision to take on extra children during an Ofsted inspection.

  • The ages of the children in your care. Looking after a 6 month old, an 18 month old, a 2 and a half year old and a 3 year old is likely to place more strains on the quality of the provision and your ability to ‘meet the needs of all children’ than looking after an older 2 year old, two 3 years olds and a 4 year old.
  • The dispositions of the children in your care. It may well be that on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday you have ‘easy children’ to care for, while on the Thursday and Friday you are caring for a child that requires more support and attention.
  • How long extra children will be in your care. An hour before and after school, maybe very different to a full 8 hours during the school holidays. Having an extra child every day is likely to be more tiring than if its only one or two days a week.
  • The size of the areas of your home used for childminding. You need to make sure you are still meeting requirement 3.57 with regards to space.
  • The practicalities of your daily activities. Can you safely get to places? Will you need a bigger buggy? What about car seats? Do you have enough toys? What about seats round your table? Can you safely evacuate in the event of a fire?
  • Insurance. Will you still be covered if you are caring for additional children?
  • Your existing parents. How will they feel about you having more children in your care?

In all cases, remember the total number of children, under the age of 8 must not exceed six.

Please be aware of the significant impact of not being able to demonstrate compliance with statutory requirements when offering places to children.