Jarlath Heaney

    Two years ago shortly after taking early retirement I began the process to become registered as an assistant childminder to work alongside my wife Kim who has been a childminder for 25 years. Initially I completed the required courses in order to be registered. Child Protection/Safeguarding, Health & Safety and Paediatric First Aid. These courses provided me with the basic framework to understand the requirements of working with children. I had not considered undertaking any further courses as I thought these would sufficiently equip me to assist with looking after the children in our care.  
    It was not too long before I realised that although I had completed the required elements that there was so much more I could learn and contribute to the childrens health development and well-being. As a member of NICMA I had received regular updates on the courses they were offering, and while all the courses were of relevance to my job, I noticed the new  Level 2 course in Childminding Practicecould cover a wide variety of topics that could enhance my understanding of childcare as well as providing benefits to the children in my care along with reassurance to both existing and prospective parents that our setting would be up to date with current standards and also be able to provide more than just a basic understanding of childcare, development and wellbeing.  The brief description of the course interested me and I successfully applied to NICMA for a place on the course. Our first induction meeting explained the course requirements and timescale along with a description of the individual unit topics. We were given our portfolios and dates for further meetings and also provided with the details of our course tutor and the help they could provide. I was initially excited and looking forward to beginning my coursework. I took home my portfolio and after reading through the assignments and questions my optimism turned to trepidation and I must admit I put the portfolio out of sight for a couple of weeks and totally ignored it. Scared of what I had committed myself to. After a couple of weeks I decided to have another look. With a clear head I read through all the questions and remembered that NICMA had provided me with a tutor and virtually all the study aids required. Having objectively read the whole thing I remembered the course is based on Childminding and Daycare for children under 12-Minimun Standards. Something I had already read and used for my basic training courses.  I had been blinded by reading the questions alone and going into an initial phase of panic. I spent a few hours re reading the questions in conjunction with the course materials provided to me. I knew it would be difficult enough but that the certificate would provide me with a much more comprehensive understanding of caring for children and allow me to help with and understand the childrens development. I had five modules within the course to complete. The first unit, Quality of Care: Meeting Childrens needs effectively, was daunting, initially because there were more assignment questions and work required that the remaining four units put together. It was I would say quite an intense unit to complete as it contained areas such as Care Development and Play –Understanding Childrens Health and Wellbeing. A considerable amount of time was required for research and completion of the unit, and I admit it was rather a slow start for me. I set aside specific times and days to study and with the help of my tutor and the mutual support of other students on the course (I had long since forgotten I was the only male on the course due to the welcome and support I received from them) I steadily began to enjoy the learning experience as I could directly 
    relate my studies with the children in my care. I submitted my completed first unit – the section on child development was, I found the most difficult and taxing.  And while I started on unit 2, awaited my tutors assessment of unit 1, I neednt have worried. My tutor was there to help and point me in the right direction in areas I hadnt fully grasped. I think the assessment and return of the first unit was the single biggest encouragement I felt throughout the course. It spurred me on to the next four units which I thoroughly enjoyed and learned from.  The topics in these units included areas such as Food and Drink, Equality, Inclusiveness, Equipment Requirements and Cooperation with Parents, all things important to help with childcare and provide me with a huge amount of confidence and the knowledge not only to care for the children but to help them with their development.   There is no doubt that initially it was difficult but now having completed the course and being equipped with knowledge I obtained,  It makes me much more confident in myself that I am able to meet the needs of the individual children in my care.  I know there is a Level 3 course available and I have no doubt I want to continue  my childcare education in the future which can  not only enhance the care of the  children but from a business point of view confirm to prospective parents my commitment to the wellbeing and care of their child.  I think that the more registered childminders who undertake the Level two Course or indeed any further childcare based learning can only enhance the professionalism within our field of work, something I know that NICMA work very hard to achieve on our behalf.