I began childminding 4 years ago. I was a busy working mum, working 40+ hours as a factory Manager in a large food business.  I already had a child of 3 and another on the way! and decided after a serious health scare (upon doctors’ orders) to cut down on work and de-stress my life. 

    So, after I had my second child, I decided full time work was no longer for me. I happened to be browsing through the local paper one day and I saw an advert looking for people to sign up as new Registered Childminders under a Rural Childminding Project run by NICMA as part of DARD’s Rural Childcare initiative.

    I enquired about this and went ahead to the information evening and everything just took off from there.  NICMA ran all the training courses and I also decided to complete the Invest NI “Go for It” starting your own business course.  I opened my business “Country Kids” in July 2011.

    Then, in March last year I decided that I wanted more from childminding.  I felt that I needed to continue with my Professional Development and gain more experience to help me to develop more as a childminder.  I signed up for the QCF Level 3 Diploma in Children’s Care Learning and Development with NICMA.  On the first day everyone was excited, and it was nice to be back in a training environment with adult conversation and an end goal to achieve.  When we were given the first unit I thought “what have I done, I will never be able to do this”, but once I started and got into the swing of reading questions and researching answers I found it so interesting that I found myself writing more than I should have, and spending hours just reading up and googling new information!

    The course did take up a lot of time which I wasn’t fully prepared for to begin with, usually time spent in front of the computer when the children were in bed! But the months just flew by and at two topics a month it keeps you on your toes with new information on Legislation and Policies and ways to run your business and ideas to put into practice.
    That’s when I decided I wanted more than just to be known as “you’re the childminder”. I decided to ask the local school if I could do a voluntary placement to help me gain more knowledge of different age groups as I studied topics of child development – its stages at different ages. The Principle agreed and I went in once a week as a classroom assistant and gained so much information from this.

    I also decided to join the local Surestart and do relief childcare work with them to help gain more knowledge of different settings and how to work with additional needs children and disadvantaged families and also have the advantage of adult social interaction!  I know this sounds like a big undertaking but the more knowledge I gained the more excited and confident I became, and this, I felt reflected in my coursework approach and how I completed it. 

    This in turn has overflowed into my own childminding business, the professional way I run it, how I arrange my setting, encourage partnership with parents and observe and assess the children in my care to ensure they achieve the best possible outcomes in my setting.

    My NICMA tutor and mentor Maeve Milne has been a rock in helping me to achieve my goals of successfully completing the QCF level 3 Diploma. She has encouraged and made me realise that I am not destined to be only known as “the childminder” instead I can now say I am also a “Child care Worker” who has gained confidence, professionalism and a new lease of life!!

    I now run my childminding business as an afterschool / school holiday facility and dedicate some morning hours to the SureStart which gives me a good balance of work life, adult social interaction and home life.  I feel that I have the confidence to keep learning and developing in my professional career and hope to do more in the future.