We caught up with Jenni, who, as newcomer to the profession, was graded Outstanding at her very first inspection in 2012. She runs JenniWren’s childcare in Maidstone and has recently taken on an assistant to help grow her business.
Talking to her, you can feel the passion she has for childcare. Unusually, she has no children of her own but you wouldn’t be able to tell because she exudes loving warmth to all the children who approach her. She is very friendly and easy to talk to, a trait which no doubt has contributed to the success of her business.
Falling on her feet
Jenni fell into childminding shortly after graduating from the University of Kent in 2010. Like many graduates, after experiencing the hype of completing her degree, she felt extremely disheartened when faced with the difficulty of finding work.
By chance, she became acquainted with an experienced childminder who quickly became her mentor.
She says “I must admit initially I had a rather uninformed and tired view of childminding, and as a twenty two year old with no children of my own I hadn’t considered home-based childcare as a credible profession.”
She adds: “I was kindly offered work experience at the setting and within the first morning my notions of childminding were completely and utterly overturned.”
Starting the journey
Shortly after her experience, she registered her interest in childcare through Kent Children and Families Information Service and enrolled onto a 19 hour pre-registration course, delivered by the then ‘National Childminding Association’. She subsequently achieved her Paediatric First Aid and Food Hygiene qualifications and passed thorough medical and DBS checks. Then, with bated breath, she anxiously awaited the arrival of the dreaded Ofsted Inspector!
Thankfully, Jenni was given the good news that she had passed her pre-registration inspection and then had 6 months to establish her business before her first inspection.
Jenni says: “I worked extremely hard to not just meet Ofsted’s expectations but to exceed them. My hard work paid off and I felt extremely proud presenting the report to the families at the setting who had believed in me from the beginning.”
Organisation is key
Achieving 'Outstanding' status was no easy task. Niggling questions like “Am I doing it right?” haunts many people in the childcare profession and Jenni, too, worries about whether she is successfully delivering the EYFS Framework. Luckily, her impressive planning and organisation skills have come to the fore in her business and have no doubt contributed to her being graded so highly first time around:
“Organisation and planning are essential skills to becoming an ‘Outstanding’ provider.” Jenni advises. “I take safeguarding and welfare responsibilities very seriously. A child’s safety must always come first. I have very clear and concise written policies and procedures which are shared with parents, keeping everyone on the same page.”
She adds: “Health and Safety is paramount when working with children and I risk assess for every eventuality.”
As an events management graduate, Jenni has been able to benefit from the knowledge needed to advertise her business effectively. Initially, she turned to childcare websites to advertise her business, as well as displaying flyers in shop windows, play group walls and school receptions. Once she became more established, she realised that just being a part of the community and being seen out with the children was the best way to promote her business.
“I’m always approachable in the playground and the majority of my work comes from recommendations.” Jenni says.
Keeping the connection
Having a good working relationship with parents is vital to the running of the setting and Jenni believes her professional approach has been a contributing factor to her success. At the end of term, she puts together a book for parents to see the milestones and developments their child has reached.
She says: “I enjoy being a part of the family and celebrating each child’s significant milestones and achievements as they grow.”
Jenni also places a lot of value on the importance of practical activities such as gardening and baking at her setting, which she says filled her own childhood. With the children, she takes every opportunity to be outdoors and be part of changing seasons.
“We fill our rainy days with creativity and imagination that the children thrive on. I believe it is important to encourage independence wherever possible and enable children to make decisions about what they want to do, which is an important life skill.”
The importance of support
Above all, the most important thing to Jenni is that the children she looks after are happy and secure in her care. To ensure this happens, Jenni maintains a good working relationship with the child’s other key workers to help provide consistency of care:
“Where children attend more than one childcare setting, i.e. pre-school I work closely with their key worker to provide consistency between settings. I really enjoy interaction with other childcare professionals as childminding can be very solitary if you are not part of a childminding network.”
As a post graduate, Jenni remains committed to developing her own practice and maintaining high professional standards. After her fantastic first Ofsted grading, you’d think she could relax a little. That’s the last thing on her mind, however!
“I feel being graded an ‘Outstanding’ childcare provider is just the beginning of my career and so long as the government continues to recognise the importance of quality home-based childcare I’ll have a happy future in childminding.”
Read Jenni's top 10 tips on how to become an Outstanding childminder
1. Work hard to exceed Ofsted’s expectations
2. Develop good organisation and planning abilities
3. Write clear policies and procedures and share these with parents
4. Risk assess for every eventuality
5. Take any opportunity to be outdoors with the children
6. Become part of the community and participate in local events
7. Place value on the importance of practical activities (such as baking)
8. Develop a good working relationship with carers
9. Commit to developing your own practice
10. Maintain high professional standards[/toggle]
You can find out more about JenniWren's childcare by visiting http://www.jenniwrenschildcare.co.uk/