Trevor & Claire: childminding – the most important career ever
Trevor and his wife Claire set up Kingwood Childcare in Mid Devon 7 years ago. They started as childminders with fourteen children on the books, numbers grew steadily and so they changed their offer to Childcare on Domestic Premises. Today they run a successful nursery from purpose built premises with over 320 children, ranging in age from 3 weeks old to those at secondary school, employing many staff. Claire has 16 years of early years teaching experience and Trevor became a registered childminder in 2010 when he left his career in the Royal Navy to adopt their son.
Trevor explains why they decided to set up Kingwood Childcare in the first place, that no two days are ever the same and why he feels that this is the most important career you could possibly have.
“We do this because we could not find a single provider that would do with our children what we wanted. So, quite simply, we did it ourselves! I left the Royal Navy in 2006 to adopt our son; his past meant that he leaned more toward a male influence in his life and so finding another job just wasn’t going to work, I needed to work from home. Claire found out she was pregnant around the same time, and whilst she remained the breadwinner, I became the house husband. By September 2008 we had two girls under two and a disabled son, the learning curve was vertical.
By March 2010 I’d decided upon a new career, and with a great deal of help from Claire, I set about finding a child minding course. I used my experience as a house dad, and 25 years of Royal Navy training to see me through. It would not have been successful without Claire’s incredible knowledge of the Early Years Foundation Stage.”
“The big attraction to childminding for me was working from home and seeing my own children all day, and always being available for the school runs.”
Trevor explains how quickly his new career took off:
“I had no expectations from working with children. I have always been able to entertain them with ease but I have never had the ability to educate them, so as a husband and wife team we worked very well.
Due to the speed at which the business grew, we had to evolve very quickly in order to cope with it. Claire gave up her job as an early years teacher and it became apparent early on that I needed a level 3 qualification which I achieved in 5 months. Claire already had her level 6 so she was absolutely fine, but we needed a Safeguarding Officer, so off I went and did another level 3 course. I’m also the fire safety office and health & safety officer and so I think it’s safe to say that my training is quite diverse, both onsite and off, and it’s pretty much continuous.
I always knew it would be challenging (and I wasn’t wrong!) but some of the greatest challenges were getting the children in our care to show us the standards we expected from them. For example, pronouncing their ‘T’s, or saying please and thank you, the simple things. Oddly enough, the greatest reward is seeing them achieve it. When we hear a teacher from the local school saying ‘that must be a Kingwood child’, we know we’ve got it right.”
So, what does your role typically involve?
“No two days are ever the same! I drive the minibus for school runs every day, I’m an assistant at the After School Club three days a week, I show new parents around the setting, I am the IT consultant, gardener, chef, PR man, cleaner, lunch cover as well as a million other things that you just do without thinking about. And I would not change a thing!”
Trevor was concerned that being a male in a predominantly female world would be a problem:
“I was worried that it would be a struggle to win over parents who may have expected to be met by a female carer. I truly thought that nobody would want to leave their children with me. I think it’s safe to say that I was wrong, the faith and acceptance that parents have placed in me has been very satisfying and rewarding.
He reflects on the qualities needed in the role, and what parents expect of him:
“Our parents and carers expect everything from us. They expect us to remember every single aspect of their child’s lives, their lives and their relatives’ lives. We need to remember the names of pets, grandparents we see once a year from Suffolk, siblings, cousins and all manner of everyday trivia that is relevant to their children. So we do. And so we should. If you look after a child for 50 hours each week there is absolutely nothing you should not know about their families and life.
It is the most important thing in the world to be able to talk to a parent and understand every aspect of their lives in order to make the experience for their children more rewarding and enriching. Because we foster such a family atmosphere here, this is the norm for us.
If you can achieve this on a day to day basis, which we do, and marry it up with a brilliant understanding of the children, be patient and tolerant with them, sympathetic when needed, strict and uncompromising when needed but above all loving and kind, you begin to see why we have 327 children on our books.
Every child gets a birthday cake at Kingwood, sometimes is has to be gluten free, dairy free, egg free or just about everything free, but irrespective of what allergies the child may suffer from, a bespoke cake is always produced for that child on their birthday. We all then sing happy birthday to them and the cake is shared with their class. It has now become ‘just another thing that the parents expect from Kingwood’. Just like it should be.”
Trevor explains what a difference you can make to a child’s life:
“In a word, it’s ‘immeasurable’. On a day-to-day basis we provide a service so spectacular (without being immodest) that some of the children cry when they have to leave, or hide under a table when the parents arrive. The attention to detail here pays rich dividends and if each child feels safe, wanted, loved, respected and able then that is as good as it gets.
In the longer term the differences are life changing because they leave our care and go on to school with a set of standards, morals and speech patterns that define them from others.”
So, is childminding a good career choice?
“If you want to do something correctly, make it work, make it viable and gain a reputation for excellence, reliability and consistency then you need to make a career of it. This is probably the most important career you could possibly choose because if you get it right in Early Years you get it right for life. If this means long and unsociable hours then so be it. We work on a very simple principle; if we can change the life of a single child then we have won.
You must be prepared to work as hard as you have ever worked in your life but the rewards are vast and the fun equally so. You also get to choose your own hours, a very important benefit if you are a young parent yourself, and you will soon learn to adapt your personal life to your professional life or vice versa.”
What is the most rewarding part of the role?
“This is the easiest question to answer. Walking into any room and causing chaos just by being there. I love getting hugs and cuddles from a stampede of children, each one trying to shout louder than the other to tell me something of great importance. It’s magic. And when a child runs the full length of the playground and launches into midair from six feet away because they know you will catch them no matter what, this is quite special too.
And finally, what makes you smile?
“Everything. Simply put. Everything. From playing with my own children (we now have four) before work in the mornings to opening the doors at 7.30am to shutting them again at 6pm. Even an OFSTED inspector makes me smile because it means I can show off our setting.
Despite now running quite a large and unforeseen business (our average attendance is in the 80’s some days), we still do it our way and it would appear that a lot of families agree with our outdoor ethos, home cooked food, dozens of trips each month, educational principles, manners, etiquette and pronunciation of letters. How can you not smile at THAT? Incidentally, my oldest son is 17, I have two daughters aged 10 and 8 and another little boy of 21 months. How can you not smile at THAT?”
“When we hear a teacher from the local school saying ‘that must be a Kingwood child’, we know we’ve got it right.”