South Devon College is launching a new Childminding qualification in a bid to help the skills deficit in the childcare sector. 

The falling number of registered childminders is a national issue. Data from Ofsted states that between March 2022 and March 2023 3,500 childminders gave up their businesses. That equates to 20,000 childcare places.  

And new Government plans that will allow working parents of two year olds to access 15 hours of free childcare from April will stretch the sector further.

According to research by the Early Years Alliance, an education charity that represents 14,000 early year’s providers, 68% of nursery and pre-school settings said they were already at full capacity.

With an estimated extra 50,000 staff needed to work in the childcare industry, South Devon College is helping many people attain the qualifications they require.  

The College, in collaboration with the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, has set up a new NCFE Level 3 Award Preparing to work in Home Based Childcare course starting in April. The six week course will be a mix of online and classroom learning and is supported by Torbay Council.

“Setting up as a childminder can he hugely rewarding. Childminders can set their own working hours providing flexibility as well as great financial rewards whilst helping children to flourish,” said Katrina Perkins, Course co-ordinator at South Devon College.

“Now is a great time to register as a childminder as there are currently Government grants to help people cover the costs of starting up which are either £600 or £1200 depending on whether the person registers with Ofsted or with a childminder agency.

“The new and exciting childminding course will be delivered by an early years professional who has a great deal of experience in early years and nurseries. We believe the course will be attractive to people who have their own young children or those seeking flexibility, working from home whilst earning. Childminding offers a dynamic and evolving career with regular work in a stable and thriving environment.”

This course will sit within the College’s well established childcare provision, which includes the new Early Years Educator T Level, a post GCSE qualification including 750 hours of work placement, which provides a talent pipeline for local early years providers.

A new apprenticeship is also being offered to support recruitment – the Level 3 Early Years Educator will be available to people who want to earn whilst they learn, with full time employment in local settings accompanied by online learning delivered by South Devon College, whose staff will visit apprentices regularly at their place of work to assess practical skills. On completion of the 18 month course, apprentices will be granted with the license to practice and the status of being an Early Years Educator.

Mama Bear’s Day Nursery based at South Devon College in Paignton has 23 staff and room for 67 children. Manager, Carly Wilkinson says they will need to employ more staff if they take on extra children who are eligible for the new Government funding.

“There is a recruitment crisis and the sector tends to be female heavy and when they get married and have children of their own they don’t come back as childcare is expensive.”

Carly believes that taking on more childcare apprentices and student placements will help the recruitment gap.

“Working with students at the nursery means we are setting in place the foundations of what a career in childcare looks like.  It’s hard work, a big responsibility and can be challenging. But we are a team and we all pull together.”

Councillor Nick Bye, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services for Torbay Council said, “We are pleased to be able to support the Early Years Educator Apprenticeship in partnership with South Devon College.

“There really is a need for more Early Years Childminders in Torbay and we want to do all we can to encourage more people to come forward and consider becoming one. The new Apprenticeship course is a great way to help people into Early Years Childcare.

“Anyone with questions about getting into working in Early Years Childcare can also contact the Council’s Early Years team on 01803 208985 or email

South Devon College is also developing a qualification for people who want to work with babies.

“Another area of deficit in the childcare sector is baby care training,” said Katrina Perkins. The EYFS states that for early years providers (other than childminders) working with children under two, that ‘at least half of all staff must have received training that specifically addresses the care of babies’.

“Once developed with quality and rigour in line with industry requirements, the new qualification will be useful to anyone wishing to work with babies or current room leaders and will be an asset to childcare businesses in the bay area.”

The College has a well- established childcare provision and recently transitioned from BTEC into the new T Levels.

17 year old Katy Simms from Paignton has always wanted to work with children. After studying GCSE Childcare at South Devon High School she decided to study a T Level in Childcare at South Devon College.

“I like seeing how children develop and learning how you can understand and support them.”

Katy spends one day a week at her work placement and says it’s a great way of putting into practice what she learns in the classroom.

“The balance between college and my work placement is really good. We did an autism workshop in a lesson where we learnt about autism and the signs to look out for in children. When I went to my work placement I could see some of those signs in some of the children so both college and the work placement overlap.”

Katy says good communication is key when working with children.

“You’ve got to be passionate about wanting to work with children. You have to be welcoming and patient and be able to communicate well. If you have that mindset then go for it.”

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