How To Start Up A Crèche
Not everyone can look after their little ones as much as they’d like. In the UK, Shared Parental Leave only lasts around 50 weeks (37 of which are paid). Presumably, after this, even the best multi-taskers still need to get some things done that are easier without a child in tow. Hitting the gym or doing a weekly shop, for example. And statistically, 63% of dual-parent families and 58% of single-parent families used formal childcare in the UK in 2017. Which is why there’s ample (and growing) opportunity for childcare services in the UK.
If you reckon you’re good at looking after children, you might have thought about setting up your own crèche. These days almost everywhere is a potentially good place to do this. In your own home, at a school after hours, in a shopping centre, or maybe you’ve even thought about a mobile crèche. Just be warned, it isn’t the best way to become a millionaire overnight, as opening a crèche involves a fair bit of work!
Why start up a crèche?
Presumably, not solely for financial reasons. Entry barriers are massively high, in terms of qualifications, background checks, and licencing. Startup costs are intense, and so are overheads. But, if you’re looking for part time hours at first and love working with little ones, running a crèche can a rewarding experience.
Pro tip: Lots of crèches in the UK are started by mothers because there are simply no adequate childcare facilities in their local area.
So, you’ll have an easier, potentially more profitable time of things if you locate your crèche somewhere that’s in desperate need of childcare services. Even better, there are numbers you can call to find out this kind of thing. Good luck finding this kind of help in any other industry!
- The Family Information Service in the area you’d like to set up will often be able to assist. Some examples of the sites you can visit for info will look like this: Norfolk FIS, Portsmouth FIS, and Kensington and Chelsea FIS.
- Have a look at this government website that helps people find childcare out of school hours. If you’ve put in the postcode for your hopeful premises and not a lot comes up on the local site, you’re probably in a good position.
The physical crèche, to be specific. Are you going to start at home? Will you rent premises? Whatever you choose, it should be safe for small children, clean, and ideally, a nice place for them to spend time while away from their parents. Every kindergarten I’ve ever worked at has been open plan so childminders can keep an eye on kids, but this isn’t mandatory. At the same time, they’ve had nice little ‘areas’ so children can do different things like solve puzzles quietly, or crash toys noisily elsewhere.
In short, your crèche needs to comply with the Department for Education and Employment (DFEE) 14 National Standards for crèches. These cover things like:
- Suitable adults providing are the childcare;
- Children have a healthy amount of space, access to toilets, and you aren’t squashing everyone in like sardines. This varies with age per child, and can be between 2.3m2 to 3.5m2 per little one depending on their age;
- Equipment like furniture, toys, and other things are safe (like toys with the Kite Mark, which you can learn about here and here);
- A certain adult to child ratio must be adhered to, from 1:3 for kids under 2 to 1:8 for children up to 7;
- Children have constant access to clean drinking water and if you supply food, it should be healthy and properly prepared.
These are just a few, and you can even email for your own copy of the National Standards. Notably, children under 2 should be able to have their own little area that they can be in unless it’s deemed unnecessary.
Some rough premises estimates
Depending on where you’re going to set up this crèche, you could be paying rent, mortgage, portable building fees, or zilch. If the crèche itself is in your home and two other people are involved, you are legally a ‘childminder’, but most of this article is about setting up on non-domestic premises, i.e. becoming a registered childcare provider. Therefore, if you want to start a mobile crèche, you will be looking at anything between £499 per m2 per child and £13,999 if you want a space for fifteen children.
Level 3 in childcare
As the manager of your future crèche, you’re required (under the ‘suitability’ criteria above) to have a nationally recognised Level 3 qualification in childcare. These are the Level 3 government criteria, and here are some example courses that will make the cut:
- Montessori Early Years Educator (this one’s 1000 hours long!)
- City & Guilds Extended Diploma in Children’s Care, Learning and Development (Wales/NI)
- Full Time Certificate & Diploma in Childcare & Education from HRC
On average, such courses cost around £2,000 – some are cheaper, and some will gladly take more of your money.
At least half the people you may want to hire should have a Level 2 qualification, too. If you can’t be bothered doing any of these courses and you’re loaded, you can hire a manager who has the qualifications instead. But where’s the intrinsic reward in that?
First Aid training and Health Check
First aid training is mandatory, and generally a good thing to have. For children under 5, you need a full pediatric first aid qualification. The Red Cross does certified courses for £172 + VAT, and emergency pediatric first aid courses (£126 + VAT) for those who have fresh new Level 2 or 3 childcare qualifications.
The government also requires you to make a health declaration to see if you’re fit and able to do your job and look after those kiddies well. Again, your GP may pocket some of your cash for signing this declaration.
Because you’re going to work with children, you’ll need a background check. A DBS check, to be precise, which looks at your criminal background (or lack thereof, ideally). Everyone else over 16 in your home needs one too (£52.50 each for this, thanks) if that’s where you’re running the crèche. After you’ve all been waiting by the letterbox for six weeks you’ll get your certificates, and if your stories check out this part’s all done.
If you’re taking care of children younger than eight for over two hours each day, you need to register your crèche with Ofsted (The Office for Standards in Education). They’ll basically check that your premises and crèche are the kind of place people would actually like their children to be in. If you’ve complied with the Crèche National Standards above, you should be fine. Once you’ve set up, they will come back every three years or so to have another look around.
To register your crèche with the Early Years Register (kiddies between 0-5 years) and Childcare Register (5-7 years), use the two forms on this page. You need to pay either by cheque (even though it’s 2018) or to Ofsted, and pay again each year. Costs for registration vary between £35 and £220 depending on whether you just want to register, or if you want to register to your crèche on domestic premises.
This covers everything related to the legal side of things.
Surprise! Both public liability insurance and home insurance are important. Product liability insurance, too, and ideally you want it all for up to £5M. If you’re going to be shuttling children around then you’ll need car insurance too. As a rough guide, a year’s comprehensive insurance specifically for childminders can range around the £60 mark. For a crèche on non-domestic premises, the insurance will be higher, and you should get a quote. There’s even special mobile crèche insurance, too.
As you’ve probably noted, legal compliance and premises are going to comprise the bulk of your fixed outgoing expenses…till you scale up, that is. Here is a graph for you, if you’ve got serious plans for a crèche empire. Staff costs are considerable for childcare providers in general. Why? Because of the requisite adult/staff to child ratio.
Being a nice, responsible person
In general, as a crèche manager, you’ll need mountains of patience. Not just for all the startup requirements, but on a day-to-day basis. You’ll need to be able to smile and get enthusiastic about things like singing and storytelling if you’re looking after children for any amount of time. Sure, it’s all good fun for about an hour or two, but after the first batch of children is off, you’ll still need energy for the next. Maybe you’ll even have to do things like read The Very Hungry Caterpillar five times a day, so a positive mindset and genuine enthusiasm are essential.
In terms of safety, you’ll also need to be responsible, able to think on your feet and respond calmly to an emergency. The National Standard safety requirements are there as a baseline, you won’t be able to satisfy these and play Words with Friends all day. Things like allergies and preexisting health conditions should be noted down when you accept responsibility for other’s children, and a million times more so if you plan to feed them. Take down all the emergency contact details you might need from the child’s carer and their consent in case you have to give them medical care.
As a final note, you’ll also need to be generally attuned to the fact even as a temporary childcare worker, you’ll be in a role model position. Children are social learners (says Vygotsky), so little things you do can send a message. Like ‘sharing is caring’ etc.
Starting up a registered crèche is resource-intensive in terms of capital outlay. Fixed costs are frigging high, and if you want to make money you will need to expand, which costs even more money. Entry barriers are high, there are fifteen thousand things you must do to get registered and qualified, and for some, it can be intensely tiring. When I did childcare I would take a nap in the quiet area after the kids were all gone, but I understand most people don’t do this. Profit margins are modest.
On the plus side, if you love children, it can be immeasurably rewarding and presumably it will give you a fantastic sense of achievement once you’re up and running. There’s still plenty of room in the market for you to get started, and you can do finger painting all day if that’s your jam.