A husband and wife childminding team from Rhynie has been deemed one of the best childcare providers in Scotland.
Sharon and Peter Stoneman have run Wellie Boots childminding service from their home in the Aberdeenshire village for 11 years.
In a list published by the Care Inspectorate, Wellie Boots was one of only two childcare providers in the country to be graded ‘Excellent’ – the highest grading – in the last month.
Inspectors visited the pair at home in Rhynie last month, grading their service in four areas.
Wellie Boots received two ‘Excellent’s and two ‘Very Good’s, with an overall mark of ‘Excellent’.
“It was just really nice to get the recognition,” Sharon told the P&J.
“We’ve always worked very hard at what we do and continually look to improve.”
Wellie Boots childminders’ child-led philosophy bearing fruit
Interestingly, Sharon and Peter use the same child-led philosophy as Poppies in Laurencekirk, which we profiled earlier this year after it also received an outstanding inspection report.
“I’ve always wanted to have a child-led ethos,” said Sharon.
“I wanted to give the children a strong voice in the setting. We do that by working with parents and making good use of the outdoors.
“We’ve just got a structure that really works for us and our children and their families. I think that’s been the case for a long time.”
She added: “Parents have always been really delighted with our service and supportive of our setting.
“We always tend to keep our kids – they arrive as babies and leave when they start school.
“Even when kids become old enough for state-funded childcare, often the parents will just pay to keep them here.
“I’m just grateful that they trust us with their precious little people.”
The report stated that Sharon and Peter were “extremely committed to professional development and demonstrated how this led to exceptional outcomes for children.”
Childminders set in ‘beautiful village’ Rhynie
Their house in Rhynie, near Huntly, provides children with an idyllic setting.
“We live in a beautiful village with everything on our doorstep.
“You can go out our front door and whichever direction you chose to walk you’d find somewhere lovely. So we’re really fortunate that we’re able to do that with the kids every day.”
I asked Sharon how a childminding service ends up being one of the best in the country.
“I think it’s about being committed to how important the role is, and being really committed to what is best for the children.
“It’s about letting them lead the learning. The best way to get true, proper engagement from the children is to go with what they’re interested in and what they’re wanting to do, and to go at their pace. Rather than having a pre-conceived idea of what you want to do.
“Having a good relationship with the children’s families helps. It gives you an idea about the children’s personalities and their lives outwith here.”
She added: “Being graded ‘Excellent’ for ‘How good is our care, play and learning?’ was the priority for me.
“That’s the one that I really want to get right. Because if that’s not right, then there’s really no point in any of the rest of it. That’s the point of us doing what we do.”