Finding good quality childcare can be a difficult task for parents. There are lots of things to look out for and remember to ask when you visit a childcare setting. 

Contact us for details of childcare providers in your area or search online.

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Here are some things to think about when choosing your childcare provider:

Tips for choosing childcare

Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) is the government body that inspects all registered childcare to ensure children get good quality childcare in a safe environment.

Registered childcare has been inspected by Ofsted to make sure it meets minimum national standards around welfare, care and learning; known as the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) for children aged 0-5 years old. It includes registered childminders, nursery schools and classes, day nurseries, pre-schools, out of school care, holiday schemes and some creches.  Children’s centres are also inspected by Ofsted. To check a provider’s latest inspection report visit the Ofsted opens in a new window website or phone Ofsted on 0300 123 1231.

People working as registered childcarers have to meet strict standards of care and are required to have a  DBS checks  Opens in a new window .

Some types of childcare provider do not have to register but may choose to through Ofsted’s Voluntary Childcare Register. This includes people who provide care in the child’s home, short term care, activity groups and care for children aged 8 and over. Ask your provider if they have registered or intend to do so.

Unregistered childcare is more informal and includes nannies and au pairs, babysitters, family and friends who look after your child, some crèches and care when you are present such as parent and toddler groups. For more information read the Registration not required  Opens in a new window guidance.

Speak to providers on the telephone first as this will save you time and wasted visits.  Check their opening hours, fees, vacancies and the ages they cater for.

The best way to see what a setting is like is to look around and meet the staff. Arrange appointments with two or three examples of your chosen type of childcare. Childcare providers vary greatly in size, environment and atmosphere, make sure the place is right for you and your child.

When Visiting – Refer to and take along the Choosing Childcare leaflet. It’s a good idea to take your child with you and where possible visit during opening hours.  This will give you the opportunity to view the setting whilst the children are around and see if they are clam, happy and busy.  It will also allow you to see how the carer(s) interact with the children they are caring for.

This will tell you how Ofsted judged the quality of care at their last inspection, which areas are strong and which areas need improving. Trust your instincts but make sure this is backed up by facts.

Find an Ofsted report  Opens in a new window

Once you have chosen your preferred provider it is important to have a written agreement or contract on pay, hours and conditions, this will avoid the possibility of disagreements in the future.

Many childcare providers will arrange ‘settling-in’ sessions before your child starts properly. This may be for just a couple of hours at a time and you can stay with your child.

Good quality providers will have policies on:

  • health and safety whilst in the provision, including first aid, medication and fire prevention
  • child protection
  • promoting positive behaviour and/or a behaviour policy
    collecting and registering children
  • outings - whatever the length of visit, there should be clear information provided and parental consent requested
  • Special Educational Needs

If you have concerns, no matter how big or small they might be, speak to the manager of the provider and see if you can resolve the problem.  If you feel that your concern is serious and is unresolved after speaking with the Manager then you can contact Ofsted who will address your concerns appropriately.