Choosing the right childcare

Choosing the right childcare

Here you will find useful information about choosing the right childcare for your family needs.

There are many different types of childcare available and you will want to choose a childcare setting that is best suited to your family's needs.

Many childcare settings have waiting lists so it is a good idea to plan ahead to ensure that there is a place available for your child. If possible, visit a range of different types of childcare (eg nursery, childminder) and childcare setting so that you can compare them. Try to make an appointment to visit at least once on a normal working day and take your child along to see how he/she reacts. Think about what you would like to know beforehand, and ask lots of questions.

Choosing childcare for your child is an important decision for any parent. As a parent, it is your responsibility to ensure that your child is safe and happy in a child care environment that is fun, educational, and nurturing.

Spend as much time as you need, visiting a second or third time if you would like to, before making your final decision.

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Things to consider when choosing childcare

When choosing childcare

Things to think about when choosing childcare:

  • which hours and days are available 
  • how must does it cost, and what is included in the cost
  • the qualifications of the staff 
  • the terms and conditions that you need to sign
  • do they offer places for funded children
  • what is the daily routine like
  • are parents involved in the care and education
  • are their policies available for you to read
  • look at their website if they have one
  • can you and your child visit 

First thoughts

  • on your first visit are you and your child made to feel welcome?
  • does the setting have a friendly feel?
  • are children having fun playing and do they look happy?
  • are staff happy and enjoying playing alongside children?
  • is there a wide range of equipment for all children to play with?
  • is the furniture in good condition?
  • is there good ventilation and heating?
  • is there a comfortable area for children to sleep if needed?
  • is the setting inclusive and meeting the needs of all children?
  • what will the setting teach children, and what do they believe it is important to teach?
  • how will the setting plan for you to have visits to settle your child?

Day to day

  • how will you find out what your child's day was like?
  • do the setting use online systems to share your child’s learning and routines?
  • what do the greeting and departing routines look like each day?
  • do you get feedback each day. Is someone available to talk if needed?
  • are there enough staff to care for the children?
  • how do staff manage behaviour?
  • is there an opportunity for snack?
  • is food provided and if so, is a healthy, balanced diet on offer and have staff been trained in food hygiene?
  • can they cater for any special dietary needs/allergies and what procedures are in place to manage this?
  • can children access fresh drinking water when required?
  • what are the sleeping arrangements, and how are sleeping children monitored?
  • is there a nappy changing area which is safe?

Childcare contracts and payments

Childcare contracts and payments should always be agreed in advance and you will need to consider:

  • will you need to pay a deposit or retainer?
  • how and when are you expected to pay?
  • will there be additional charges for late pickups, snacks, nappies, meals, school pickups etc?
  • will you pay if your child is absent due to illness or holiday or bank holidays?
  • if using a childminder, what will happen if the childminder is sick or on holiday?
  • what is the notice period for changing hours or leaving and is this the same notice period that the childcare setting would give you?
  • if you plan to use employer supported childcare vouchers, are they happy to accept them?
  • ensure you have a written contract detailing this information, which you can refer back to at a later date if necessary

Will your child be safe?

  • is the Ofsted registration certificate, public liability insurance certificate and parent Ofsted poster displayed?
  • who is the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL); this person is responsible for safeguarding children?
  • has all staff been checked to ensure they are suitable to work with children?
  • is there always someone available who is paediatric first aid trained?
  • who is going to be your child’s key person? Will they help with settling in sessions, and build a good relationship with you and your child in order to meet all needs?
  • what are the procedures in an emergency?
  • are the premises safe and secure, indoors and outdoors?
  • are all visitors' identities checked before entering the setting?

Ofsted registration and inspection

There are a few different factors that decide if a childcare setting needs to be registered with Ofsted:

For example:

  • the service they provide
  • the age range of children and how long they are open

Ofsted carries out inspections on childcare settings to review the quality of care and education. Ofsted will also make judgments about how safe children are, and that the setting are meeting all their legal requirements. Following inspection, a short report is published on the Ofsted website. This can be read by either typing in the name of the childcare setting or their unique reference number (URN) on the Ofsted website.

The report will provide information about what is being done well and what improvements are needed. The report will then grade the setting:

  • Outstanding/Met
  • Good/Met
  • Requires improvement/Not Met
  • Inadequate/Not Met

Useful links

Search for Ofsted Inspection Report

More information on Ofsted registered childcare, including inspection reports can be found on their website.  When searching for a childminder you may need to have their Ofsted Unique Reference Number, it will be on display at their setting or you can ask them when enquiring about their availability to take your child.

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