Ofsted's regulation of childcare

Ofsted regulates and inspects four types of early years and childcare provider.

  1. Child minder
    A person providing care for one or more children that they are not related to aged between birth and 18 for reward (usually money).
  2. Home child carer
    A person providing care for children from birth up to the age of 18 at the home of one of the children. The children must be from no more than two families at any one time. Nannies and au pairs are the most common examples of home child carers.
  3. Childcare on domestic premises
    A group of four or more people working with children in someone’s home.
  4. Childcare on non-domestic premises
    A person or organisation providing care on premises that are not someone’s home, such as a purpose-built nursery or a village hall. This covers private and voluntary nurseries, pre-schools, out-of-school clubs and holiday playschemes.

What Ofsted publish

Ofsted publishes as much information as possible about providers on the Early Years and/or the childcare registers.

Inspection reports and other details about the provider, remain online until five years after a provider closes.

Search for an early years and childcare provider inspection report.

Safeguarding children

All staff who visit nurseries, childminders, schools and colleges on behalf of Ofsted as part of an inspection, have been checked to make sure that they are safe to work with children. This is known as an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) disclosure.

All inspectors carry official Ofsted photo identification badges so that schools and other providers know they have passed these rigorous safeguarding checks.

Ofsted inspectors work to government legislation and statutory guidance, which is based on the Department for Education's Safeguarding children and safer recruitment in education.

If you want to make a complaint, or you have a concern about any service that Ofsted inspects, go to the how to complain page.

If you want to report concerns about practices and procedures for the safeguarding of children and young people in local authority services visit the whistle blower hotline page.

The Early Years and childcare registers

If you are caring for children aged between birth and five, you have to deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage (unless you are a nanny). Most providers who care for children in that age range have to join the Early Years register, but some providers are exempt from registering.

Do you need to register? 

The childcare register

The Childcare Register is for providers who care for children aged up to 17. There are two parts – one is compulsory, one is voluntary.

Registration is compulsory if a provider cares for one or more children who are between the ages of five and seven.

Registration is voluntary for all other providers, including home child carers who look after children in the home of one of the children.

How Ofsted inspects providers on the Early Years register

Ofsted inspects early years providers according to the requirements set out in the Early Years Foundation Stage.

The report includes:

  • a description of the provider
  • the overall quality and standards of the provision, including the quality of teaching and learning
  • how well the provider meets the needs of the children to ensure they make the best possible progress
  • the contribution of the provision to the children’s wellbeing
  • how the leadership and management helps with understanding and implementing the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage.

Inspectors give providers one of four grades.

  • grade 1 – outstanding
  • grade 2 – good
  • grade 3 – requires improvement
  • grade 4 – inadequate.

Compliance, investigation and enforcement

Ofsted investigates information received about providers on the Early Years or Childcare Registers that suggests they may not be meeting legal requirements.

If necessary, it will take action against providers who are not meeting the requirements. This is called statutory enforcement action.

It works with outside agencies – including those with child protection responsibilities – to protect children.

For more information visit the Ofsted website.