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Frequently asked questions about Childcare

Frequently asked questions about childcare – Questions and Tips


There are many childcare providers who have a waiting list and you might have to put your child’s name down at more than one.  Once you have made your decisions, ask the provider what documents you must bring with you to register.  These can vary between providers.

There are lots of differences between the types of childcare, early education or pre-school services and individual childminders, nurseries, nursery classes or out of school clubs.  Try to visit several possible options in your area to get a good idea of what would suit your child. 

Take your child with you to see how staff talks to him or her.  Try to go when children are there so you can see if they are calm, happy and busy.

The Family Information Service operates a telephone helpline and drop-in service from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.  To find out more please call us on 020 7364 6495 or email [email protected]

  • What activities will your child be doing there?
  • How do they cater for dietary and religious requirements?
  • How will your child be supported if he or she has special education needs or a disability?
  • The setting must be registered with Ofsted – check their inspection report on the Ofsted website.  Settings are inspected by Ofsted when they register to make sure they are meeting the requirements for safety and learning and development, but this inspection report is not published.  Ofsted will carry out a full inspection and publish a report online within the first 30 months of registration.
  • Do they provide free early education for two to four year olds through the funded childcare schemes?
  • Is it clean, light, well-ventilated and big enough for children to be active indoors and outdoors?  All childcare providers must ensure children access the outdoors daily.
  • What qualifications, training and experience do staff have?
  • What hours can the provider offer you?
  • How will your child be settled into a nursery or with a childminder?  What does the childcare provider want to know from you about your child?  A good provider will help your child adapt gradually.
  • How do you encourage good behaviour?
  • How will you make sure I know how my child is getting on?
  • Check opening times, holiday’s dates and check what is included in the cost?
  • Where will your child sleep?  Do staff always stay with the children when they sleep?
  • Is there enough staff to keep an eye on all children?  At nursery there should be at least one member of staff for every 3 children under 2 years, one to four children aged two and one to eight children aged three years and over.  Childminders can look after up to six children under 8 years; no more than 3 children under 5 years (only 1 child can be under 1). Childminders may be able to look after more children if they work with assistants.
  • Are they trained to give medication or use specific equipment?
  • Is the building secure, comfortable and welcoming?
  • How many children do you look after, and how old are the children?
  • What training and experience do you have?
  • What activities and routines do you provide for the children and where do you take them when you go out?
  • Do you have pets?
  • Who else will be in the house when you are minding?
  • Do you drive?  If yes, do you have suitable insurance and car seats?
  • Do you have references from other parents?

The Family Information Service operates a telephone helpline and drop-in service from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.  To find out more please call us on 020 7364 6495 or email [email protected]

The total offer for eligible working parents comprises the following:

· 570 hours Universal early education entitlement for all 3- & 4-year olds from the beginning of the term after the child’s 3rd birthday.

· 570 hours Extended funded childcare for eligible working parents

If taken during the term time only eligible working families are entitled to 30 hours in each of the 38 weeks of the school year. Parents can choose to stretch this offer over an increased number of weeks in the year by reducing the number of free hours in the week. For instance, just under 24 hours per week for 48 weeks.

In order to be eligible for the Extended Hours Free Entitlement both parents must be working (or the sole parent must be working in a lone parent family), and each parent, on average, should earn:

· A weekly minimum equivalent to £120 (16 hours at national minimum wage (NMW) or national living wage (NLW)), and

· Less than £100,000 per year.

You need to check your eligibility by logging in to the 30 hours free childcare and obtain a code to take to your childcare provider.

No, you will not usually be eligible for the extended entitlement. However, there are exceptions for 2 parent families where extended entitlement will be available:

· Both parents are employed but one or both parents is temporarily away from the workplace on parental, maternity or paternity leave

· Both parents are employed but one or both parents is temporarily away from the workplace on adoption leave

· Both parents are employed but one or both parents is temporarily away from the workplace on long term sick leave

· One parent is employed and one parent has substantial caring responsibilities based on specific benefits received for caring

· One parent is employed and one parent is disabled or incapacitated based on receipt of specific benefits

No. It is a provider’s choice whether they deliver the Extended Hours entitlement or not. They can choose to offer some or all of the hours. Parents are free to shop around to find appropriate funded provision.

Parents must apply for an Eligibility Code which they will then give to the provider of their choice, along with their National Insurance Number and the child’s date of birth. The provider will then be able to confirm the validity of the Code and agree a start date with the parent.

Not every setting will need, or be able to deliver, flexibility. Where a parent needs a flexible pattern that cannot be delivered by a setting, they should contact the Family Information Service who will help to find a setting that can.

No the funded hours are free at the point of supply, providing you meet the criteria e.g. the term after the child’s 3rd birthday. However, providers may decline to offer a funded place to new starters at the setting after the headcount date and may also charge you for any hours over and above the free funded entitlement

Yes. If a child is attending two different settings it is very important that both providers are made aware of this, as the funding may have to be split between two settings. Currently due to the coronavirus pandemic the sharing of hours across two different settings is discouraged.

Resources and guidance for Tower Hamlets' early years settings delivering the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) statutory framework.

You will find useful resources and guidance around:

  • Early Years Foundation Stage
  • Statutory documents
  • Children's learning and development
  • Early Years Inclusion
  • Tower Hamlets person-centred formats
  • Publications
  • Who are the Area Inclusion Coordinators?
  • Healthy Early Years London
  • Safeguarding
  • Two-year-old integrated review
  • Other useful resources
  • For parents
  • General
  • Presentations
  • Publications
  • Research

Resources and Guidance Information