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Frequently asked questions when choosing childcare

Frequently asked questions when choosing 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.

What should I look for in a childcare setting?

  • 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?

Additional questions for childminders

  • 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]