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childcareDeciding to put your child into childcare is far from an easy decision. There are a million questions playing on your mind before you pick up the phone and make that arrangement.

Below we've tried to put together information we consider relevant for your concerns that will help you make informed decisions about childcare.

There are a number of options when it comes to childcare. Find out what's on offer to help you choose childcare which best suits you and your child's needs.



Childcare options

Your childcare options include:

  • creches - provide occasional care for children under eight
  • toddler groups - informal groups of parents and carers that meet locally with their children on a regular basis, usually including children who are under five
  • pre-schools and playgroups - provide play time and often early education to under fives
  • day nurseries - provide care for children from birth to four or five and beyond, often integrated with early education and other services
  • out-of-school or 'kids' clubs - offer children aged four to 12 a safe and stimulating environment in which they can play and learn outside school hours
  • childminders - usually look after children under 12 in the childminder's own home and often collect school-aged children from a nearby school
  • nannies - provide childcare in your own home and can look after children of any age

Childcare information services

Your local Children's Information Service (CIS) can also advise you on childcare options and availability in your area. These services provide quality, impartial information and guidance on childcare, early education and other children's services. They hold information on Ofsted registered childcare such as day nurseries, out-of-school clubs, pre-school playgroups and childminders, as well as unregistered childcare such as parent and toddler groups. You can get the telephone number of your nearest CIS by calling 0800 234 6346.

Who can I trust?

Entrusting a stranger with your child is a big step, so before you choose childcare you may wish to do some research. All childminders and day-care providers including playgroups, pre-schools, private nurseries, creches and out-of-school clubs for under eights, must be registered by Ofsted Early Years (or in Wales, by the Care Standards Inspectorate). Registration includes a criminal records check on anyone involved in providing childcare and an inspection of the premises to look at health and safety and educational welfare issues.

You can check that the childcare provider is registered by asking to see a registration certificate, or by contacting Ofsted. If you have any doubts about a provider, check with your local Children's Information Service. You can get the number of your nearest CIS by calling 0800 234 6346. In England, childcare for children aged eight and over, or care for children of any age that is based around one or two activities, or is provided in the child's home (eg nannies), does not have to be registered by Ofsted. However, if the provider meets the requirements and wishes to register on the voluntary part of the Ofsted Childcare Register it can do so, unless the childcare is provided directly by a school. For more info, please check

Ofsted inspection reports

Ofsted produce reports when they inspect childcare for children under the age of eight. These reports provide detailed information based on the annual inspections. When Ofsted inspect care that is registered on the Ofsted Childcare Register, they will produce a letter confirming whether or not the registration requirements have been met.

Investors in children quality assurance

Childcare providers with Investors in Children Quality Assurance schemes accreditation have shown a commitment to quality childcare that is of a high standard, so where possible you may prefer to choose one of these providers.

Do your own research

It is always a good idea to visit childcare providers yourself - inspections and accreditation are no substitute for parental judgement. When you do visit, ask plenty of questions. For an idea on the kind of questions you may wish to ask, try the ParentsCentre website. If you're thinking of employing a nanny, bear in mind that government-sponsored registration and accreditation schemes do not apply to them. It is up to you, as parent and employer, to make sure that you hire a nanny who will look after your children well. For more info, please check

Reporting concerns and complaints

If you have a concern or complaint you cannot resolve with your registered childcare provider, call Ofsted's Early Years Complaints Helpline on 0845 601 4772. Ofsted does not usually become involved in complaints over fees and contractual arrangements.

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*information provided by the public services directory, DirectGov, for more information, please visit, © Crown Copyright