Choosing the right childcare
There are many different types of childcare available and you will want to choose a childcare provider that is best suited to your family's needs.
Many childcare providers 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 providers 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.
First impressions count – ask yourself these questions
- are you and your child made to feel welcome and does the setting have a friendly feel?
- are children having fun and do they look happy - will your child be happy and settled there?
- are there children of your child’s age?
- are the carers talking to the children in a way that interests and encourages them?
- are children able to choose what they do and enjoy free play and are the toys sufficiently varied?
- is the equipment, like the toys and furniture, safe and of a sufficiently high standard?
- do staff behave in an inclusive way towards all children, showing positive attitudes towards disability, gender and cultural difference?
Questions to ask the childcare provider
- how will you find out what your child has been doing and learning about each day?
- who will your child's Key Person be and will you be able to meet with them prior to your child starting?
- check staffing ratios, ratios vary depending on the type of childcare setting and the age range of the children being cared for
- what qualifications and training do the staff have?
- how will the day be structured and can they follow routines started at home?
- how do staff manage behaviour?
- is food provided and if so, is a healthy, balanced diet on offer and have staff been trained in food hygiene?
- what is the settling in policy and how is it adapted to meet your child's needs?
- can they cater for any special dietary needs/allergies and what procedures are in place to manage this?
- how and when can children access fresh drinking water?
- what are the sleeping arrangements and how are sleeping children monitored?
Other questions to ask yourself or the childcare provider to keep your child safe
- what policies and procedures are in place to keep children safe?
- can children play outside safely and securely, is there enough room for children to be active indoors, are there places where the children can rest?
- how are risks (eg equipment, environment, trips out) assessed and managed?
- the certificate of Ofsted registration (if required) should be on display, as well as a certificate of insurance.
- what happens in an emergency e.g. fire drills, evacuations, what precautions have been put into place in order to deal with them?
- is the premise secure, do they have visitor control systems in place, check the number of staff, is it appropriate for the number of children, ask about qualifications and training?
- what are the procedures for safe recruitment and have all members of staff had a criminal records check?
- are staff trained in paediatric first aid and your child's safety should be top priority?
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 provider 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
Ofsted inspections and reports
There are a number of different factors that determine whether or not a childcare provider is required to be registered with Ofsted. For example these can be; the service they provide, the age range of the children they care for and how long they are open for. A certificate of registration should be on display at the childcare setting when you visit.
Ofsted carries out inspections to check the quality of the care provided. They then produce inspection reports detailing their findings. You can use these reports to help you decide which providers to visit, to confirm what you found as a result of the visit, or as a result of a recommendation by someone else. Inspection reports give you information about what the inspector found on the day of the inspection.
All reports include grades on the quality of provision and things the childcare provider can do to improve. When you visit, you can check what the provider has done. It is also important to check the date of the last Ofsted inspection as it is possible that things may have changed.
More information on Ofsted registered childcare, including inspection reports can be found at Ofsted website - Find an inspection report
This includes childcare that has spaces for 2, 3 and 4 year old funded children, as well as those that provide before and after school pick-ups and those that specifically cater for children with a disability or special educational need.