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Choosing daycare

Read our advice and guidance about what to look for when selecting a childcare provider for your child.

Research has shown that high quality childcare can have an ongoing positive effect on children’s learning and development in all areas.

At some point it is likely that you will need to leave your child in the care of someone else, whether this is a relative or friend, babysitter, childminder or a nursery.

Choosing a place

All children under the age of five must be working within the framework of the Early years foundation stage. Most good nurseries will have a waiting list of up to a year, so plan ahead.

Before you visit

  • Read the provider's Ofsted report and check for any complaints or compliance notices.
  • If you wish to use free entitlement funding, you will need to check that the nursery/childminder is registered as an eligible provider with the local authority.
  • Make sure you are aware of all the costs involved, e.g. registration fees, deposits, holidays, bank holidays, sickness, inset day, fee increases, nappies, food, milk etc.
  • Visit the setting in full flow and take your child with you.

When you visit

  • Is the building safe and secure?

  • Is the setting bright and cheerful?

  • Do staff greet you and your child warmly?

  • Do the children seem happy, calm and busy?

  • Do staff seem friendly and interested?

  • Do you get a sense that you and your child are valued?

  • Are any upset children being comforted and reassured?

  • Are staff involved in supporting and talking to the children or are they busy doing other things?

  • Are children able to select from a range of opportunities?

  • Will your child be provided with healthy food and snacks?

  • Is drinking water available for children when they need it?

  • Are staff ratios met at all times?

Questions to ask

  • Will my child be assigned a key person (a statutory requirement) and how will they liaise with me?

  • Are they happy to let me stay as long as necessary to settle my child?

  • Does the nursery have a safe and secure outside play area?

  • How do they assist with toilet training, hand washing?

  • Can you see the complaints book?

  • Are there upfront fees?

  • Do the registration/deposit fees I am asked to pay guarantee me a place for my child?

  • How and when will I be informed if a place becomes available?

If you have concerns about the quality of a childcare provider that you feel should be drawn to the attention of Ofsted, you can make a complaint to them.

Trust your instincts about a setting. You know your child best.

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Choosing a childminder

Childminders offer a flexible and secure childcare service from their own home.