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Choosing quality childcare

Choosing the right kind of childcare setting can be a difficult decision but help is available. This childcare checklist may be helpful when choosing the type of childcare best suited to both you and your child. The childcare provider expects you to ask questions and should be happy to answer them.

Childminder, nursery or daycare routine

Visit the childminder, nursery or other daycare setting to get a feel for the day-to-day routine, and take your child with you to see whether they like it too. Visit when it is in full flow and, if possible, make a return visit so you can see the setting at different times during the day and week.

Location

Does the setting have a friendly feel? Does it have plenty of space inside and outside? If there is no outside space, where do children play in the fresh air?

Equipment and facilities

Check the equipment and facilities on offer. Are they clean? Is there a variety of creative equipment, such as painting stations, sand pits and play areas? Are they kept at a high standard? Are the children’s paintings and other work displayed on the walls? It is important your child is offered a number of creative and stimulating experiences throughout the day, within a friendly environment.

Safety

Ask about safety. What happens in an emergency? What precautions have been put in place? Do they have finger guards on doors? Is it secure? Do they have visitor control systems in use? Your child’s safety should be top priority.

Number of staff

Check the number of staff. There should be at least one member of staff for every eight children between three and five years of age. Will there be a key person with special responsibility for your child and who will you be able to talk with about how your child is getting along?

Staff and child interaction

Take time to see whether the staff and children are talking and playing together. Are the staff questioning and responding to questions in a way that interests the children? Are the children encouraged to ask questions of their own?

Staff training and qualification

Ask about the latest Ofsted inspection or view it online. Also ask about the staff: Are they well trained? Do they have qualifications at the levels needed to best help children learn and develop at their own pace? Can they cater for disabled children or those with additional needs?

Misbehaviour and homesickness

How do the staff deal with misbehaviour and homesickness? There should be a written policy in place so ask to see it.

Flexibility

Talk to staff about their flexibility. Can they provide childcare that fits in with your work hours? Ask about costs. Ask about contracts. Do they charge for late pick-up?

Food

Check what food is provided. Is there a healthy, balanced diet on offer? Is water available whenever children want it?

Financial help

Find out about the financial help you can get. Remember there is up to 15 hours free early education and childcare for some 2, 3 and 4 year olds.


Be prepared to look around to find a suitable childcare setting for you and your child. You can also get more information on childcare near to where you live or work if you contact the Families Information Service.

Above all, look for an early learning and childcare provider, which is committed to working in partnership with you as a parent/carer. Ask about how you will keep up to date with your child’s progress, and how you can raise any concerns.

Always trust your own feelings about your childminder, you know your child best.

It is illegal for an unregistered person to look after children under eight for reward or pay for more than two hours a day.

OFSTED

Ofsted registers and inspects childcare for children aged from birth to 17 years.

Address: The National Business Unit
Ofsted
Piccadilly Gate
Store Street
Manchester
M1 2WD

Telephone: 0300 123 1231

PACEY

Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years

Address: Royal Court
81 Tweedy Road
Bromley
BR1 1TG

Telephone: 0845 880 0044

Citizens Advice Bureau

Advice and support including welfare benefits advice

Address: Civic 9
Station Road
Harrow
HA1 2XH

Telephone: 020 8427 9477

HM Revenues and customes

Telephone: 0300 200 3319

Working families helpline

Telephone: 0300 013 0313