There are many different types of childcare you can use; it will depend on your family’s needs and what suits you and your children best. Your Family Information Service (FIS) offers an impartial service and will research all the options for you to make an informed choice. For contact details please see details for your local FIS.

Childminders

Childminders offer childcare and early education and are trained, self-employed carers based in their own homes.

They are registered with Ofsted and both the Childminder and their home are regularly checked. The exact number of children a Childminder can care for is set by Ofsted however the maximum for one Childminder is typically up to six children under eight-years-old, which includes their own children. Childminders work across a range of hours so can often be worth exploring if your working day doesn’t fit the 9-5, Monday to Friday pattern or if you have children of different ages and you want them to be looked after together.

You may also want your child to be cared for in a home environment.

Childminders charge around £3.50 to £5.50 per child per hour but costs vary, so always check. Some Childminders include food/outings in their hourly rate, others add the cost on. You will complete a contract with the Childminder when you will agree costs, hours and other arrangements.  

Nurseries

Nurseries offer childcare and early education. They usually cater for children between the ages of six weeks and five years and many offer out-of-school care for five to eleven year-olds.

Opening times may coincide with a standard working day, 8am to 6pm on weekdays and many are open all year round. Costs vary, and some offer subsidised places – always check and ask for a copy of their fee structure. Nurseries can run in dedicated buildings, they can be attached to work places and some are attached to Children’s Centres or local authority and independent schools.

Nurseries can be managed and funded in a number of ways, they can be privately owned, managed by a committee, a charity, or supported through the local authority or a school.

Pre-school and Playgroups

Pre-schools and playgroups offer childcare and early education too. Many will appear as a nursery on the list from your Family Information Service due to their Ofsted registration status.

The provision is similar to a nursery and just like any other childcare a visit and lots of questions are essential in helping you choose what is right for your family. These providers normally offer sessional childcare, during school hours and term time only and do not provide childcare for children under the age of two. Groups are run at a mix of community buildings that have other uses outside of pre-school hours and are usually run by a committee of parents and professionals. Breakfast/After School Clubs and Holiday Clubs.

Some clubs are open before, after school and all day during school holidays. They offer a variety of age appropriate, fun activities for children between the ages of three up to around fourteen years-old (and up to sixteen for children with additional needs). Many Breakfast, After School and Holiday Play Schemes are linked to schools, some of which offer a variety of activities on top of the normal school day such as music, art, sport or additional study support.

Other options

Parent and 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, parents stay for the session. Stay and Play groups, as above often run by Children’s Centre staff in Children’s Centres, where parents stay for the session.

Crèches — provide occasional care for children under eight, often offered at a Leisure Centre, shopping mall or at a college alongside another activity. Parents stay on the premises.

A Home Childcarer is a person aged eighteen or over who provides childcare (for children from birth to seventeen years) in the child/ren’s own home; or for children of no more than two families, wholly or mainly at the home of one or both families at any one time (such as a nanny share). If a person cares for the children of three or more families at any one time, the law says they are no longer a Home Childcarer but a Childminder.

Nannies and Au-Pairs — provide childcare in your own home and can look after children of any age. As the parent you would have responsibility for employing the Nanny and also ensuring that he/she is a suitable person to be caring for children through appropriate checks e.g. Criminal Record Disclosure, references etc.