Childcare and early years education

Choosing the right type of childcare

It can be daunting leaving your child with somebody you don’t know; however, there are resources to help you make the right choice. Firstly, try to talk to people you know who have children and discuss childcare arrangements with them; they may be able to recommend childminders or nurseries from personal experience. Secondly, do some research; most nurseries and pre-schools now have websites so you can read up and get some information. You can also check that they are Ofsted registered by going on the Ofsted website or contacting them via the telephone. Childminders should be registered; you can check this with the National Childminding Association.

Make sure you visit all the places you are considering; try to visit mid-morning or mid-afternoon as the children are more likely to be doing activities. Remember to ask as many questions as you want and try to chat with other parents and staff; observe the children as this will enable you to gauge what the atmosphere is like and if the children are happy and well-looked after. Most childminders have portfolio’s so be sure to ask if you can see them if you are considering this type of childcare.

Things to look out for

It is a good idea to look out for information such as sample menus, details of a typical day and any certificates or qualifications; this will give you an idea of staff expertise and what your child may be doing while at nursery or pre-school. It is also a good idea to look out for photos or pictures the children have done; this will enable you to see what kind of activities the children do and see if they go on outings or trips. You should also look out for safety and security measures: it may also be beneficial to read an Ofsted report.

Paying for childcare

Childcare can be very expensive but there is help available if you are struggling. You may be eligible for some of the benefits listed above; details of these can also be found on the Government’s DirectGov website. Once your child reaches the age of 3 they are entitled to a number of free sessions at a registered organisation or with certain childminders; currently, each child is allowed twelve and a half hours of free childcare per week; this should usually be split over a number of days.