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Choosing Childcare

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Choosing childcare is an important decision for you and your family. There are many different types of childcare settings and entrusting a stranger with your child is a big step.  It can be particularly challenging if your child has a disability or special educational need. You may struggle to access the childcare that you want that meets your child's needs and is suitable for your family. 

Child Carers provide you with the flexibility to return to work or continue with your studies knowing that your child is being helped to learn, have fun and make new friends and being looked after. There are a range childcare options available and this page will guide you though each.

If you know what type of childcare you are looking for, you can search our directory for a childcare provider.

Types of Registered Childcare

Registered Childminders 

Registered Childminders are Self-employed childcare professionals who work in their own homes caring for smaller numbers of children.

They can offer full time, part time, before and after school, school holiday care, overnight care and emergency care.

Some childminders also offer the Free Early Education Funding places for eligible 2, 3 and 4 year olds (15 and 30 hours).

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Day Nurseries

Day nurseries provide daycare and education in age related groups to children up to the age of 5 years and tend to open from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday. Some Nurseries open for longer hours to help support parents' different working patterns.  

Most day nurseries offer the Free Early Education Funding places for eligible 2, 3 and 4 year olds (15 and 30 hours) and some can also provide before and after school pick ups and school holiday care.

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Pre-schools (playgroups)

Pre-schools provide play and education in sessions (morning or afternoon) of about 2.5 hours for children between the ages of 2 and 5.

Some pre-schools have flexibility on the sessions your child can attend, while others are more structured with children attending five full mornings or five full afternoons.

Pre-schools / playgroups tend to run term time only and some of them offer the Free Early Education Funding places for eligible 2, 3 and 4 year olds (15 and 30 hours). 

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School based nursery classes (Nursery Schools)

Some schools have nursery classes on the same site. They can provide a good introduction to school. They are registered with Ofsted and are open term time only.

They all offer the free funded 15 hour places for 3 and 4 year olds.

Some also offer the free funded 30 hour places for eligible 3 and 4 year olds and some also offer the free funded 15 hour places for eligible 2 year olds.

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Before and After School Clubs

Before/After school clubs may be offered by a school, or by a private or voluntary provider either on or off the school site. They run before and after the school day. If they provide care for children under the age of eight years, then they will be registered with Ofsted.

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Crèches provide childcare to enable parents to attend an activity taking place on the same premises. Crèches are required to register if they are open for more than 2 hours on any day and more than 6 days a year. The registration certificate will show how many children may be cared for at any one time and how many staff must be provided.

Types of Unregistered Childcare


Usually used outside standard work hour for example, in the evenings and at weekends and are often older teenagers (16 years +). There are Babysitting Agencies who will offer screening for suitable babysitters.

Sitters UK is a useful resource for finding approved Babysitters.

Nannies / Home Carers

Nannies / Home Carers are paid employees who look after children in your home and can look after any age children.  

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Holiday Childcare

Arranging childcare through the school holidays can be a challenge however, many activities, schemes and childminders operate during this time.

Holiday Childcare / Playschemes 

Holiday childcare / playschemes can provide essential childcare and peace of mind during the school holidays.

Search our directory for holiday childcare / playschemes

You can also search our childminder directory as many provide holiday care.

Holiday Activities (unregistered)

With our Whats On Calendar you can find activities, events, courses and camps that run over the school holidays.

Choosing quality childcare

You need to feel confident about the childcare setting you are using for your child so before you choose any type of childcare you should do some research.

It is important to make sure that you make the relevant checks yourself by asking the right questions to ensure that you are finding the right type of childcare that is safe and secure and which best suits your needs and the needs and age of your child.

Remember, you need to feel confident about the childcare you are using for your child.  Find out as much as you can then follow your feelings.

Before you choose a provider you may want to consider the following tips:

  • Give yourself plenty of time to choose - holiday playschemes, for example, get booked up in advance, day nurseries may have waiting lists etc 
  • Ask other parents for recommendations
  • Make appointments to visit two or three providers to compare what's on offer, and get a feel for the staff
  • Think about your child's personality and interests - what environment will they prefer?
  • Will your child need extra help and support?
  • Check opening times, holiday dates and cost
  • Ask questions

If you have a child with a special educational need and/or a disability you may also need to consider:

  • What extra help and support your child will need?
  • Are the staff ready and able to provide practical support (e.g. with personal care)?
  • Are the staff willing for you (and/or a health practitioner if appropriate) to show them how to look after your child's needs?
  • Are the premises accessible for your child?
  • What equipment is essential?
  • What is their medication policy/procedure?
  • Are carers willing to work with other practitioners to meet your child's needs, e.g. occupational therapists and/or speech therapists if appropriate?
  • If your child needs one-to-one care or additional help, how will the setting or childminder manage this?


If you are considering using childcare there are a number of questions you should ask to ensure that you are finding the right type of childcare to suit you and your child/childrens needs. 

To help you with what to ask and things to look out for we have developed a number of booklets with checklists:

Monitoring your child's care

Once you have chosen a provider, give them clear information about your child's likes and dislikes and any health issues they may have. After a few weeks, you might want to go back and speak to the provider to find out how your child is getting on.

It's also a good idea to talk to your child, to make sure they are happy and comfortable with their care provider.

For further information contact Sandwell Family Information Service 0121 569 4914

Registered and Unregistered Childcare Explained

A registered childcare provider is someone who is:

Registered with and inspected by Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills) to look after children under the age of 8. A child-carer or childminder must be registered with Ofsted or a childminder agency if they want to be paid to look after children under 8 for more than 2 hours a day in England.

It is not compulsory for a childminder to be registered if they are only looking after children over the age of 8 however, they can join the voluntary part of the Childcare Register.

By using a registered childcare provider you maybe able to obtain help with your childcare costs.

What this means:

A registered childcare provider must undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service(DBS) check to ensure they have no previous criminal convictions that prohibit them from working with children and vulnerable people. They are continually inspected to ensure they are providing a safe and adequate service.

To become registered a childcare provider (unless exempt) they must apply to:

  • The Early Years Register to look after children aged 5 and under
  • The Childcare Register to look after children aged 5 to 7
  • Both registers to look after children of any age under 8

Exemptions: Certain providers don’t have to register with Ofsted, these include those who provide activity-based care such as sports clubs and Nannies who provide care in the child’s own home.

An unregistered childcare provider is someone who:

Is not registered with Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills) yet provides some sort of childcare, usually to those aged 8 and over.  These providers can join the voluntary part of the Childcare Register if they meet the requirements.

Registration on the voluntary part of the Childcare Register can assure parents that essential standards have been met and parents will have greater reassurance about the welfare of their children.

Examples of unregistered childcare providers:

  • Babysitters, when the care is between 6pm and 2am in the home.
  • Nannies and au pairs, caring for a child or children in the child's own home.
  • Home educators and home tutors.
  • Blood relatives caring for a child or children they are related to.
  • Recreational and sporting activity providers.
  • Some under 8's crèches, of four hours or less with a parent present

How do I know if my Childcare provider is registered?

Providers must display their certificate of registration during their hours of operation, so that you can see it easily. Home childcarers should show their certificate if you ask to see it. Each certificate gives information about the childcare provided and any conditions of registration that apply.

How can I view Ofsted reports?

Your childcare provider can show you a copy of their report along with their registration certificate; alternatively they can be viewed on the Ofsted website.

To view childcare providers reports online, you will need either their name or their unique reference number (URN), you can get this from the provider themselves and then go direct to Ofsted to look at the inspection reports online.

What do I do if things go wrong?

It is important for you to develop a good relationship with your childcare provider to help your child's wellbeing, development and progress. You can deal with most concerns by talking to your childcare provider.

If the issues cannot be resolved from discussions with your childcare provider or you have any concerns about your childcare provider that you cannot discuss with them, it may be necessary to contact OFSTED on 0300 123 4666, or by email at

More information regarding Ofsted or the Early Years and Childcare Registers can be found on the Ofsted website.