Childcare and Early Years


Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills) is a government department that inspects and regulates institutions in England providing education, or care for children and young people. This includes:

  • childminders
  • full and sessional daycare providers
  • out of school care
  • crèches
  • all state maintained schools
  • some independent schools
  • the overall level of services for children in local authority areas (Joint Area Reviews)

Inspection reports are available online at GOV.UK (link opens in new window).

Ofsted Voluntary Childcare Register

The Childcare Act 2006 introduced a new Ofsted Childcare Register.

Childcarers who are paid for looking after children aged under 8 for more than 2 hours a day must register with Ofsted by law.

Other childcarers who do not have to register can choose to do so. This allows eligible parents to claim tax credits or to use childcare vouchers to help with childcare costs.

Carers who can choose to register include those providing:

  • care for children aged over 7 such as childminders, breakfast clubs, after schools clubs, out of school activity clubs and holiday playschemes
  • activity based care (sports, drama, language or art clubs)
  • care in the child's home, such as nannies and au pairs or home-based care for disabled children

Childcare and the law

Most childcare providers caring for children aged under 8 must register with Ofsted. Their registration certificate must be prominently displayed. You can view an Ofsted report on the GOV.UK website or ask the childcare provider.

Ofsted registration requirements will specify the number of children that are allowed to be on the premises at any time and the ratio of staff to children.

Home childcarers do not need to be formally registered. Generally though, most would register with an agency. If you are employing a home childcarer through a nanny agency, ensure that checks have been carried out.

Nursery and pre-school staff, home childcarers, childminders and any other adults in their home are subject to Criminal Records Bureau checks.

If employing someone directly you may need to consider organising your own security checks. Some home childcarers may choose to join the voluntary part of the Ofsted Childcare Register. If you decide on a childminder you will need to draw up a contract. Once signed, this is legally binding. 

Making a complaint about childcare

If you have a complaint or concern about your childcare, you can contact the Ofsted helpline on 0300 123 4666 or email them at

You can visit the Ofsted complaints page where you can find a leaflet and factsheet providing information about how to raise your concerns.

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