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How is Childcare Regulated?


You are the expert on your child and you are the person who knows best what kind of childcare service will suit your child. Knowing what to expect from the regulation framework can help you have confidence in the service you choose. The regulation framework sets out standards for most kinds of childcare, early education and pre-school service.

The Childcare Act 2006 - Early Years Providers

The term 'early years providers' includes: maintained schools, non-maintained schools, independent schools and childcare registered by Ofsted. From September 2008 it is the legal duty of these providers to ensure that their provision meets the learning and development needs and complies with the welfare regulations of the Childcare Act 2006.

  • day nurseries
  • playgroups
  • after school clubs and holiday playschemes
  • childminders

Registration and Inspection

The Care Standards Act 2000 gives Ofsted Early Years a duty to register and inspect the childcare services listed above. This means:

  • people running daycare services for children up to eight years old must register with Ofsted Early Years. This includes childminders.
  • regular inspections must be carried out to ensure the childcare continues to be safe and suitable
  • Ofsted Early Years must ensure people running childcare services are suitable to do so.
  • Checks cover the person applying to run a childcare service, childminders and members of childminders' families who will be in contact with the children
  • people running childcare services must make sure the premises are safe and appropriate for children
  • people running childcare services must plan children's activities to help them enjoy learning and playing
  • Ofsted Early Years are responsible for regulating and inspecting against the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). 
  • parents can request to see inspection reports on childcare services

Education Acts

Government funded early or Pre-School education services. A series of Education Acts apply to state nursery schools, state nursery classes and maintained schools. They cover:

  • what children are taught
  • inspection regimes
  • staff training and qualifications

Each local authority has its own quality assurance arrangements for nurseries and they are also subject to inspection carried out by OFSTED in England and HM Inspectors of Schools (HMI) in Scotland.

What about private schools?

Independent schools with nursery classes are registered with the Department for Education and Employment in England and the Scottish Executive for Scotland. An independent school is any private school with at least five pupils of compulsory school age. There are no regulations covering staff ratios in independent schools. A sample is inspected each year by the relevant HMI (Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools) for Scotland and England.

Education law for three and four year olds

Many early education and childcare services offer free part-time early or pre-school education to four year olds and three year olds. This is paid for by the Government. All services which provide free part-time early or pre-school education services for three year olds or four year olds are checked by inspectors for Ofsted in England and HMI in Scotland. Ofsted inspectors register services to provide the free part-time places. Then regular inspections are carried out to ensure children are provided with the opportunity to achieve a series of early learning goals by the end of the year in which they become five years old.

Which types of childcare are not registered and inspected?

The following types of childcare do not have to be registered but can, if they wish join a voluntary register, which will enable parents to access childcare tax credits:

  • nannies (working for no more than two families)
  • au pairs (in the family home). Au pairs are regulated by the Home Office but the work they do is not registered or inspected
  • services which cater only for children aged eight or over.

How do I check whether services are registered?

You can ask to see their registration certificate. You can also request to read a copy of their latest Inspection Report. Ofsted Early Years will help if you need to know more about registration and inspection of services

Further information is also available from:

Or alternatively contact:

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