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Parents can have a difficult time finding childcare that is of good quality. Visits to childcare settings should include asking about and observing a variety of things. How do you know if your child will be happy? What kind of care will they provide for your child? Does your child receive feedback about his or her progress? Is there a chance that my child might not like it?
Below we have put together a step-by-step guide on how to choose a childcare provider and what to ask when you are visiting facilities:
Create A List
Create a shortlist of child care providers using information from your local Family Information Service. Don’t forget to check:
- Childcare providers’ hours of operation
- Costs per hour, daily, or weekly basis
- You can inquire if there are any openings
- Search for available providers on the government website or call local settings
Visit Your Shortlisted Settings
You should visit several childcare settings and ask questions in person about their services. You might find it helpful to take a friend and/or your child on the visits to help you decide.
Here are some things to look for:
- Staff trained and experienced to meet your child’s individual needs
- Children who appear to be happy and purposeful, but who are busy, but relaxed
- The facility is clean and safe, with a play area outside and a welcoming atmosphere
- Adaptability to the home life of children and cultural sensitivity
- An ethnic and culturally diverse team of staff and children
- Children’s interests and enthusiasms must be considered when planning childminder, nursery, or out-of-school programs’ daily activities
- Exercise and relaxation times should be planned
- Welcome to you and your child
Ask these questions:
- What is the staff-to-child ratio? How many children do you take care of?
- Do you have any qualifications or experience?
- What are the daily routines and how can my child’s routines and those of other children be incorporated?
- What is your key worker policy (whereby a staff member has primary responsibility for the child)?
- How do you manage children’s behaviour? What are your policies on discipline?
- Is food provided, snacks, nappies, etc., or will I have to provide them myself?
Check The Quality
Children’s centres and extended school services (such as nurseries, childminding, child care centres, and other childcare providers) are usually required to be registered with Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills). Children’s safety and standards are guaranteed at all registered childcare services by Ofsted inspections. For more information about the childcare providers that you’re considering, visit www.ofsted.gov.uk.
You can also get valuable information from other parents about a childcare provider. A minimum of two references is recommended. The childcare provider should be willing to refer you to other parents with experience in using their services. It is important to remember that what works for one family may not always be the best for yours.
It’s worth remembering that some two and three-year-olds, as well as all children aged three and four in England, receive 570 hours of free childcare, which translates into 15 hours a week for 38 weeks. You may be able to get additional support. For more information please visit the government website.