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You are here: Home Education Pre-school A guide to childcare and early education in the UK
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02/09/2009A guide to childcare and early education in the UK

A guide to childcare and early education in the UK There are many factors to bear in mind before choosing where your child will begin his or her early education. Here are some useful pointers.

Quality standards for childcare and early education
Many early education providers, such as nurseries, playgroups and accredited childminders are registered and inspected by the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted). All such organisations have to meet a set of 14 national standards for childcare. Nursery schools and nursery and reception classes in primary schools are also inspected by Ofsted.

Many providers of early education are also accredited through a quality assurance (QA) scheme. QA schemes will only accredit providers if they meet certain standards, and are committed to keeping those standards by monitoring their work.

When looking for early education providers for your child you can check that they are registered to provide early education and read a copy of their latest inspection report. You can also find out if they belong to a QA scheme. It is also always worth talking to other parents who have used your chosen provider.

•    Search for Ofsted inspection reports.

•    The 'Investors in Children' quality assurance scheme .

Checklist for early education and childcare
You will probably have a good idea of what best suits you and your child's needs. However, the following checklist might also provide some general things to look for when choosing preschool education such as a nursery, playgroup or even a childminder.

General information
You may want to find out about:
•    opening times and holiday dates
•    charges and holiday charges
•    healthy meals and special diets
•    emergency procedures
•    the equal opportunities policy
•    policies on child protection
•    the ratio of children to staff

Looking at learning
You may wish to find out:
•    how activities are planned to meet the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)
•    about the range of resources and equipment available to support learning
•    how any additional and special educational needs will be met
•    how you get to know about and involved in your child's learning and progress
•    how children are involved in the planning of activities
•    whether there is provision for staff to continue to learn about children and their needs
•    Getting help for special educational needs in under fives
•    Early Years Foundation Stage (birth to five years old)


You may wish to find out:
•    whether children are calm, safe, happy and playing together
•    what happens when your child is sick
•    whether your child will meet the same children and adults every time they attend
You may want to find out if the staff are:
•    friendly and welcoming
•    listening, talking and interacting appropriately with children
•    qualified and experienced
•    aware of confidentiality and privacy
•    managing behaviour appropriately
•    working in partnership with parents and willing to discuss their concerns and listen to what they know about their child

Take a look at the indoor and outdoor environment to see whether:
•    it is safe, clean and secure
•    it is welcoming and stimulating
•    there is enough space for children to be active indoors and outdoors
•    there are places where children can rest

Find out more
You can get help and advice with all aspects of childcare and early years education from your local Families Information Service (FIS). Find out the number of your nearest FIS by calling 0800 2 346 346.

For more information about childcare, click here.

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