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Childcare in the UK

How do I find the best childcare?

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How do I find the best childcare?

Follow our essential tips and advice to help you choose the best day nursery, childminder or nanny for your kids.

Finding the best childcare can be difficult, particularly when there are several options available.

To help you decide what type of childcare is best for you, see our page on childcare options, which includes a table to help you compare the pros and cons of each.

Childcare reviews and recommendations

There are many sources of information to help you find out which childcare options are best.

Reviews from other parents are useful, as they're based on real experiences. You can find reviews of childcare by parents in your area on Which? Local, which also has forums where you can ask other members for advice or recommendations.

Ofsted reports

In England, Ofsted is often the first port of call for parents looking into the quality of the childcare available to them. All nurseries and registered childminders in England are inspected regularly by Ofsted, and the reports are published on its website. You can search for providers by name or location, the distance from your home, the region or local authority, or the date the report was published.

You can also see a separate list of outstanding childcare providers. To find out what criteria Ofsted uses when judging providers, read the information on its website on ‘inspecting early years and childcare’.

Hiring a nanny

You can find a nanny either through an agency or by advertising privately. Although agencies will charge fees for finding you a nanny, they will also take care of getting references and providing Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks. If you advertise for a nanny yourself, through a website or in the newspaper, for example, carrying out a CRB check will be your responsibility.

If nannies are registered, they will be inspected. However, they're not required by law to be inspected by an external body such as Ofsted.

Because of this, it's even more important to make sure you've chosen the right one. See our childcare options page for more on nannies and how to decide whether this is the best choice for you.

Nanny checklist

Below are useful questions to consider when hiring a nanny, or to ask when interviewing potential candidates (we've used ‘she’ to refer to a nanny, but men can be nannies too):

  • Will she be inspected externally? In England, check whether she is signed up to the voluntary part of the Ofsted childcare register. If not, ask why.
  • What qualifications does she have (if any)? Why did she choose to pursue them? It may not be necessary for your nanny to have qualifications if you feel comfortable about her level of experience.
  • What is her approach to childcare? Your nanny’s views on key areas of childcare may differ from your own. It’s worth going through her CV with her and talking about past experiences, how she chooses to discipline children and her views on play and activities.
  • Why is she looking for a new post, and why did she decide to leave her old one?
  • Why is she applying for this specific post? Ask what she wants from this job, what challenges she expects to have and what she would like to gain from the position.
  • How does she interact with your children? If you’re happy with a potential candidate after the interview, it’s worth setting up a second stage where the nanny briefly meets your children so you can see how they get on.
  • Is she happy to sign a contract? It’s always best for both parties to sign a contract detailing what you expect from your nanny (including any light chores you expect her to complete during the day) and what your nanny expects from you. This is to avoid potential ambiguities or miscommunication, as can often happen.
  • What will her pay, hours, holidays and benefits be? Discuss these before hiring a nanny so expectations are clear on both sides.

Family Information Service (FIS)

Another useful place to find childcare is your local Family Information Service. This should hold information on registered childminders, nurseries, out-of-school and holiday clubs, pre-school/playgroups and children's leisure activities. Some may also offer information on unregistered childcare.

Your rights after maternity leave

If you are looking for childcare because you're going back to work after having a baby, visit our guide to your rights after maternity leave for information on working hours, benefits and working options.