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Guide to Childcare Options

Childcare has benefits for the whole family, not just for now but for a long time into the future. With good quality childcare, your children will learn, develop and play alongside other children and will benefit for years to come. Knowing that your children are well cared for gives you the opportunity to work, train, meet other parents or simply to have a break. Finding childcare that’s best both for you and for your child will depend on many things— including your budget. But the first step is to know what the options are.

As a parent you need peace of mind that your child is safe, happy and being well cared for. You may also need to consider the impact of childcare costs on your family income, but you may be able to get help with your childcare costs. In Gloucestershire there are many providers of early learning and childcare for children as well as out of school and holiday playschemes for school age children.  All registered childcare providers can be found on this directory here.


Childcare Options

Day Nurseries

Look after children from birth to age five and the majority of day nurseries in Gloucestershire are privately owned. All nurseries should be registered and inspected by Ofsted and have a designated Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) to co-ordinate provision for children with special needs.

Pre-schools and playgroups

Provide an opportunity for young children to learn through play in a group setting on a sessional basis usually during term time. Settings are often run by Parent Committees as non-profit making groups.


Look after children in their own home. They are registered with Ofsted to care for up to six children under 8 years old. Many have additional quality awards.

Nannies / Home Childcarers

Come to your home, and will often fit in with non-typical working hours. Some choose to register with Ofsted to enable parents to claim tax credits. Costs vary, and you may have to pay your nanny’s tax and National Insurance. 

Out of School Schemes

Offer play and care to school age children. Depending on the hours you need to work, you may want a breakfast club - open before school, or an after school club. Some clubs will even pick up children from schools in the area. Opening times vary and you will need to check with each provider.

Holiday Playschemes

May be based in community centres, sports halls or schools and offer a wide range of activities during the school holidays. They’re usually open for all or part of the summer holiday, and some open over Easter and half terms.

Help Paying for Childcare

Early Education for 2 year olds (A2YO) may be available from the term following their 2nd birthday.  To check the eligibility criteria click here

Information on additional help with paying for childcare can be found by clicking here

Does your child have a disability or additional needs?

All early learning and childcare providers are under a legal duty to consider how best to offer extra support to meet a child’s needs. The Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Code of Practice: 0 to 25 years (you can find this on gives guidance on the different levels of support that are available. The Local Offer provides information about the range of services available in Gloucestershire and how they may support children with SEND, including childcare providers. Gloucestershire’s Local Offer can be found on this website

In Gloucestershire, we have a Graduated Pathway so that everyone with additional needs gets the right support when they need it. In short, the Graduated Pathway includes My Profile, My Plan, My Assessment and My Plan+ and My EHC Plan. If you have any concerns about your child’s development talk to the people working with your child in the first instance like the Early Years Practitioner or the Early Years SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator). They can help guide you through the Graduated Pathway Process if this is appropriate to meet the needs of your child.

Choosing Childcare

Don’t leave looking for childcare until the last minute.  It is best to give yourself plenty of time to look at all of the options available before you make a choice. Some childcare settings will have a waiting list so start looking as soon as you know that you may need a place for your child.

Steps to take when choosing childcare

1. Research – First of all research all of the options by going to the childcare section of this directory here

It is a good idea to screen providers on the telephone before visiting, this will save you time and wasted visits. Have a list of questions handy so that you can check basic requirements e.g. opening hours, costs and vacancies. To view the latest inspection reports go to:

2. Visit – Try to visit at least two or three childcare settings. This will help you to compare what is available and make an informed decision about where your child will be happiest. Remember to take a list of questions with you. Don’t feel rushed into making a decision; it is fine to go back for a second look when you are narrowing down your options.

3. Decide – When you have researched your childcare options, visited your shortlisted settings and asked all of your questions, you can make your final decision. At this point it is recommended that you check references. Most childcare providers will be happy to give you the name and contact details of other parents who have used them before. Speak to the referees about their experience with the childcare provider.

4. Confirm – Finally you can confirm your place with the provider. Many settings may require a deposit or a retainer fee. It is very important that you use a contract or formal written agreement. This records what you have agreed with the provider regarding pay, conditions and hours, and will help you to avoid disagreements in future. Read it very carefully before signing

Things to look for when visiting a childcare setting

Do the children seem calm, happy and busy?

Do the children play and talk together?

Are the staff listening to children and answering them carefully?

Are the staff friendly and enjoying their work?

Are the staff joining in with what the children are doing?

Are there plenty of clean toys and equipment for children to use?

Are the premises clean, well kept and safe?

Questions to ask all childcare providers

A good childcare provider will expect you to ask questions and will be happy to answer them. We have drawn up a list of questions that you may want to ask when you have a look round a childcare setting. If there are other things you want to know, don’t be afraid to ask.

  • What is the daily routine and how will my child be occupied? For example, are there planned sessions as well as free-play time?
  • How do you encourage good behaviour?
  • What are the arrangements for rest / sleeping?
  • Can I see where the children play outside? What security measures are there to ensure children are safe?
  • What will my child eat and drink during the day? Are special diets catered for?
  • How will I know what my child has been doing during the day? 
  • How will we exchange information and communicate about my child on a daily basis?
  • Are there any additional costs? (e.g. nappies, meals, outings).
  • Do the children have the opportunity to go on any outings? If yes, what safety processes are in place? (e.g. consent forms, additional staff, risk assessment).
  • What training / qualifications do the staff have?
  • How will you contact me in an emergency / if my child is sick?
  • Can I see your registration, insurance and first aid certificates?
  • Can I view policies and procedures?

Questions specific to childminders:

  • How long have you been looking after children and what made you choose childminding as a career?
  • What ages are the other children who are regularly cared for at the same time as my child?
  • How does the childminder manage potty training, or taking older children to school?
  • Are there other adults around during the hours that minded children are cared for? Sometimes childminders will have an approved assistant, but this should be stated on their registration certificate.

Questions specific to Day Nurseries

  • Will my child be kept with the same group of children? This gives your child a chance to develop sic to Day Nurseries:ocial skills and relationships with other children.
  • Do you operate a key worker scheme (where one identified member of staff has primary responsibility for your child)?
  • How many children are each member of staff responsible for? Ratios should be:
  • 0-2 years: 1 member of staff for every 3 children
  • 2 years: 1 member of staff for every 4 children
  • 3 – 7 years: 1 member of staff for every 8 children

Questions specific to Out of School clubs:

  • What activities do you offer?
  • Do you offer any homework facilities?
  • Is there an area for younger children?
  • Is there adequate security? Is there a signing in/out book?
  • What schools do you collect from?

Questions specific to Holiday Schemes:

  • Who is in charge?
  • What qualifications do they have?
  • How are the children and young people supervised?
  • What activities does the scheme offer?
  • How much individual attention will children get?
  • How secure is the building?
  • Are they Ofsted Registered?

Don’t forget – you are the expert about your child and you know them best. Always trust your own feelings and judgements when choosing childcare.

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