Choosing early years education and childcare

There are four main types of childcare and early years education in Staffordshire. All of them must be registered with Ofsted:

Most of the childcare is run by private, voluntary or independent groups. Some primary schools do also have nursery classes.

The nursery classes within primary, infant and first schools admit children once a year in the September of the academic year in which they become 4.

Please note: Not all primary schools have nurseries or foundation classes.

Free Childcare and help towards costs

Top tips for choosing an Early Years provider

The Early Years Foundations Stage (EYFS) lays out the standard that schools and childcare providers must meet for the learning, development and care of children from birth to the age of five years old.

These requirements include the ratios of staff to children and staff qualifications.

Other tips include:

Don't leave it until the last minute

Give yourself plenty of time to make your choice. If a childcare provider is popular there could be long waiting lists. Interviewing and hiring a nanny or home based carer can take months.

Research your options

Contact the Family Information Service for a list of registered childcare in your area. Remember to tell them your basic requirements such as times when childcare is needed, desired location, facilities and so on.

Phone: 0300 111 8007

Shop around

There's no harm in shopping around when it comes to childcare and early years education, after all they will be looking after your child.

Aim to visit at least 2 or 3 places to meet the staff and compare what’s on offer. Where possible drop in randomly to see exactly what it is like. Take a list of question.

This checklist will help you prepare:

  • Qualifications - what training and experience does the carer have?
  • Environment - is it secure? Is it non-smoking? Are there pets?
  • Diet - what's on the menu? Is there easy access to water for children? Will they cater for special requirements?
  • Supervision - who supervises the children? What is the staff-to-child ratio?
  • Emotional care - what are the routines? How is difficult behaviour dealt with?  There should be a written policy.
  • Equipment - can they play outside? Is the play creative?
  • Health habits - are the toilets and basins clean? What facilities are there for potty training and baby changing?
  • Expectations - communicate all of your expectations with the carer, such as hours, time-keeping, meal preparation, etc. Is there a policy on late pick-ups/early drop offs?
  • Safety - what happens in the case of emergency? What are the safety procedures?

Think about your child's age

Especially when it comes to babies and children under 2 who benefit from a closer one-to-one relationship. You know your child best, so keep in mind your own instinct.

Don't rule out combining care

If you can't get the type of care you need at one place, you may need to think about using more the one childcare provider or more than one type, e.g. nursery for 2 days and childminder for 3 days.

Check references

This is vital. Most carers will be happy to give you names of other parents to speak to about their work.

Don't feel guilty about double checking

If you are unsure, go back for a second or third visit before you make a decision. Some carers may agree to a trial run before a formal agreement is made.

Get it in writing

Once a decision has been made, get it all in writing. Nurseries could ask you to sign a contract outlining costs, hours, conditions etc. Read it carefully before you sign it. You should provide contracts for nannies and babysitters.

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