Last updated: 4 April 2024

Next review: 1 March 2025

Image of a person with a small child in a childcare setting

A career in early years and childcare

The early years is an important part of a child’s education when they develop the cognitive, social and emotional skills that set them up for life. Early years professionals are essential in helping children develop before starting school. They plan and run education, play activities with children under five years old, and make sure they're safe and happy.

To excel in the early years sector, you must embody various essential skills and qualities. Being responsive and reliable, ensuring children's safety while being emotionally intelligent and empathetic, is paramount. Additionally, an effective early years practitioner should possess patience, kindness and a caring demeanor, fostering a positive, fun and energetic learning environment. Understanding child development, being adaptable, creative, and observant, coupled with excellent communication and time management skills, are integral for delivering exceptional early years education in this dynamic field.

Choosing to pursue a career in early education and childcare will help you support young children, under 5’s as they learn, develop and prepare for school. It is rewarding, full of variety and offers progression and different career paths as you grow in experience and confidence.

You can find a useful career pathway map, which details progression routes into early years careers on the DfE career pathway map. This map will help you to plan your career pathway in the early years sector and see the range of jobs and opportunities on offer.

There are different roles you can work in the early years sector such as a nursery assistant, pre-school assistant, early years teacher, manager, special education needs coordinator, team lead and many other roles. You can be part of something BIG! find out more via Early Years Careers Campaign

If you are ready to start a career or get back into the early years and childcare sector, you can search for and apply for jobs via

Childcare and early years recruitment campaign

Types of childcare you can work with

There are a number of early education and childcare options to choose to work with ranging from nurseries, pre-schools, school nurseries, childminders to breakfast and after school clubs and holiday clubs for older children. If you are intending to work with children for more than 2 hours per day, for pay or reward, you must register with Ofsted. There are some limited exceptions - please see Childminders and childcare providers: register with Ofsted for these.


Childminders must be registered with Ofsted or with a childminder agency. They provide childcare in their own homes. They generally provide care for babies and young children. They look after small groups of children of different ages and from different families. Most childminders will be registered for three children under five years and another three aged five to eight years. However, many childminders in Waltham Forest are expanding their business and employing assistants, or working alongside other registered minders, so they can care for more children at once.

For more information about childminding visit Ofsted's registration guidance for childminders and childcare on domestic premises and Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) 

Day nurseries

Day nurseries provide care and education for children from six weeks to compulsory school-age. There are different types of day nurseries e.g. privately run, community, council or workplace.

They must all be registered and regularly inspected by Ofsted and must comply with strict guidelines on staff/children ratios.

Opening hours will tend to fit in with an average working day of 8am to 6pm, and care is usually provided all year round


Preschools usually cater for children from the age of two until compulsory school age (if parents defer a reception place).

They usually offer sessional care; three-hour morning or afternoon sessions.  A full day at pre-school would be the same length as a school day, between 8.30am and 3.30pm.

Most pre-schools have the same term dates as local schools and are often run by voluntary groups or charities and managed by a committee but can also be owned by private individuals. They must be registered with Ofsted on the early years register.

School Nurseries

Schools with an early years provision usually offer childcare on a part time basis, either in the morning or afternoon, or for a full school day for children aged between three and five years old, although some will take two-year olds. 

They must have regard to the early years foundation stage (EYFS) along with keeping children safe in education and working together to safeguard children

Out of school clubs and play centres

Breakfast and afterschool clubs generally provide care before and after school for children aged from 4 to 12 years, during the school holidays, although some are able to cater for older children as part of the government's extended schools agenda.

Clubs are either offered by a school or by an external childcare provider based at a school or local community venue. Out of school clubs and play centre providers require early years registration where extended provision is offered for children under compulsory school age

For more information about setting up and running an out of school club view the Out of School Alliance


Crèches provide occasional care for children under eight years of age. Parents/carers are not required to stay with their child. Crèches must be registered if they run for more than two hours a day. Crèches can also be run on a temporary basis, perhaps running alongside a one-off event. Crèches are exempt from registering with Ofsted but there are some exceptions to this which is explained in Ofsted's Early Years and Childcare Registration Handbook.

Nannies and home child carers

A home child carer (Nanny) is a person (over 18 years old) who is employed by a parent/carer to look after children in the family home. Home child carers can care for children of any age and can work flexible hours. They can choose to register with Ofsted on the voluntary part of the childcare register. For more information visit the Ofsted's guidance on registration for nannies

Pathway into early years and childcare


If you're interested in a career in early years, All early years providers working with children from birth to 5 years old must follow the regulations on early years foundation stage (EYFS) staff: child ratios. EYFS is the standards that school and childcare providers must meet for the learning, development, and care of children from birth to 5. For more information on the qualifications required, either achieved in the United Kingdom or outside the United Kingdom, visit the DfE guidance on early years qualifications finder


If you're interested in starting or developing your career in early years, Waltham Forest Adult Learning Service deliver courses to provide you with the tools you will need to succeed in this rewarding sector. Courses are available at all levels, from entry level for those who are not yet working in the sector, through to professionals wishing to develop their knowledge and progress in their career.

Waltham Forest Adult Learning Service offers a variety of childcare courses ranging from taster workshops to level 3 qualifications, please visit LBWF Adult Learning Service for a full list of courses. 

The Department of Education is also launching a new Skills Bootcamps in early years. Skills Bootcamps are free, flexible courses of up to 16 weeks. Once you complete the course, you’ll have the opportunity to move on to an accelerated apprenticeship. 

Email for more information or to find out when you can apply. 

If you decide to work towards a qualification, it’s important to check if it is an approved qualification. Ask your training provider if the qualifications:

  • has been approved by the Department for Education (DfE)
  • will let you work as a level 2 or level 3 member of staff

T Levels are a 2-year qualification that you can do after GCSEs as an alternative to A levels, other post-16 courses or an apprenticeship. The course has been designed with leading businesses and employers to give you the knowledge and skills you need.

Waltham Forest College also offers a variety of childcare and T-Level courses, you can find more information on Waltham Forest College Courses. 


Apprenticeships offer the opportunity to combine learning new skills and gaining amazing experience on the job while studying. They are for people aged 16 or over. Apprenticeships can help you progress into full time employment or further study. More information on apprenticeships is available online, including guidance and regulation and news updates.

National Apprenticeship Service has a list of vacancies across the UK, Early Years Educator Apprenticeship also has information. 

Some employers also offer their own apprenticeships and you may find opportunities listed on Waltham Forest Jobs.

Funding for your course

You may be able to get help with the cost of your course, dependent on your circumstances or previous qualifications. You can find more information on financial support online.

Childminder start-up grants

A £600 grant for those who register with Ofsted, and £1200 for those who register with a childminder agency. The £1200 grant will be paid in two instalments, with a 6-month limit on claiming the second instalment. 

Childminders must apply for the grant within two months of registering as a childminder, or within two months of the Scheme launching. The Childminder Start-up Grants Scheme will be available to all new childminders who have completed their registration on or after 15th March 2023. 

Individuals who have previously been registered as childminders and wish to re-register into the sector may also apply for the scheme. There must be at least a 12-month gap between the date of their previous registration being cancelled and their new registration being finalised

Apply for Childminder start up grant

Free Early Education Entitlement (FEEE) 

The government’s Free Early Education and Childcare Entitlement (FEEE) provides up to 30 hours funded childcare per week for eligible children from 9months old to compulsory school age. The payment for each eligible child is paid directly to the childcare setting from the Local Authority. The FEEE payment is not intended to cover the costs of meals, other consumables, additional hours or additional activities, therefore childcare providers can charge parents/cares for these things. 

The applicable FEE rates payable to childcare providers from 1 September 2023 to 31 March 2024

2 year olds (vulnerable)3 and 4 year olds

The applicable FEE rates payable to childcare providers from 1 April 2024 to 31 March 2025

Under 2’s2 year olds Working families2 year olds (benefit related)3 and 4 year olds

Becoming a childminder

With Ofsted

If you are thinking about becoming a childminder with Ofsted:

  1. Consider if this is a right career path for you. Childminding offers fantastic career opportunities - from making a difference to a child's life, to being your own boss and working from home. If you have your own children, you will also be able to care for them alongside minded children
  2. Ensure you know the training that is required of you. From Paediatric first aid to Safeguarding to having the knowledge and understanding of the early years foundation stage (EYFS) statutory framework.
  3. Follow Ofsted’s guidance on how to register as a childminder: quick guide and specific guidance for nannies, register as a nanny: quick guide. You can also refer to Ofsted's pre-registration briefing and the childminders and childcare providers: register with Ofsted guidance
  4. Consider DBS check that is required of you
  5.  Consider any planning law, premises, health and safety requirements, health check and recruitment of assistants as required

Once you have started the process of registering with Ofsted the Local Authority’s childminding team can offer you a three visit package to support you on the journey to registering. The three visits cover: 

  • The Learning and Development requirements of the EYFS
  • The safeguarding requirements of the EYFS
  • Business development

The cost of this support is £120 including VAT

Ofsted aims to complete the registration process within 12 weeks.

Pacey also offer further support in becoming a childminder. You can watch the short video 'become a Childminder for more information. 

Once you become an active Ofsted registered childminder, the childminding team will provide information, advice and training to support you to deliver a high quality and safe childcare provision that prepares children for school. 

With a Childminder agency (CMA)

CMAs are private companies that register childminders as an alternative to registering with Ofsted. They choose their own business model and create a bespoke service for their childminders. 

Difference between registering with Ofsted and CMA

If you register with Ofsted, you will organise your own support, finances, record-keeping and all general administrative tasks involved with managing your own business. You will have to pay an annual fee and you will receive your first inspection usually within 30 months, and then every 6 years afterwards as a maximum. There are no additional costs for registering with Ofsted.

If you register with an agency, you’ll still be a self-employed childminder running your own business, but you’ll have additional support when it comes to regulation, safeguarding, finance, continuing professional development (CPD), marketing and finding new clients. Partnering with an agency typically involves paying a monthly fee or a percentage of your earnings in exchange for this support. 

The diagram, differences between Ofsted and CMAs demonstrates some of the differences further.

Access the list of childminder agencies to find agencies operating in Waltham Forest. 

When registering with CMAs the local authority childminding team will not offer any support, all support will be provided by the childminding agency. 

Job Application Support

The Local Authority’s Employment team provides advice and support in getting back into work on:

  • One to one support from a dedicated employment advisor.
  • Help compiling CV's, cover letters and application forms.
  • Interview preparation.
  • Access to job vacancies and training opportunities

The National Careers Service has advice on:

The Department for Work and Pensions’ Job Help website provides helpful advice and support with:

  • improving your CV
  • completing application forms
  • interview tips and preparation