Questions to ask when visiting childcare providers and childminders

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Alert

To ensure the quality and safety of the early education or childcare provision that you choose for your child, it is important that you ensure that they have the appropriate registrations in place.

Most childcare providers looking after children under the age of 8 MUST register with Ofsted. It is a criminal offence to provide unregistered childcare, or on unapproved premises, if you are legally required to register.

Information regarding the various types of registrations, and when individuals MUST register with Ofsted can be found on Ofsted’s website.

You can also contact the Councils Early Years and Childcare Service on 020 8496 3566 or at childcare@walthamforest.gov for further information about whether the individual or setting offering you an early education or childcare place needs to be registered.

We have also produced a number of checklists which we recommend you use in assist you with asking the relevant questions to establish the legality, quality and safety of your chosen childcare provider.

If you’re visiting more than one, we suggest that you stick to the same questions so you can compare their answers.

Registration 

  • Can you see their Ofsted registration certificate? (we would also recommend you search for their Ofsted Registration number on Ofsted’s website www.ofsted.gov.uk to confirm the information that you have been provided with and check for any information regarding complaints and any action taken by Ofsted)
  • Do they work with an assistant? Is their assistant registered with Ofsted?

Policies, Procedures and records

  • what are their policies, and procedures, to safeguard children
  • what are their policies, and procedures, for administering medicines
  • what are their emergency evacuation procedures
  • what is their procedure for responding to children who are ill or infectious
  • what is their policies and procedures , for administering medicines.
  • What are their policies and procedures for checking the identity of visitors
  • What is their procedure for dealing with concerns and complaints from parents and/or carers
  • What records do they keep and how do they record accidents?

Insurances

• Can you see a current public liability insurance certificate?

About the childminder

  • How do they interact with the children?
  • What training and experience do they have?
  • Do they have experience of caring for children with a special educational need or disability?
  • Can you have the phone numbers of other parents for references?
  • Why do they like their job? How long do they intend to do it?
  • How old are their own children and the other children that they look after? (Childminders can look after six children under eight years old, but no more than three under five years old, including their own).
  • Do they have back up arrangements with another childminder to cover them if they are ill or need to take leave?
  • Have they, their assistants and others in the house including family, got up to date enhanced Disclosure Barring Service (DBS) checks?

Money

  • How much are the fees, what do they include and when and how should you pay?
  • Do you have to pay for settling in time, when your child can get to know them before they start?
  • Do you have to pay a deposit or retainer fee to secure the place?
  • What charges are made for bank holidays, holidays and sickness?
  • Who will need to supply things like nappies, baby food and milk?
  • Do they offer Free Early Education for 2, 3 and 4 year olds? If you want extra hours how much will it cost?
  • Do they accept payments from the Tax-Free Childcare scheme?

Caring for your child

  • Do children take part in daily indoor and outdoor activities?
  • Do they go to local childminding groups?
  • If they will be using a car, do they have childminding insurance in place?
  • Do they have car seats suitable for your child’s height and weight?
  • Do the children they are looking after seem to be happy and engaged in play?
  • Will your child be offered varied and nutritious food? Can they provide for special diets?
  • How do they discipline the children and how do they manage children’s behaviour?
  • How do they help the children when they are toilet training?
  • What will your child need to bring every day?
  • Do they undertake risk assessments on their premises and on outings?
  • Do they and their assistants have current paediatric first aid certificates
  •  What would a typical day involve and how do the other children’s routines fit in with your child’s?
  • Will they agree to a trial run (say a couple of mornings) to see how your child gets on?

The home

  •  Can they show you around their home and garden and tell you about hygiene and safety?
  • How often do their family and friends visit?
  • What is their pet policy around children?
  • Does the childminder or another family member smoke?
  • Ask to see where your child will sleep if they’re tired and make sure it’s quiet.

Sleeping arrangements

Make sure that sleeping arrangements for your child are appropriate. Your child should be placed on their back to sleep on their own. Their blanket should be sufficient to ensure your child does not get too hot or cold, be tucked in no higher than their shoulders and they should be placed in the feet to foot position at the end of the cot/moses basket.

Registration 

  • Can you see their Ofsted registration certificate? (we would also recommend you search for their Ofsted Registration number on Ofsted’s website www.ofsted.gov.uk to confirm the information that you have been provided with and check for any information regarding complaints and any action taken by Ofsted)

Policies, Procedures and records

  • what are their policies, and procedures, to safeguard children
  • what are their policies, and procedures, for administering medicines
  • what are their emergency evacuation procedures
  • what is their procedure for responding to children who are ill or infectious
  • what is their policies and procedures , for administering medicines.
  • What are their policies and procedures for checking the identity of visitors
  • What is their procedure for dealing with concerns and complaints from parents and/or carers
  • What records do they keep and how do they record accidents?

Insurances

  • Can you see a current public liability insurance certificate?

First impressions count

  •  Did you get a warm welcome when you arrived?
  • Do the children there seem to be happy and content?
  • Are the staff happy to show you around?
  • Is there plenty of space outside for the children to play?
  • Do the staff interact with your child?
  • Can you meet other staff members?

Vacancies and costs

  • Are there any vacancies - if there is a waiting list, how long is it?
  • Do you have to pay a deposit? If so, what’s it for? Can you claim it back?
  • How much do they charge per hour/day? Do you have to pay for holidays, meals, nappies and other activities?
  • Do they offer Free Early Education for 2, 3 and 4 year olds? If you want extra hours how much will it cost?
  • Do they accept payments from the Tax-Free Childcare scheme?
  • Do they offer a settling in period, to see how your child gets on? If so, how long is it?

Staffing and premises

  • What’s the ratio of staff to children? How many children do they care for?
  • Do they have a key (named) person system?
  • What’s the staff turnover like?
  • How well qualified and experienced are the staff?
  • Are all the enhanced Disclosure Barring Service (DBS) checks up to date?
  • How many of their staff have current paediatric first aid certificates

 Activities and support

  • What daily routines do they have and how can they build your child’s routines and needs into their day?
  • Where can your child have a sleep or rest?
  • What happens if your child is unhappy? How would they be looked after?
  • What’s their policy on discipline, how do they manage children’s behaviour?
  • How will they cater for your child’s dietary needs? What systems do they have in place if a child has a severe food allergy?
  • How will your child’s cultural background be reflected and respected? Are there staff from different backgrounds? Do they have books and activities that reflect all cultures? What about food, music and religious festivals?
  • Will there be opportunities for you to get involved?
  • How will they tell you about your child’s progress? Will they give your child a record book or learning journey?
  • Can they tell you about how they plan activities to meet individual children’s interests and developmental needs?

Emergencies

  • How many of their staff have current paediatric first aid certificates?
  • What happens if your child is unwell when they are there?
  • What happens if you are late picking your child up at the end of the day?
  • How will they get hold of you in an emergency?

Sleeping arrangements

Make sure that sleeping arrangements for your child are appropriate. Your child should be placed on their back to sleep on their own. Their blanket should be sufficient to ensure your child does not get too hot or cold, be tucked in no higher than their shoulders and they should be placed in the feet to foot position at the end of the cot/moses basket.

The below film was produced by the National Childminding Association. It is a guide to what parents think about using a registered childminder and information on the services childminders can provide. If you would like to view the full 11 minute version of this film please visit the NCMA website.

Registration 

  • Can you see their Ofsted registration certificate? (we would also recommend you search for their Ofsted Registration number on Ofsted’s website www.ofsted.gov.uk to confirm the information that you have been provided with and check for any information regarding complaints and any action taken by Ofsted)

Policies, Procedures and records

  • what are their policies, and procedures, to safeguard children
  • what are their policies, and procedures, for administering medicines
  • what are their emergency evacuation procedures
  • what is their procedure for responding to children who are ill or infectious
  • what is their policies and procedures , for administering medicines.
  • What are their policies and procedures for checking the identity of visitors
  • What is their procedure for dealing with concerns and complaints from parents and/or carers
  • What records do they keep and how do they record accidents?

Insurances

  • Can you see a current public liability insurance certificate?

First impressions count

  • Did you get a warm welcome when you arrived?
  • Do the children there seem to be happy and content?
  • Are the staff happy to show you around?
  • Is there plenty of space outside for the children to play?
  • Do the staff interact with your child?
  • Can you meet other staff members?

Vacancies and costs

  • Are there any vacancies - if there is a waiting list, how long is it?
  • Do they open in the holidays, bank holidays or on inset days?
  • Do you have to pay a deposit or retainer fee to secure a place?
  • Do you have to pay for settling in time, when your child can get to know them before they start?
  • How much are the fees, what do they include and when and how should you pay?
  • Do they offer a discount if you pay for a whole week? Do they offer a sibling discount?
  • Do you have to pay for holidays, meals, snacks and other activities?
  • Do they accept payments from the Tax-Free Childcare scheme?

Staffing and premises

  • How many children do they care for and what’s the ratio of staff to children?
  • Do they have a key (named) person system?
  • What’s the staff turnover like?
  • How well qualified and experienced are the staff? Are staff qualified in playwork?
  • Are all their enhanced Disclosure Barring Service (DBS) checks up to date?

Activities and support

  • Do children take part in daily indoor and outdoor activities? Is there direct access to the outside space?
  • Are the resources easy for children to get too?
  • What happens if your child is unhappy? How would they be looked after?
  • How do they discipline the children and manage children’s behaviour?
  • How will your child’s cultural background be reflected and respected? Are there staff from different backgrounds? Do they have books and activities that reflect all cultures? What about food, music and religious festivals?
  • What will your child need to bring everyday?
  • Do they undertake risk assessments on their premises and on outings?

Emergencies

  • What happens if your child is unwell when they are there?
  • What happens if you are late picking your child up at the end of the day?
  • How will they get hold of you in an emergency?