Choosing quality early education and childcare for your child is a very important decision.
Why quality matters
The quality of early education and childcare has a direct impact on your child’s ability to:
- Develop new skills
- Have fun and
- Make new friends
Research shows that positive experiences early in a child’s life have a significant impact on their development and future success.
How can I find quality childcare?
All registered early education and childcare providers are inspected by Ofsted to ensure they follow the statutory requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage and provide a safe and stimulating environment for the children they care for. You can get a copy of any provider’s inspection report from the Ofsted website.
The Norfolk Community Directory has a list of all Ofsted registered early education and childcare providers in the county. It has a description of the services and facilities available and a link to the provider’s website (if they have one).
If you are struggling to find quality early education and childcare, you can contact Norfolk Family Information Service. They can help you explore all the options available to you and also offer a free brokerage service.
Ten essentials checklist when looking for quality childcare
- Look early – good early education and childcare can get booked up quickly and there might be long waiting lists
- Gather information – find out what other parents think of your preferred childcare providers. Check the providers are registered with Ofsted and whether they’ve been inspected recently. Note what they do well and what improvements they need to make
- Make a shortlist – once you’ve chosen the providers you’re most interested in, make an appointment to visit them. These are things you may wish to ask about while you are arranging your visit:
- Vacancies, costs and information on free early education for 2, 3 and 4 year-olds
- The registration process and the parent-provider agreement/contract
- Opening times and holiday dates
- Safety and security
- If your child needs extra help or has special educational needs and/or a disability, how will the provider manage this?
- Visit as many providers as you can so you can get a feel for the day-to-day routine, and take your child with you to see whether they like it too. Ask about the settling in process and how you can help.
- Look at the whole environment, both indoors and outdoors – look at it from your child’s perspective as well as yours. Take time to see whether children are talking and playing together. High quality childcare providers should offer a well-planned programme to meet individual children’s interests and development needs. This should include plenty of good quality resources and lots of opportunities for play and learning inside and out.
- Look for early education and childcare professionals who are warm and responsive and readily available to meet your child’s needs. Ask the provider about the key person system and what this will mean for your child.
- Ask about staff qualifications and experience. Studies show that staff qualifications and training and warm interactive relationships are key to high quality early years education. Ask providers about their plans for ongoing professional development.
- Ask about how you will be fully involved and consulted in your child’s care and early learning. Knowing what you expect of providers and what they can expect from you will help build the basis of a caring partnership. Providers need to recognise your role as your child’s first and most consistent educator.
- Check the contents of your contract/agreement before you formalise your agreement and pay any fees. Signed childcare contracts are legally binding. If you have any concerns about signing your contract contact the Citizen’s Advice Bureau for advice.
- Ask what happens when it is time for your child to move on to infant or primary school. If you are successful in getting a pre-school or nursery class place for your child this does not guarantee a place in any school attached to it.
If you need any further help or advice to find a quality early education and childcare place, contact the Family Information Service.