Choosing Childcare

You, your child and your childcare needs are unique - but you can be sure that there's a childcare choice out there for you. Whether you're looking for group-based childcare, or want care in a home-based setting for your child, read on to find out more about the options open to you.

Download our helpful leaflet - Childcare: make the right choice

Registered childcare providers

In England, early years childcare providers are regulated by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. It is compulsory for childminder and nurseries caring for children under 8 to register with Ofsted, whereas nannies can choose whether to appear on the voluntary register or not. 

In Wales, childminders are registered by CSSIW and those offering early education settings are inspected by ESTYN. Childminders in Wales caring for children aged 12 and under must be registered.


If you are looking for a smaller childcare setting in a 'home-from-home' environment, then a childminder could be the ideal choice for you. With the same requirements for qualifications and procedures as a nursery or pre-school, a childminder delivers early education from their own home.

"My son loves his time at the childminder. When he was younger he was with her full-time and I loved the partnership approach she had to his learning and development - I always felt we were working together to get him to the next milestone. Now he's 3 he's with his childminder before and after playgroup, so he gets the benefit of socialising in a larger group setting, as well as the more hands-on care of a childminder." Sam, Mum of one, Cornwall.


For more information about what childminders do, visit the PACEY website.

Nurseries and Pre-schools

Suitable for children up to 4 years old, nurseries and pre-schools remain one of the most popular childcare choices in England. Based in non-residential premises including church halls, on school grounds and commercial properties, they provide care for larger groups of children under school age. Most are open Monday to Friday, with a few offering weekend care to support different working patterns. Those attached to a school operate term-time only, although independent nurseries tend to offer services all year round. 

Many parents like the social aspect of group settings, as they feel it helps prepare their child for school. Equipped to entertain and engage young minds, many larger settings have separate rooms or areas for specific age-ranges, enabling them to tailor toys, books and activities to the children in their care. 

"All three of my children have attended a nursery and I've always been impressed by how being in a group setting aids their development, and above all, their confidence around other children. I enjoy the regular updates our nursery provides as it allows me to see how my children are progressing. My eldest has recently started school and her key worker supported this important transition. I could see first-hand how the skills she gained at nursery helped her move to 'big school' go smoothly." Richard, Dad of three, Kent

For more information about nurseries, visit the PACEY website.


If you're looking for completely bespoke childcare delivered in your own home, a nanny is the perfect solution. Standards can vary and Ofsted registration is only voluntary, however nannies can offer a wealth of knowledge and experience. PACEY's recent survey found that 81% of nannies hold an early years qualification and 90% see the importance of continuous professional development.

Either as a self-employed childcare professional or an employee, they provide bespoke care under your roof, meaning no drop-offs or collection times. Offering a completely flexible and tailored service, many nannies become more like a member of the family than a service provider. Common additional responsibilities for nannies include; preparing food for the children, tidying, organising activities and outings for the children & school pick up and drop offs.

"With a demanding, full-time job, a nanny offered me the most flexible and convenient form of childcare." Audrey, Mum of one, London

For more information about nannies, visit the PACEY website.

What is Tax-Free Childcare?

Tax-Free Childcare is a new UK-wide scheme to help working parents pay for childcare. For every £8 a parent pays, the government will pay an extra £2 towards their childcare costs – up to £2000 per child, per year (or £4000 for children who are disabled). Tax-Free Childcare will be available for children up to the age of 12 (or 17 for disabled children).

The introduction of the government’s Tax-Free Childcare scheme will begin on 28 April, for parents of the youngest children. It will be gradually rolled out over 2017 - by the end of 2017, Tax-Free Childcare will be open to all eligible parents.

You can sign up for an email update to be alerted when Tax-Free Childcare is available for your family.

10 things parents should know about Tax-Free Childcare

10 things childcare providers should know about Tax-Free Childcare