Choosing a Childcare Provider
Choosing a childcare provider can be a very challenging task for working families. Not only are there costs to think about, but you also have to consider the location of nurseries/childminders and the practicalities of getting your child there on time and settled before you can even think about getting to work yourself! The rising costs of childcare can sometimes mean that families re-assess their current working situation, so it is vital that you work through your finances before you make any decisions about your childcare options. Foremost, you have to do what is best for you and your family and try to find viable options to meet your requirements.
Here are the main options for childcare:
Nurseries provide care for children typically from 6 weeks up to 5 years. They are open long hours, usually between 8am and 6pm and are open all year round.
- Ask to see the Ofsted report, or visit the Ofsted website to view it online
- Nurseries can be very expensive so bear this in mind when working out your finances
- All 3 and 4 year olds are entitled to a free part time early education place, so this will help you with the cost. Find out more on www.direct.gov
- Book in early! Popular nurseries often have a waiting list so start looking when you are pregnant. You can find local nurseries by contacting your local FIS (family information service)
- Make sure the nursery offers settling in sessions – take this time to go with your child and observe the staff and the other children
Pre-schools provide care similar to a nursery, although most only provide care for children aged from 2 years 9 months up until school age.
- Many pre-schools don’t open all day and may only provide morning or afternoon sessions – this makes it a good option if you are able to work flexibly
- Sessions times are typically between 2 and 3 hours duration
- Most pre-schools close during school term times
- As with nurseries, if your child is between 4 and 4 years they are entitled to a free place Find out more on www.direct.gov
A childminder is usually based at their own home and can care for any age child, although they are limited to looking after a maximum of 6 children under 8 years of age – this includes their own children.
- If your childminder cares for children under the age of 7 years, they should be registered with Ofsted by law and as with other providers they will be assessed every 2-3 years.
- Childminders can offer more flexible childcare, including taking your child to school
- The environment can be more nurturing as your child will be in a home environment and it is likely to be quieter than a large, busy nursery
Nannies come to look after your child at your home and sometimes live in.
- Unless you find a Nanny through an agency, you will need to check their credentials and references
- Nannies can command a high monthly salary, especially if they are live in and have lots of experience
- A live in Nanny will become part of the family to some extent, so it is essential that you trust them implicitly in your home
An Au pair is typically a young person from another country who lives with a UK family for the experience and to learn English.
- Au pairs are not trained to work with babies and children, although they may have some experience with younger siblings/babysitting in their home country
- There are many websites that can help you to find an Au pair but you will still need to vet them yourself
- Au pairs can help you for up to 5 hours per day but you do need to pay them pocket money and provide meals etc.
Due to the rising costs of childcare, many families are looking to their parents to provide childcare.
- If Grandparents are willing, this can be a great option for your child
- Care from Grandparents is considered informal care although you can still pay for any expenses or come to an arrangement about a nominal salary
- It can be hard to be assertive with family members, especially if you have different views about behaviour management etc. Try to address any potential problems straight away to avoid any fall outs
Many school offer before and after school clubs, or you may find your local nursery also has some provision.
- After school clubs can be very popular, so you may need to enquire early to get on a waiting list
- Check with your local authority to find out what is available
The main thing with all the above options is that you use the service that suits your child and your family best. Ask yourself some key questions – is your child happy in the environment? How do you feel about them spending their time there? Above all, use your intuition! Good luck with finding an option to suit you.
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