How to choose services (including childcare) safely

kids playing

It is very important that you carefully consider which services you would like to use and which would be suitable for you and your child. Do take some time to find out about them to make sure they are safe to use. 

As well as finding out about times and costs etc, here are some questions that you could ask to find out about children's safety. Remember good services will always welcome your questions.

Is the service registered with Ofsted?

The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) regulates and inspects some childcare. This means that Ofsted have checked that a set of standards have been met and that a childcare provider is suitable to look after children. This will apply to childcare providers or other supervised activities for children or young people.

Who does Ofsted register?

People who want to provide childcare for children under eight, for more than two hours in any one day, must register with Ofsted before they can become childcare providers.

The Early Years Register is for all providers working with children aged from birth to five. Providers must deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) which brings together care and learning. Typically this will be full daycare, pre-schools, childminders and some out of school provision (holiday schemes or after school clubs). Schools are not required to register on the Early Years Register.

The Ofsted Childcare Register is less intensive than the Early Years Register. There are two parts to this:

The compulsory OCR: this is childcare for children aged five to seven. Typically this will be childminders and out of school providers (unless they are exempt).

The voluntary OCR: this is for providers who are not required to register, but can choose to do so. Typically this will be nannies, activity based settings, short term care and care for children aged eight and over

To see inspection reports or read about the registers see the Ofsted website

If the provider is registered with Ofsted, this will be shown on their record on the Directory with a link to their Ofsted record.

Some questions you may want to think about

  • Do staff and volunteers have DBS (formerly Criminal Records Bureau) checks? All staff working with, or having access to children or young people should be DBS checked.
  • Are staff and volunteers appropriately trained, supported and supervised?
  • Does the service belong to a professional organisation or quality assurance scheme?
  • Does the service have appropriate policies in place: Child Protection, Health and Safety, Complaints?
  • If there is an accident what happens? Is the service insured?
  • How many leaders or helpers and volunteers are there at each activity?
  • How do staff ensure that all users are included and feel comfortable?
  • Does the activity welcome and support disabled children and children with additional needs? All services should make reasonable adjustments to support disabled children.

Other things to think about

  • Think about visiting the setting or group before you start using them regularly.
  • Ask for references or try and speak to other people using the service.
  • If your children are using a service ask them questions about their activities and listen to any concerns they may have.
  • For more information about choosing childcare see our Guide to Choosing Childcare


Record managed by Oxfordshire Family Information Service

Page last reviewed: 11/08/2020

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