How to Find The Right Childcare
The vast majority of families with children (75%*) use some form of childcare services. This means childcare places are in hot demand, but there are a number of childcare choices available.
There’s often the misconception that mums or the primary caregivers are the ones doing the legwork when it comes to finding the right childcare – but families are now working together to allow parents to strike the right balance between work and family life, and ensure their children are in the best hands.
That said, finding the right childcare can be a minefield – particularly when it’s for your first child. At Elmscot Group Day Nurseries and Nursery Schools, we are avid believers that attending a nursery is the best childcare option. Studies have shown that children who attend nursery are better behaved and have better social skills.
Here we’ve gathered some of your most frequently asked questions about childcare. We provide our expert advice on things you need to consider and why choosing to attend a nursery is the best choice for your child.
What childcare services are available?
Family & Friends
If someone has a different working pattern to you or is retired, they may be able to help look after your child while you’re working. This can be someone you know or someone who has been recommended to you by a close friend or family member.
Unlike at a nursery, they don’t have to be qualified and aren’t obligated to have any form of childcare qualification or first aid training. As it’s also only one person you are relying on, you will need to consider alternative childcare should they be unwell or on holiday.
You can hire an au pair or nanny to come into your home and either help you care for your child or to look after your child while you’re at work. This can be through an agency or you can employ them directly. They can either work certain hours of the day or live with you full-time.
As this person will be an employee of yours, they will usually have the same rights as any other employee – so you will need to sort out all the paperwork such as having a contract in place and finding out their eligibility rights such as working within the UK and having a workplace pension. This can vary for au pairs though, so you’ll need to check the criteria.
At a nursery, you won’t need to do any of the legwork in employing someone. Teams of trained practitioners are screened, selected and trained by nursery management. Additional support is also provided by early years’ teachers, special educational needs coordinators and external activity providers.
This can be up to three people caring for a number of children within a domestic setting (usually one of the childminder’s homes). All childminders must be on the Early Years or Childcare Register, as well as registered by the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) if the children are under the age of eight.
At nursery, there are rooms dedicated to various ages and stages of development. This allows planning to be centered effectively towards the needs and abilities of the children. Childminders, however, are able to have children of all ages together.
Before registering to become a childminder, the only requirements are to demonstrate basic training has been completed and the chosen premises are suitable. Within quality nurseries such as Elmscot Group Nurseries, practitioners are required to have regular training and the majority of nursery staff will also have a childcare qualification or will be working towards
becoming qualified. Ratios of staff to children will be dependent on the level of qualification, as well as the age of the children.
These formal settings can either be as part of a nursery or primary school. Children can attend at age three to five years, before they start school.
As with a nursery, there should be a qualified Early Years Teacher (EYT) within any pre-school class to allow the children to become used to a more formal teaching structure. They will be supported by Early Years Practitioners.
The benefits of attending a private nursery are that a child will be able to attend as a baby and will maintain the familiarity and relationships right until they need to attend full-time education. It can be very unsettling for both yourself and your child to make such a drastic change to routine and environment, as well as to put trust in new carers.
These are formal settings where a number of professionals care for children under the age of five years. The best nurseries will have qualified Early Years Practitioners who regularly complete refresher training on areas such as child development, first aid, nutrition and safeguarding.
There are government guidelines on how many children there can be per number of staff, which changes according to the age of the children. These childcare ratios ensure each child is being given the right level of care and opportunities for growth and development.
Usually there will be separate rooms for different ages or development stages to ensure activities can be planned effectively. Activities are based around the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum.
A good nursery should also have a home-from-home feel to it, so the transition from your home into a childcare setting creates less of an impact on your child. The focus is on provision of care and giving your child the best opportunities to develop at their own pace.
Pre-School vs. Nursery – which one is best for my child?
When a child reaches the age of three (in some settings two-and-a-half) they are able to join a pre-school class.
Many nurseries will have a separate pre-school class that will help prepare the children to start school. There are also pre-school classrooms in some primary school settings that children can move on to after nursery.
If a child has been within nursery as a baby, it’s beneficial to keep them within the same setting, as this allows the child to have a smooth transition to the pre-school class. This ensures the child remains settled and content in the setting they are used to and is around the people they know.
Within a nursery pre-school class, your child will also be able to attend any hours necessary throughout the year, with no disruption during term-time.
Some assume that if a child attends the pre-school within a primary school, they will automatically be allocated a place at the school. However this isn’t always the case and you will need to check with the specific school before attending.
For pre-schools within a primary school setting, the hours of operation are often limited or the same hours as the school. This will be convenient should you have an older child within the school, otherwise you will need to seek alternative childcare out-of-hours. This also means you will be restricted to have family holidays during school holidays – which are usually more expensive.
How much will childcare cost?
Costs of childcare depend on a number of factors:
- Region where you live
- Age of the child
- Type of childcare you choose
- Inclusions within the setting (eg. food, nappies, activities)
According to figures from 2018, London has the most expensive childcare costs within the UK, followed by the South East and South West.
Recent figures also show the cheapest formal childcare on average within the UK is attending a nursery. You’ll find within some regions nursery care costs even less than the national average.
|Type of Childcare||Average Cost Nationally (UK)|
|Nanny||£10.41 per hour|
|Babysitter||£9.00 per hour|
|Childminder||£5.35 per hour|
|Nursery||£4.94 per hour|
(SOURCE: Childcare.co.uk, January 2019)
Part-time hours tend to cost more per hour than full-time childcare. You will also need to check with the setting if they include within the cost:
- Meals and snacks
- Nappies and nappy cream
- Baby milk / formula
Be mindful that if a setting provides all elements you require within the cost, you’ll need to ensure the quality meets your expectations.
The most costly age for childcare is when the child is under the age of two years, but tends to decrease after the age of two. You may also be eligible for childcare funding or tax-free childcare should you meet certain criteria.
What’s available to help with childcare costs?
Within the UK, there are government schemes which allow people to receive tax-free childcare or a certain number of hours’ funding. This varies between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Check to see what you can receive using the childcare calculator on the Gov.uk website.
Benefits of attending a nursery
- Qualified professionals
- Back-up should staff be off work
- All-year round childcare
- Safe and secure premises
- Supports child development and education
- Allows you to work
- Child develops close relationships with adults and other children
- Smooth transition to full-time education
- Stimulating planned activity throughout the day
How will I know if I’ve made the right choice for my child?
Babies and young children are very perceptive and will react instinctually should they be in a situation which makes them unhappy. Trust your instincts as you know your child best.
Try to take your child with you when visiting a setting, as this will allow you to gauge their reaction and observe if the professionals engage with your child well.
Utilise trial periods and settling-in sessions to allow your child to become introduced gently to their new surroundings. This can take time and there will be sessions where you will be able to stay with your child and gradually leave them for longer periods.
If there is anything that is concerning you, speak to a senior professional at the setting who should be able to put you at ease.
We hope this has helped make things a little easier to decide which childcare option is right for your family. If you’re looking for a nursery place and would like to find out more about Elmscot Day Nurseries and Nursery Schools, please call us on 0161 980 0003 or email [email protected].
*Source: Department for Education