Requirements of Early Years Education Providers
All providers of early years education must be registered with Ofsted; to check if a particular organisation is registered you can contact Ofsted or simply ask to see proof of registration from the organisation involved. Ofsted inspections ensure that standards of care, hygiene and health and safety are satisfactory, as well as making sure staff are CRB checked and possess the appropriate first aid qualifications. Ofsted also set regulations on the ratio of adults to children in the care setting as well as suggesting a maximum number of children per room; this ensures each child receives an appropriate level of attention and has enough space to feel comfortable. Each care setting should have an Ofsted report available for parents or carers to see at all times; inspections are random to ensure that organisations are up to standard at all times and not just at the time of an Ofsted inspection.
Visiting an Organisation
If you want to visit a nursery or pre-school group for example, most settings have an open door policy. Try to avoid visiting at lunchtime when it can be very busy; mid-morning and mid-afternoon are probably the best times as you will be able to see the children taking part in activities rather than sat down at the table eating. Ask the person showing you around as many questions as you feel necessary, do not feel afraid to ask to see any reports or complaints relating to the organisation and feel free to talk to any other parents you may come across on your way around. If your child has special requirements such as dietary needs or learning difficulties ask how these will be catered for.
Organisations are also judged on the standard of hygiene and the food they offer children; look out for any certificates relating to these aspects and ask to see a sample menu. Watch the children and try to gauge if they are enjoying themselves and if they come across as happy and confident and try to get an impression of the relationship between the staff and the children; also look at the displays on the walls to see how the children’s work is exhibited and look out for photographs of the children on visits or outings. Asking friends or family members with children for recommendations is also a great way to find out which settings are right for your child. Most nurseries offer trial sessions and some have CCTV so you can watch how your child is getting on from a different room.
If you are looking for a childminder, make sure they are registered with the National Child Minders Association and have a valid paediatric first aid certificate. You may also want to see a portfolio of their previous employment and qualifications. It may also be useful to employ a childminder with their own transport so that your child can enjoy days out, especially if you live in a more rural setting.
The DirectGov website has an index of all registered care providers and many organisations have their own websites. The Yellow Pages also has the contact details for many local organisations. Feel free to visit as many care settings as you want and then make the decision based on the one you feel most suits your child’s needs.