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Your childcare options

Types of childcare

Childcare is broken into two main types. These are registered and unregistered.

Registered means registered with Ofsted, a childminder agency or are part of a maintained or independent school. Registered providers are checked and inspected to make sure they are safe. With registered providers, you may be able to get help towards the cost of childcare using government schemes.

Unregistered providers don't go through this checking and inspection process. You cannot use help towards the cost of childcare from a government scheme to pay unregistered providers.

Registered Childcare

Most childcare providers looking after children under the age of 8 for more than 2 hours a day must register with Ofsted, a childminder agency or be part of a maintained or independent school. These are:

  • registered childminders - self-employed and often look after children in their home but may operate from other premises for part of the day
  • day nurseries - care for children from birth to 5 years old
  • pre-schools (sometimes called playgroups) - for children between 2 and 5 years old
  • schools
  • crèches - look after children whilst their parent or carer does something on the same premises
  • nursery classes within a maintained or independent school (sometimes called foundation units, providing an introduction to the school environment)
  • before and after school clubs
  • registered holiday clubs and activities
  • registered nannies and au pairs (also known as ‘home childcarers’)

Nannies do not have to register with Ofsted, but they can choose to register with them voluntarily. This means you can find registered and unregistered nannies and au pairs.

By using these registered providers, you may be able to get help towards the cost of childcare using government schemes such as 15 hours, 30 hours and Tax-Free childcare.

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Unregistered Childcare

There are some types of childcare that don't have to be registered with Ofsted, a childminder agency or be part of a maintained or independent school. Most childcare schemes will not help to cover the costs of these unregistered childcare providers. Here are the three main forms of unregistered childcare:

  1. childcare in your home
  2. tutoring, clubs and holiday activities
  3. Creches and other daycare

Childcare in your home

  • nannies, looking after children in their own home
  • those only looking after children over the age of 8 in someone’s home
  • those that don't receive any money, vouchers, goods or services in return for childcare
  • babysitters, looking after children at home between 6pm and 2am
  • blood relatives caring for a child they are related to
  • those looking after a friend’s children for less than 3 hours a day for some payment
  • home educators and home tutors
  • unregistered recreational and sporting activity providers

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Tutoring, clubs and holiday activities

  • holiday activities - if they only run for around 14 days a year. Find out more about childcare and holiday activities
  • clubs and tutors that provide a specific type of activity all year round such as dance, sports and religious, cultural or language studies. These can't look after children under 5 for more than 4 hours per day
  • open-access childcare for over 5s, for example, council-run holiday clubs that let children arrive and leave by themselves

Creches and other daycare

Creches and daycare do not have to register if all the following apply:

  • they look after children under 8 for 4 hours or less each day
  • parents plan to stay in the immediate area (close by where you can be summoned immediately)
  • there is no long-term commitment to provide childcare
  • this is offered to parents or carers as a short-term convenience, for instance, while they are shopping
  • they look after children under 8 from one place for 14 days or less in any year and let Ofsted know at least 14 days before