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Types of childcare

Childminders are self-employed professionals who work in their own homes looking after other people's children. They offer a flexible service, caring for children aged from birth to 16 years. Childminders who look after children under the age of 8 for more than 2 hours a day have to be registered with Ofsted. Depending on the conditions of their registration they can offer: evening care; before and after school care; shift-work and emergency care; weekend and school holiday cover or overnight care. The Cambridgeshire Online Directory has a list of registered childminders in Cambridgeshire you can contact. 

Childcare providers on domestic premises are groups of at least 4 people who provide care for children in the home. They are similar to childminders and childminding networks - the main difference being the number of people involved. They sit between nurseries and childminders as they can look after more children in a home environment. 

Day nurseries can be run by private individuals, community groups, educational organisations, commercial businesses or by employers. They can care for children aged from six weeks to five years and usually offer day care from 8am to 6pm for most of the year. The Family Information Directory contains a list of day nurseries in Cambridgeshire.

Local authority nursery schools and classes offer full and part-time early years education places between the hours of 9am and 3.30pm. A session lasts for three hours and can be in the morning or afternoon. Nursery schools may also offer care before and after the education sessions (sometimes referred to as 'wrap-around care'). Parents are often required to pay for wrap-around care. The Cambridgeshire Online Directory contains a list of nurseries in Cambridgeshire.

Pre-schools and playgroups offer care to children in their local community, either as a morning or afternoon session or as extended sessions including lunch. They are often run by voluntary management committees. They care for children aged from three to five years (some groups may accept younger children) and are usually open during school term time. You can find your information on pre-schools in the Childcare Directory.

Private nursery schools can offer sessional or full day care to children aged two to five. Some schools can offer a particular educational approach, for example, Steiner or Montessori. They may operate only during term time or open all year. 

Independent schools provide schooling for children aged from three to sixteen. The schools are registered with the Department for Education (DfE), but make their own arrangements concerning staff numbers qualifications and curriculum. If the school participates in the Early Years Funding Scheme, it will offer the Early Years Foundation Stage and will be inspected by Ofsted. Opening times are decided by the school.

Breakfast/after school/holiday clubs provide play opportunities for school age children at times when schools are not open. They can operate before school in the mornings; from the end of the school day and at the end of the working day; throughout the school holidays; or a combination of all three. They cater for children aged four to eleven attending primary school and some take older children. You can find your nearest club in the Childcare Directory.

Nannies (sometimes referred to as home childcarers) usually provide care for children in the family home. They are employed by the parents. They do not need to be registered but can opt to join the Ofsted Voluntary Childcare Register. If they do the same regulation applies to them as for other childcare provision on this register. Where a family employs a nanny who is registered with Ofsted, it enables them to access certain support towards the cost of childcare, such as the childcare element of working tax credit, or employer-supported childcare vouchers.

Employing a nanny

Where a family employs an unregistered nanny, it is up to them, as parent and employer, to make sure that they are employing a nanny who will look after the children well. 

Childcare can also be offered by family and friends. Where children are looked after by a grandparent or other close relative, registration is not necessary unless the relative is also providing childcare for other children who are not related.

Activity and young people clubs are open before and after school and during school holidays. They offer a range of activities, opportunities to socialise with friends, or work on projects. They are usually not registered childcare as they often look after older children and not for more than two hours a day.

Babysitters look after children in your own home. Babysitters are not required to register with Ofsted so you will need to carry out your own quality checks to ensure that they are suitable to look after your children. They do not offer early education places. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has babysitting guidance

Childcare provision for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities

All childcare settings are able to support a child with special educational needs and/or disabilities, although some may have particular skills or expertise. It is important to give potential settings as much information as possible about your child from the start. This will help them to meet his / her needs more effectively, which may help them to settle better. 

Getting further help

If you have a child aged between 0 and 5 you can also visit a Cambridgeshire Child and Family Centre for help with finding childcare. Other local parents are likely to have a good idea of what is available in an area, but make sure you make your own enquiries into the quality and suitability of a setting. For providers registered with Ofsted, their inspection report will provide useful information on their quality. The Childcare Directory provides links to Ofsted report for registered providers.

Visiting childcare providers - support with visiting a childcare provider and asking questions about the care provided.

Childcare for school-aged children

Under the Child Care Act 2006, Cambridgeshire County Council has a duty to:

  • ensure sufficient and suitable childcare places are provided, including for children with special educational needs and/or disability, to enable parents to work or to undertake education or training which could lead to employment
  • secure free early years education provision for all 3 and 4 year olds, and 2 year olds who meet nationally set eligibility criteria, for 15 hours per week for 38 weeks of the year.