University and private childcare provision
Nurseries provide childcare throughout the year, and are open during working hours, which can be any time from 7:30am until 6:00pm.
It is advisable to apply for a nursery place as early as possible; in many cases parents do so before the child is born - you can apply once you know your 'due date'. A deposit may be payable on application. You may wish to apply for places at a few different nurseries as there is often a waiting list for places at popular nurseries. The availability of places may depend on your child's age and on your working patterns. If you plan to return to work part-time, it is worth talking to your preferred nursery to find out what options they offer.
Nursery costs in the UK are relatively high compared to other countries. However, there are various financial support mechanisms in place (see the ‘Childcare costs and sources of funding' below).
Childminders care for your child in their own home. Most are self-employed and can often offer more flexible hours than a nursery. A childminder might be a good option if you prefer your child to be cared for in a less formal environment.
Childminders must be registered and inspected by Ofsted (check their registration number and most recent inspection report). There are rules limiting the number and age of children they can care for. It is a good idea to visit several childminders before you make your final choice, and you might like to consider whether the childminder offers pick-ups for your local pre-school or nursery.
Pre-schools or playgroups provide play, childcare and early years educational sessions for children aged two to four years. They tend to be based on school sites or in Community Centres, and most are only open during term-time. Most pre-schools offer morning or afternoon sessions only. Fees will vary, but most will accept childcare vouchers.
You can employ a nanny, au pair or a babysitter to provide childcare in your own home. If you have a disabled child you may wish to consider a ‘home childcarer’. Nannies and au pairs are not required to register with Ofsted, so you might wish to consider how to check their background and take up references before offering a position.