For provision for children under eight

This is the legal framework which sets quality standards in most private and voluntary sector childrens services. It aims to make sure that childrens interests come first.

The Children Act provides for local authorities to operate a registration and inspection system for the following services:

  • day nurseries
  • playgroups
  • private nursery schools
  • after school clubs and holiday playschemes
  • childminders
  • creches open for 6 days or more per year

Registration and inspection

The Children Act gives local authorities a duty to register and inspect the childcare services listed above. This means

  • people running daycare services for children up to eight years old must register with their local authority. This includes childminders and nannies working for more than two families.
  • every year inspections must be carried out to ensure the childcare continues to be safe and suitable
  • local authorities must ensure people running childcare services are suitable to do so. Checks cover the person applying to run a childcare service, childminders and members of childminders families who will be in contact with the children
  • people running childcare services must make sure the premises are safe and appropriate for children
  • people running childcare services must plan childrens activities to help them enjoy learning and playing
  • local authorities are responsible for setting staff:child ratios based on Children Act guidelines issues by the Department for Education and Employment
  • parents can request to see inspection reports on childcare services


Education Acts

Government funded early or Pre-School education services

A series of Education Acts apply to state nursery schools, state nursery classes and maintained schools. They cover

  • what children are taught
  • inspection regimes
  • staff training and qualifications

Each local authority has its own quality assurance arrangements for nurseries and they are also subject to inspection carried out by OFSTED.


What about private schools?

Independent schools with nursery classes are registered with the Department for Education and Employment. An independent school is any private school with at least five pupils of compulsory school age. There are no regulations covering staff ratios in independent schools.

A sample is inspected each year by the relevant HMI (Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools).


Education law for three and four year olds

Some early education and childcare services offer free part-time early or pre-school education to four year olds and three year olds. This is paid for by the Government.

All services which provide free part-time early or pre-school education services for three year olds or four year olds are checked by inspectors for OFSTED.

Nursery inspectors inspect services that provide Government funded free part-time places. Then regular inspections are carried out to ensure the quality of the education being provided "Choosing early education for your three and four year old", "Choosing a nursery class or a nursery school" or "Choosing a Pre-school (playgroup)".

The early learning goals are organised into groups including:

  • personal, social and emotional development
  • language and literacy
  • mathematics
  • knowledge and understanding of the world
  • physical development
  • creative development


Types of childcare that are not registered and inspected

The following types of childcare are not registered or inspected:

  • nannies (working for no more than two families)
  • au pairs (in the family home). Au pairs are regulated by the Home Office but the work they do is not registered or inspected
  • services which cater only for children aged eight or over. A new accreditation system started to operate for childcare for children over eight in April 2000.

How do I check whether services are registered?

You can ask to see their registration certificate. You can also request to read a copy of their latest Inspection Report. Your local Childrens Information Service will help if you need to know more about registration and inspection of services.

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