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Finding and choosing childcare

Finding and choosing childcare can seem scary. Here is some information and advice to help you find the right type of care for your child. 

Last reviewed February 2022

Types of childcare

Family or friends 

  • Can be free, flexible, convenient and already know your child
  • Not Ofsted registered or inspected. If you want help with your childcare costs through Working Tax Credit, the childcare provider must be registered with Ofsted.

Registered Childminders 

  • Look after children in their own home from 0-14 years (depending on their registration).
  • Usually offer childcare that covers the times you need.
  • Most offer out-of-school care to cover early mornings, evenings and some work weekends.
  • Childminders are self-employed and many offer funded early education places.
  • Registered with Ofsted and inspected regularly.

Day Nurseries'

  • Provide childcare for children from birth up to five years old.
  • Almost all provide funded early education places.
  • Some provide after school and holiday care for school aged children.
  • Registered with Ofsted and inspected regularly.

Nursery classes in schools 

  • Nursery classes attached to primary schools.
  • Offer morning or afternoon classes for 2 to 5 year olds (most children start school at 4 years old so will move on to a Reception Class).
  • They provide funded early education places.
  • Places are allocated to children on the basis of the school's admission criteria, parent’s need to contact the school directly to apply. 
  • Registered with Ofsted and are inspected regularly.

Note: Attending a school nursery does not guarantee your child will get into that school.

Pre-school Playgroups 

  • Pre-schools are run as private businesses or volunteer-run groups.
  • Accept children aged between 2 and 5 years old, and can offer a variety of sessions (part of the day or all day for example).
  • Provide funded early education places and some offer after school and holiday care.
  • Registered with Ofsted and are inspected regularly.


Other non-registered childcare:

Parent and Toddler Groups 

  • Voluntary run groups for 0-5 year olds.
  • Do not offer the funded early education places.
  • Not registered with Ofsted as parents must stay with their child.

Nannies and Babysitters 

  • Look after children in your own home.
  • Not required to register with Ofsted, quality checks must be carried out by parents.
  • Do not offer funded early education places.
How to find childcare

To find childcare providers in your area you can:

  1. Search online using the Family Service Directory, and follow these steps:
  • Type your postcode
  • Select the type of childcare needed
  • Press "search"

Once the page has loaded you can click on a provider’s record to reveal more details, including their Ofsted Grading (if applicable).

2. Contact the Suffolk Family Information Service

We can email or post you a list of childcare providers you can contact.

Whatever you decide is best for your circumstances remember these top tips:

  • Don’t choose the first one that seems okay.
  • Look at the childcare provider's website and social media sites to get an impression of their services.
  • Visit two or three, compare them with each other and with your list of what you need and want.
  • Trust your instincts; don't choose anyone that you don't feel completely confident about.
  • Your child's opinion counts for a lot, even young children can make their feelings felt.

If you are having problems finding chilcare then you can contact the Childcare Brokerage Service who will try and help you.


Read the latest Ofsted report of that provider, by either searching InfoLink or the Ofsted website. You may also want to ask for references - for example, you could ask them to put you in touch with a parent who uses their service -anyone who is confident about the quality of their service should be happy to provide this.

Questions and how to approach possible providers

Your aim is to find out if they can provide the sort of care that you want your child to have, and that it meets your needs. The key points are:

  • Tell the childcare provider that you received their number from the Suffolk Family Information Service.
  • Explain the details of the childcare you are looking for. Include any information that is relevant for example, I need evening childcare or finish work at unpredictable hours.
  • If you would like your child to take their funded early education place at the setting, ask them if they provide this.
  • Ask if they registered and inspected by Ofsted
  • What are their charges? They might charge per hour, per half-day, per day, per week, per month or even per term. You may need to convert this to a weekly charge to compare it with others.

  • What experience and qualifications do they/their staff have?

  • What sort of things will your child be doing while in their care?

  • Can they provide references?

  • Can they send you a prospectus (although, childminders and nannies will rarely have one).

  • Ask what spaces do they have available and if they have a suitable place. 
First impressions count

After checking that a provider can meet your needs, the most useful thing that you are doing is finding out as much as you can by talking with them, seeing what they are offering children and asking questions.

Good quality childcare providers will be happy for you to ask questions and to allow you to visit them, to see what they do. They will appear knowledgeable, confident and, above all, welcoming. After speaking to them consider the following:

  • Are they enthusiastic and will they offer a broad range of play and learning experiences?
  • Do you have confidence in their ability to care for and relate to your child?
  • Do you think that you and your child will get on well with them?
Once you have made your decision
  1. Get in touch with the childcare provider you have chosen, to book a place for your child.
  2. Make sure that you follow up any references.
  3. Give the provider any evidence they ask for to show you are eligible for a funded place (for example at ages 2, 3 and 4) if appropriate.
  4. Remember it is important to keep checking your child is happy with your childcare provider.

If, at any time, you have any concerns about your childcare provider then contact the Suffolk Family Information Service


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