The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) is the government body that regulates childcare to ensure that children get quality care in a safe environment. Ofsted registers and inspects providers who provide early education or childcare for children aged from birth up to their eighteenth birthday. There are minimum standards for childcare that are set by Ofsted, which no registered provider may fall below.
Ofsted holds two types of register: the Early Years Register and the Childcare Register.
The Early Years Register
Childcare providers must join this register and deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) if they care for children from birth until the 31st August following their fifth birthday.
All Early Years providers are inspected and a subsequent inspection report is produced. The Early Years Register inspection report tells parents and carers all about the quality of the provision and so helps them decide if they want the provider to look after their child. The report includes: a description of the provider; the overall quality and standards of the early years provision; how well the provider meets the needs of the children that focuses on ensuring they make the best possible progress; among other factors. Each report also has an overall grade given to the provider. There are four category grades that can be given to a provider, these are: grade 1 (outstanding); grade 2 (good); grade 3 (Requires Improvement); grade 4 (inadequate).
The Childcare Register has two parts: Compulsory part and Voluntary part
Childcare providers must join this register if they care for children who are older than those on the Early Years Register, but are under eight.
Providers who work with children from birth to eight years old, must join both the Early Years Register and the Childcare Register.
Some types of childcare provider do not have to register, but may choose to do so. This includes people who provide care in the child’s own home, crèches and care for children aged eight and over. Activity groups that your child goes to can also register, ask your provider if they are registered or intend to do so.
For childcare providers who are only on the Childcare Register, Ofsted looks at evidence that the provider is complying with the requirements of registration. Ofsted does not make any judgements about the quality of the provision or give grades. The Ofsted report is in letter format explaining whether or not the provider is meeting the registration requirements. The outcome of the inspection will be: met; not met – actions; not met – enforcement action. When the provider does not meet the requirements, the letter will explain what the provider must do to remain registered.
You can view registration certificates and reports by asking the childcare provider to show you a copy. You can also view inspection reports online on the Ofsted website Ofsted Reports Webpage . To view registered childminders’ reports online, you will need their unique reference number (URN), which you can get from the Families Information Service.
In order for you to claim most types of financial help towards the cost of childcare, the provider must be registered with Ofsted.
Useful addresses and contacts
Ofsted National Business Unit
Helpline: 0300 123 1231