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Choosing a Childminder

What is a registered childminder?

Registered childminders are self-employed people who work in their own homes caring for other people’s children.

Childminders provide full or part time care, this might be day care, before/after school, and/or holiday care and overnight care (a childminder must have permission from Ofsted for overnight care).  Childminders are often prepared to take and collect your child from pre-school, nursery or school.


Plus points

  • can offer a flexible childcare service
  • your child will be in a home environment
  • using a childminder ensures a consistency of care because the childminder is the only carer.
  • if you have children of different ages, a childminder may be able to care for them all together.
  •  your child may be able to access free nursery education if the childminder is part of an accredited childminding network


Have a look at our Early Help Directory for a list of Ofsted registered childminders in Bedford Borough, or call us on 0800 023 2057.



Childminders have to be registered with the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) if they look after children under the age of eight for more than two hours a day.

A childminder is allowed to look after up to six children under eight years old including their own children. Of these only three can be aged under five and ususally only one may be under 12 months. If a childminder can demonstrate to parents and/or carers and Ofsted inspectors or their childminder agency that the individual needs of all the children are being met, exceptions to the usual ratios can be made when childminders are caring for sibling babies, or when caring for their own baby.

If children aged four and five only attend the childminding setting before and/or after a normal school day, and/or during school holidays, they may be cared for at the same time as three other young children. But in all circumstances, the total number of children under the age of eight being cared for must not exceed six. 

Every registered childminder has an Ofsted registration certificate which must be prominently displayed within their home.

The childminder and any other adults (16+) in their home are subject to a Disclosure and Barring Service check (formerly known as a CRB check).


Early Years Register

Registered childminders caring for children aged from birth to 31 August following their fifth birthday must register on the Early Years Register and deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage – a framework for the delivery of quality integrated care and education for children.


Childcare Register

Those caring for children older than five years and under eight must register on the compulsory part of the Childcare Register. Childminders caring for children aged eight and above may choose to register on the voluntary part of the Childcare Register.



Early Years Register

Ofsted inspect those childminders on the Early Years Register least once every three or four years.

Following their inspection, Ofsted will give them one of four grades:

Ofsted Grading Meaning
Outstanding The setting’s practice consistently reflects the highest aspirations for all children’s safety, well-being and learning. It enables them to make excellent progress in relation to their starting points and prepares them extremely well for school or the next stage in their learning.
Good The setting’s practice keeps children safe and enables all children to do well, make good progress relative to their starting points and prepares them well for school or the next stage of their learning. Children benefit from practice that is at least good and sometimes outstanding.
Requires Improvement The setting’s practice is not good enough because one or more key aspects of its work require improvement to be good. Children do not make good progress in their learning and development. Leadership and management demonstrate sufficient ability to identify and make required improvements.

Overall effectiveness is likely to be inadequate if any of the key judgements are inadequate; and/or

There are breaches of statutory requirements which have a significant impact on the safety and well-being, and/or the learning and development of children; and/or

It is a nursery or pre-school which has been judged as ‘requires improvement ‘at two consecutive inspections and is still not ‘good ‘at its third inspection.


Ofsted will also write a report which will tell you about the quality of the childcare service provided by the childminder - what they do well and what needs to be improved.  You can ask your childminder for a copy of their inspection report.

Alternatively you can view a childminder’s Ofsted report at http://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/ , you will need their Ofsted Unique Reference Number (URN) to view their report on the website.


Childcare Register

Ofsted inspect a random selection of all those on the Childcare Register to see if they comply with the requirements for registration.  After the inspection Ofsted will issue a letter.  If the provider does not meet all the requirements, Ofsted will tell them what needs to be put right.  Copies of these letters are also published on the Ofsted website.


When you visit

Try to take notes as you go along, for reference later.  You must be your own judge of what is best for you and your child, but the lists below may help guide you on points to look for and what to ask.


Things to consider and questions to ask

  • Visit the childminder with your child in their home.  Meet any other children who will be looked after at the same time as your child.
  • Discuss your views on such things as behaviour management, sleep, potty training and diet.  Are you in agreement?
  • Consider the accommodation – Is there space? Is it safe? Are there plenty of toys and books?
  • Ask to see the childminder’s Ofsted registration, public liability insurance and first aid certificates.
  • Find out what happens if the childminder is ill.
  • Does the childminder use a car? Are car restraints or seat belts used?   Are they compliant with current legislation?  Does the insurance cover business use?
  • Ask to see the areas where your child would play and rest and sleep
  • Can the childminder give you the name of another parent who will give you a reference? Always take up references.


General points to consider

  • All young children need a variety of learning experiences e.g. quiet times, noisy / messy play, creative and imaginative play, outdoor activities and physical play.
  • It is important that for most of the day children are able to move freely around activities and make choices. Are both boys and girls encouraged to take part in all activities?
  • Are different cultures positively represented in the toys, books and wall displays?
  • Look at what happens between the childminder and children within their care. They need to be involved together in activities and enjoy each others company.
  • Make sure that the provision meets any special needs your child may have and that it takes into account your child’s age and cultural background.
  • Will the childminder set aside time to talk to you about your child? Are you able to see any records kept about your child?
  • You should sign an agreement with the carer of your child but be certain you are happy with its contents.
  • It is a good idea to use the provision for a trial period before making permanent arrangements.


You may find it helpful to visit more than one childminder.  When you feel happy with everything then go ahead


Do you have a child with a disability or additional need?

Bedford Borough Council is committed to ensuring that all childcare and early years settings in Bedford Borough provide a service that includes all children.  We believe that every child has a right to a safe, stimulating and inclusive environment to enable them to reach their full potential.


If you feel that your child would benefit from more specialist childcare then please call the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) on 01234 269512.  PACEY manages the 'Community Childminding Scheme', on behalf of Bedford Borough Council.  The co-ordinator for the scheme helps to find a suitably trained registered childminder to care for a child that has a disability or an additional.  The childminder will offer a flexible package to meet your childcare needs, whether this is providing full day care or arranging shorter periods of care according to the needs of both you and your child.


Fees and Conditions

Childminders usually charge by the hour and set their own fees which vary.   However, the average rate per hour for a childminder is in the region on £4 - £4.50.  You will need to ask about the following and whether they are included in the fees: meals, nappies, outings, also about holiday and sickness retainers.

You may be entitled to some help with your childcare costs, please call the Family Infomation Service on 0800 023 2057 for more information. 



You should use a written agreement or contract, even for a short-term arrangement. This provides a safeguard both for you and your childminder. When completing the contract, take time to discuss other issues as well, such as pets, potty training or discipline. You may have strong views on some matters that you'd like the childminder to take on board, and the childminder may also want to discuss with you aspects of their particular approach.

Take time to talk about any issue that is important to you before starting the arrangement.  This can help to prevent problems later.

If you need further information on drawing up a contract please contact PACEY on 01234 269512 for advice.


Settling in your child

Once you have made your decision, settling in will be easier for both you and your child if it is done gradually.  Ask the childminder about their settling in policy.   

The childminder will have a lot of experience in settling children.  Some children can be upset at first - this is only natural - but with gentle reassurance this phase will pass.

Many childminders have a trial period for new children. After this time you can assess whether your child is happy and make further plans as necessary.


What to do if you are not happy with your childcare

If you are not happy with the care that your child is receiving and have spoken with your childminder but are still not satisfied with the outcome, then you can phone the Ofsted Compliants and Enforcement Line on 0300 123 4666.

Ofsted will investigate any complaints about providers and take enforcement action if providers do not meet the required standards set.

Find out more

For a list of registered childminders in your area or further information please contact Bedford Borough Family Information Service on the number below.  Alternatively, you can search online for childminders on our Early Help Directory

Freephone 0800 023 2057

Lines open: Mon - Thurs 8am – 5.15pm, and Fri 8am – 4.45pm. 24 hours answerphone service.

If you would like to speak to someone face to face please call on the above number to arrange an appointment.


Email: fis@bedford.gov.uk

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