If you’re new to the world of childcare and childminding, you might not have heard of Ofsted. Or, you may have come across the term but aren’t quite sure what it means. If you want to become a childminder or work in childcare, it’s important to know what Ofsted is. Then you can decide if you want to register as a childminder with Ofsted directly or with an accredited agency.

What does Ofsted stand for?

Ofsted stands for the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.

What is Ofsted?

Ofsted is a non-ministerial government department. They oversee and inspect services that provide education for learners of all ages. They also regulate services that provide care for children – including childminders.

Ofsted’s purpose is to make sure that any education, training or care service in England performs to a high standard. They carry out inspections and visits and report directly – and impartially – to Parliament. Their reports are also shared with the public online.

A childminder shows a book to a boy she is looking after
Ofsted oversee and regulate childcare and education services

What is an Ofsted registered childminding agency?

Ofsted-registered childminder agencies have the statutory power to carry out inspections and manage childminders to the required legal standards – on behalf of Ofsted. As of 2021, there are 11 registered agencies listed on the Ofsted site. Koru Kids is one of these Ofsted-registered agencies.

Ofsted regulates childminder agencies in a similar way to individual childminders. This involves:

  • Registering agencies
  • Inspecting registered agencies
  • Checking that childminder agencies meet the legal requirements
  • Enforcing action if the registration requirements are not met

This ensures that childminder agencies meet and continue to meet the legal requirements for registration. It also means both childminders and parents can check how well an agency is performing, and have confidence that registration and inspection from an agency is to the same standard as Ofsted itself. 

Do I have to register to be a childminder?

If you look after children, you must register as a childminder with Ofsted OR an accredited agency if all of the following apply:

  • The children you look after are under 8 years old
  • You look after them for more than 2 hours a day
  • You look after them in your own home
  • You’ll get paid to look after them

There are different rules if you want to provide childcare outside your home – in that instance you are a nanny, tutor or a babysitter and you don’t need to be Ofsted-registered. You don’t need to register if you provide childcare for a family friend in your own home, as long as it is for less than three hours a day.

Six steps to becoming an Ofsted-registered childminder:

If you want to register as a childminder with Ofsted, you must:

  1. Pass the required criminal record (DBS) and health checks
  2. Complete the mandated childminder training courses
  3. Apply to Ofsted’s Early Years or Childcare register (or both)
  4. Get ready for your home visit
  5. Complete the legal paperwork
  6. Start childminding

Keep in mind, this process can take several months.

1. Criminal record and health checks for childminders

You (and anyone else living or spending time in your home) needs an enhanced criminal record check (DBS). This includes household members over the age of 16. You can apply for a DBS check using the Ofsted DBS Application Portal. The DBS check will cost you £48.10, per person.

If you are applying to the Early Years Register you also need to submit a Health Declaration form. You’ll need to fill out and print a form and take it to your GP to sign. Your GP will probably charge you for this – anything from £20 up to approximately £90.

2. Childminder training courses

There are a number of childminder courses required for you to register. These are:

  • Paediatric first aid course to cover the age groups you look after (cost approx £200)
  • Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) training
  • Safeguarding training
  • Additional childminder courses such as food hygiene may be provided as part of the initial pre-registration training – Ofsted suggests contacting your local council for this.

The choices for all these range wildly in terms of price and content.

The childminder training at Koru Kids goes above and beyond this to make you a confident, skilled and outstanding Early Educator from day 1. You can read our guide to childminder training here.

3. Applying to the Ofsted register

There are 2 Ofsted registers – the Early Years Register and the Childcare Register.

Deciding which register to join depends on if you’re registering as a childminder or a nanny, and the age of the children you’ll be looking after.

  • Early Years Register – If you plan to care for children up to the age of 5, you must join the Early Years Register and Ofsted must visit you to complete your registration. Nannies can’t join the Early Years Register.
  • Childcare Register – If you plan to care for older children you must join the Childcare Register, which has 2 parts. The Compulsory Childcare Register is for childminders looking after children between 5-8 years. The Voluntary Childcare Register covers childminders caring for children over 8 years old. Nannies can also join.
  • Both registers – If you plan to care for children of all different ages, you can register as a childminder on both. Join the Early Years Register and then choose to be added to the Childcare Register – it doesn’t cost extra.

The cost to join the Early Years Register (or both) is £35. The cost to join the Childcare Register only is £103.

4. Getting ready for your Ofsted home inspection

Waiting for an Ofsted inspection is a lengthy process. Ofsted states that they will inspect you within the first 30 months of registering as a childminder or nanny – that could be over two years! Waiting for this step can be frustrating, particularly because your opening date depends on securing your registration.

Preparing for your registration visit can also be difficult. During the inspection Ofsted will check to make sure you have a safe, suitable home environment (and that you’ve risk assessed it), and that you have a good knowledge of the EYFS framework. Unfortunately, you have no idea how you’ve done until you receive the results. If you don’t meet Ofsted’s requirements, they’ll tell you what to improve, and when you must improve it by.

Ongoing Ofsted inspections should happen at least once every 6 years, but they may also inspect you if someone reports concerns about your childcare.

Registering with Koru Kids means you don’t need to wait months for a stressful Ofsted inspection. You can read more about our friendly visits and pre-registration support here.

5. Completing the legal paperwork

When you pass your Ofsted inspection, you’re almost ready to start childminding. But before you swing open your doors, you still need to cover your legal responsibilities.

  • Taxes – As a self-employed person running your own business you must register with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and pay the correct Income Tax and National Insurance. It is your legal responsibility to keep accurate financial records.
  • Insurance – Before you start childminding you have to get Public Liability Insurance, which you need to maintain even if you are not currently caring for any children. And, if you’re offering funded places, your local authority might stipulate a cover amount. You also need to check if your home and content insurance is appropriate (and your car insurance if you’re planning to drive the kids around anywhere).
  • Information handling – if you’ll be recording personal information electronically, you must register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and follow the Data Protection Act 2018 and the GDPR.
  • Other – there are lots of other considerations such as setting up a pension; organising a payment system for parents; marketing your services (to find families); and so on. Remember, being a childminder is the same as running any other business; it takes a lot of work!

6. Time to start childminding

When you’ve got your registration certificate and you’ve completed everything above, you’re finally ready to start caring for kids.

However, once you start working as an Ofsted-registered childminder, there’s no government support or training to help you manage your business along the way. That’s another reason why working with a childminder agency is so appealing.

A child colours using crayons at the childminder's home
Caring for children can be a truly rewarding career

The benefits of working with a childminder agency

An accredited childminder agency is there to make your life easier. Ofsted can be difficult to deal with and childminders are often subject to lengthy delays when trying to communicate with them. Waiting for inspections can be stressful, particularly because they can happen without notice. Childminder agencies have the same high standards as Ofsted do, but more capacity to carry out home visits. At Koru Kids, it will be one of our friendly team members who visits you every year. We also design our childminder training to the specifications you need to achieve a Good or Outstanding rating at your visit. We train you to be the best possible childminder you can be.

Additional benefits of working with an agency like Koru Kids are:

  • No need to organise your own payroll system or chase payments because we take care of it for you.
  • We also manage things like tax, pensions, and insurance.
  • We help you fill your family spaces and keep them filled – so there’s no need to spend money on local marketing to find families.
  • We’ll ensure your training is always up to date with requirements.
  • We’re at the end of the phone whenever you need us, no matter how silly your question feels.
Children playing in a colourful ball pit
Registered childminders spend every day working with children

So, should I register with Ofsted or an agency?

Only you can decide what’s best for your childminding business. However, here’s a summary of the difference between the Ofsted and (Koru Kids) agency process:

Ofsted

Application – you don’t know if you’re on the right track until your inspection, months down the line.

Time Frame – can take months, while you’re left in limbo not knowing a date.

Support – confusing online information and minimal phone support.

Costs – you pay for everything, including training.

Training – you source it yourself.

Home visit – Ofsted’s inspection criteria is often inconsistent, and visits are nerve-wracking.

Rating – Ofsted will award a Good, Outstanding or Needs Improvement rating based on your inspection.

Koru Kids (Agency)

Application – we have high standards but we will give you lots of feedback along the way.

Time Frame – setup in as little as 8 weeks.

Support – lots of support and we’re at the end of the phone whenever you need us.

Costs – we cover all your training and offer a £500 interest free loan for home setup.

Training – we provide it all.

Home visit – one of our really friendly assessors will visit, and will always be clear about their expectations.

Rating – you’ll be fully supported to achieve a Good or Outstanding rating. 

Ultimately, registering with a childminding agency can make the entire process much easier. And, once you’re up and running, you’ll have lots of support to make your business a success. 

How can I find out more about becoming a childminder?

We’ve got a super detailed guide on becoming a childminder here. Or, if you’re ready to take the leap into a (really rewarding) childminding career with Koru Kids, you can apply here.

Interested in becoming a childminder with Koru Kids?