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.
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.
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
- The children are cared for in your own home
- You 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 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:
- Pass the required criminal record (DBS) and health checks
- Complete the mandated childminder training courses
- Apply to Ofsted’s Early Years or Childcare register (or both)
- Get ready for your home visit
- Complete the legal paperwork
- 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) need 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 and safe sleep 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.
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 you won’t receive a rating before your first inspection.
Preparing for your initial registration visit can also be difficult. During the registration visit 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 will 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.
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.
But once you start working as an Ofsted-registered childminder, there’s no official ongoing 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.
Applying to Ofsted to become a childminder
The time taken to become a fully-registered childminder varies; if you apply direct to Ofsted to become a childminder, it’s usually around 12 weeks. Registering with a childminder agency can get you registered and working in as little as 8 weeks.