Most childcare providers looking after children under the age of 8 must register with Ofsted. Childminders can choose to register with a childminder agency instead.
However, there are a number of exceptions to this.
There are some situations when you do not have to register with Ofsted, and some when you cannot register (for example, if you are related to all the children you want to look after).
The 2-hour rule
You cannot register if you look after each child for under 2 hours a day – even if your setting is open for longer than 2 hours.
The only exception to this is if you provide before- or after-school care for less than 2 hours a day in total. In this case you can, if you wish, register on the voluntary part of the Childcare Register.
You cannot register if you:
You cannot apply if you’re disqualified, for example if:
- you’re barred from working with children
- we have refused or cancelled your registration in the past (unless we did this because your fees weren’t paid)
- you live with someone who is disqualified and you want to be a childminder
If you’re disqualified, it’s an offence to provide childcare or be involved in managing any childcare provision. It is also an offence to employ a disqualified person.
However, you can apply to Ofsted to waive your disqualification in some circumstances.
When you do not have to register
You can choose to register with us in the following situations, even if you do not have to. If you choose to, you should apply to join the voluntary part of the Childcare Register.
Looking after children at home
This is also known as childminding or looking after children ‘on domestic premises’. This can be your home or someone else’s home. You do not have to register if you:
- are a nanny, looking after children in their own home
- are only looking after children over the age of 8 in someone’s home
- do not receive any money, vouchers, goods or services in return for childcare
- are a babysitter, looking after children at home between 6pm and 2am
- look after a friend’s children for less than 3 hours a day for some payment
- are providing home education to a child of school age who is educated outside school full-time
Tutoring, coaching and clubs
You do not have to register if you provide tutoring or coaching in either one or two of the following activities to children aged 3 and over:
- school study support or homework support
- performing arts
- arts and crafts
- religious, cultural or language studies
However, you cannot look after children under 5 for more than 4 hours in any one day.
The activity needs to be the main focus of what you offer, such as drama club, choir practice, netball or swimming. This should be specific tuition or coaching to help children improve their skills, rather than offering childcare for working parents. We do not necessarily expect everyone working with children to be a specialist coach, but they should have particular skills in those areas to help children improve.
Creches and other daycare
You do not have to register if you:
- look after children under 8 from one place for 14 days or less in any year
- let Ofsted know in writing at least 14 days before starting the service
If you offer care in an open space or other area with no building (for example as a forest school), you still have to register with Ofsted unless you meet any of our other exemption criteria.
Creches do not have to register if all the following apply:
- they look after children under 8 for 4 hours or less each day
- the children’s parents plan to stay in the immediate area (close by where they can be summoned immediately)
- there is no long-term commitment to provide childcare
- this is offered to parents or carers as a short-term convenience, for instance while they are shopping
If you offer a crèche where parents can leave their children while they work or take part in training, this is not exempt. This is because it counts as a long-term commitment to provide childcare.
Open access childcare
An open access scheme lets children arrive and leave the setting by themselves – for example some council-run holiday clubs. You cannot offer open access childcare to children under 5.