In this section you can find information on accessing childcare settings. Please read our advice pages below, under Useful Information, relating to specific childcare settings. You can find more information by browsing the leaflets in the links under Related Files on the right of the page.

Childcare can offer many positive benefits for your entire family, and comes in many different forms. Not all childcare needs to be registered with Ofsted; please read the guidance included in the link 'When Ofsted Registration is not Required' for further information.

Childcare Brokerage

The Family Information Service offers a brokerage service designed to support parents, carers, and professionals working with families to source childcare when they are unable to find suitable childcare to meet their requirements. 

We are able to provide information about the range of options available which may enable parents and carers to return to work, education or training and is delivered by staff who hold an NVQ Level 4 qualification in Information, Advice and Guidance. 

The service is a requirement of the Childcare Act 2006, which stipulates that local authorities should provide an enhanced information service to local families who may benefit from a little extra help. 

When Ofsted Registration Is Not Required

Registration exemptions

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
  • sports
  • 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 improve2.

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 area3 (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.

Ofsted videos around inspections

Ofsted have uploaded four short films about the early years, these are available to access from the links below. In the first video, Wendy Ratcliff HMI debunks common myths about what inspectors want to see in early years settings. Martin Williams (Principal Officer, Operations) and (Penny Fisher, Early Years Senior HMI) offer an insight into what happens when a parent expresses concern about the care provided by a setting.

Gill Jones (Deputy Director, Early Education) and Emma Exton, (Deputy Director, Operations) discuss each stage of the Ofsted registration process, from initial DBS checks to final inspection. In the last video, Dee Coleman, (Principal Officer, Early Years) and (Julie-Ann Morris, Senior Manager, Early Years) explain what registered early years providers need to tell Ofsted about.

  1. Video 1: What happens on an early years inspection?
  2. Video 2: What happens if someone complains about me?
  3. Video 3: How do I register as an early years provider?
  4. Video 4: What do I need to tell you?
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