Once you have made a shortlist of preferred providers, it is advisable that you visit them and ask questions about the care provided. You may visit several providers or return for more than one visit before you make your decision.

Sections in this guide (click title to view)

1. Before you visit providers

  • Always arrange a visit at a time when the children will be present and when things are in full swing
  • Go back for a second viewing and take your child with you to see how they get on with the other children and staff, and how they feel in the surroundings
  • Ask other people who have used the setting about their experience. The setting may be able to provide you with references or names of people who would be happy to speak to you
  • Aim to visit at least two or three settings to compare what is on offer.

2. Things to look out for

When you visit a childcare provider, you may want to check:

  • is the setting welcoming and friendly?
  • is there enough room for your child to be active indoors and out?
  • how is the setting arranged? Is there a quiet area and room for messy play etc.?
  • is it safe, clean and secure?
  • do you see staff listening, talking and interacting appropriately with the children and with each other?
  • do the staff welcome your questions?
  • are they enthusiastic about your child attending their setting?
  • do they appear to value your knowledge of your child?
  • how interested are the children in the activities and equipment available?

Children with additional needs

If your child has additional need and/or special educational needs, you should ask:

  • about staff qualifications
  • how they'll prepare for your child going to their new school or room
  • what plans they have for emergencies
  • how play activities will be adapted
  • how many children there are to each member of staff
  • who is supervising and how they’re doing it
  • how you'll get updates on what your child has done, enjoyed and learnt and how you'll raise concerns
  • if the equipment is varied, high quality and creative
  • how they promote positive behaviour
  • how you’ll find out about your child's day and what they enjoyed and learnt
  • what food they give the children for lunch and snacks
  • how they work with other professionals who might work with your child.

3. Questions you could ask

General

  • Do you offer free childcare and early education places for 2, 3 and 4 year olds including 30 hours?
  • What are your opening hours and holiday dates?
  • What happens if my child arrives late?
  • Do you accept same-day bookings? If so, is there a cut off time and additional charges?
  • How many children do you look after at any one time?
  • Can children move freely around the setting?
  • What is the adult to child ratio?
  • Can children choose their own activities?
  • How will you keep me informed about my child's progress?
  • What qualifications and experience do your staff have?
  • How will my child’s individual needs be met?
  • How does the key person system work in this setting?
  • What is your ethos and your aspiration for children that attend?
  • What can I do to support my child's development and learning?
  • How will you know about and respond to my child's interests?

Children with additional needs

  • Who is the special education needs coordinator (SENCO)?
  • Is it possible to meet the SENCO today?
  • How will I be able to meet or talk to the SENCO?
  • Could I have a copy of the special educational needs policy?
  • Are there other children with similar needs at the setting?
  • Is it possible to have extra staff to support my child?
  • Will staff be trained to meet my child’s needs?
  • Is the building accessible, with wheelchair access, wide doors, ramps and toilets?
  • How will my child’s diet be catered for?
  • How will my child be helped to settle in?
  • Will you ensure there is appropriate equipment to meet my child’s needs?

Costs

  • Do you require a deposit?
  • What are the hourly, sessional or daily rates?
  • What are the costs if my child is taken out of provision for a holiday?
  • How do I pay – cash, Direct Debit or cheque?
  • Do you accept childcare vouchers?
  • Do you take payment in advance and how often? Weekly, monthly, half-termly or termly?

Welfare

  • What happens if my child is ill or can’t attend?
  • What menus or meals are offered? Is there a choice?
  • Is water readily available? What about snacks?
  • What are the emergency procedures?
  • Do you have a settling in process for new children?
  • Is there a place for children to rest or be calm?

You can ask them what their policies are on:

  • health and safety
  • safeguarding including child protection
  • equalities including special educational needs and disabilities
  • complaints
  • behaviour management
  • administering medicines - Are staff happy to be shown how to give my child their medicine? Do they have the relevant insurance?
  • responding to specific health needs
  • risk assessments.