Detailed guide: Carrying out Childcare Register inspections


December 2
00:00 2020


Inspectors should check at inspection that a provider complies with:

  • the requirements of either or both parts of the Childcare Register
  • any conditions we have placed on the registration

The Childcare Register

The Childcare Act 2006 introduced 2 registers for those providing childcare:

  • the Early Years Register
  • the Childcare Register

Ofsted is responsible for maintaining these registers and regulating all those that are on them.

There are 4 types of childcare for which applicants can apply for registration:

  • childminders
  • home childcarers
  • childcare on domestic premises
  • childcare on non-domestic premises

Some childcare providers are exempt from compulsory registration. You can find out more about registration exemptions in our guidance.

The types of registration that the Childcare Register is for

Compulsory registration: because they care for children aged from 1 September following the childs fifth birthday up to the age of 8 and at least 1 individual child attends for a total of more than 2 hours in any 1 day, or for a period of fewer than 2 hours when this includes care attached to a normal school day for schools to deliver extended services.

Voluntary registration: because they care for children for 2 or more hours in any 1 day, for whom compulsory registration is not required, or for a period of fewer than 2 hours when this includes care attached to a normal school day. This includes:

  • home childcarers such as nannies (who care for the children of no more than 2 families at any one time, at the home of 1 of the children) caring for children from birth until their 18th birthday
  • providers that care for children aged 8 or over, until their 18th birthday
  • activity-based provision like sports coaching

Information for parents using providers on the Childcare Register

Providers registered on the Childcare Register must show parents who use their services that they:

  • meet certain requirements relating to people, premises and provision designed to safeguard children
  • are monitored through inspections we carry out on a sample basis or when parents tell us they have concerns about the care

Parents who use registered childcarers may be eligible to claim the childcare element of working tax credits.

Childcare Register requirements

The ongoing requirements for the Childcare Register are set out in the Childcare (General Childcare Register) Regulations 2008 [2008 No. 975], as amended. Inspectors should use the guidance on registration requirements.

Main features of Childcare Register inspections

The purpose of Childcare Register inspections is to check that the provider is complying with the requirements of registration and the ongoing requirements. In practice, Ofsted does not differentiate between these.

The inspection visit should normally take no more than 2 to 3 hours, including oral feedback. We expect inspections of individuals, such as childminders and home childcarers, to take less time than this.

There is no report for these inspections. Instead, we send providers a letter to let them know whether or not they are meeting requirements.

Inspection of provision registered only on the Childcare Register (either or both parts) is a compliance inspection. It is not to make judgements about the quality of the provision but to make sure that the provider is complying with the requirements of the register.

The outcome of the inspection will be:

  • met
  • not met actions
  • not met enforcement action

If a provider is not complying with the requirements of the register, we can take steps to ensure that it complies by either:

  • issuing a notice to improve
  • taking enforcement measures

What we do depends on the severity of the infringement and the risks to children.

Those registered only on the voluntary part of the Childcare Register can continue to operate even if we cancel their registration.

Preparing for the inspection


Ofsteds agreement with the government is to inspect 1 in 10 providers on the Childcare Register each year.

We select which providers to inspect on a proportionate and risk basis.

We schedule an inspection of a provider on the Childcare Register either:

  • when we receive information that relates to possible non-compliance with the requirements of the register or conditions of registration
  • when providers are selected as part of a structured sample to make up the agreed proportion of 10% per year

We inspect all providers that we receive information about that suggests non-compliance with the requirements of the Childcare Register. We also inspect a sample of others on the register, up to a total of 10%, taking into account:

  • the time a provider has been registered we do not inspect any provider until it has been registered for at least 3 months unless we receive information relating to possible non-compliance
  • the national spread of registered providers
  • the type of provider
  • that only one inspection in any 12-month period should take place, unless Ofsted receives information
  • any previous non-compliance and the follow-up action required
  • whether there is a change of manager

Senior managers may consider carrying out a further inspection when, at the previous inspection:

  • the inspector sets actions that relate to safeguarding
  • the inspector sets actions that relate to the safety or security of the premises
  • the provider does not respond appropriately to the actions

When making the decision whether to recommend a re-inspection, the senior manager must consider the response and evidence received from the provider, including whether the provider responded within the timescale set.

Information may be supplied to Ofsteds Applications, Regulatory and Contact team (ARC) by telephone or in writing.

Unless it is clear that the information does not relate to the requirements for registration for example, concerns raised about contractual issues ARC will carry out a risk assessment of the information and decide on the appropriate course of action. This will usually be to schedule an inspection but may also be to contact the relevant Ofsted region in relation to any compliance action.

Contacting the provider

For inspections of childcare on non-domestic premises and childcare on domestic premises, inspectors must carry out an unannounced inspection.

For all other inspections (childminders, home childcarers and settings that do not meet regularly), providers will receive no more than 5 days notice. Inspectors should telephone these providers shortly before the inspection to check that they are operating on the day they plan to visit.

During the telephone call, inspectors should confirm with the provider:

  • the purpose and format of the inspection
  • in the case of home childcarers, the address where the inspection will take place
  • in the case of home childcarers, an explanation of the consent needed to enter the premises
  • that they have the required records and statements ready for you to see
  • that they understand the possible outcomes of the inspection and the outcome will be given to them in feedback at end of the inspection
  • that the outcome of the inspection will be in a letter sent to them after the inspection, and Ofsted will publish the letter on its website, where it will remain for 12 months

Consent for a home childcarer visit

Ofsted cannot carry out an inspection of a home childcarer at the premises in which they provide care if we do not have permission from the home owner.

When telephoning to arrange a home childcarers inspection, the inspector must explain that Ofsted will send a consent letter for the home childcarer to give to the parent of the child(ren), in whose house the home childcarer works.

This person must sign the consent letter before the inspector can enter the premises to carry out the inspection.

We must send this consent letter to the home childcarer as soon as the telephone call is made. If the home childcarer is not able to give the inspector this consent when they arrive, the inspection cannot take place at those premises.

If the home childcarer indicates that the parent will not give permission, the

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