As a parent or carer, you know what's best for your child.
The things you and your child do together at home are the most important step in giving them the best start in life.
Care from friends, grandparents and other relatives plays a vital role too.
Early education and childcare can also help your child to get the best start in life, so choosing the right kind of setting for your child is a big decision to make.
These pages are designed to help you make this choice - you can find information about what's on offer locally, help with childcare costs and other support services out there.
Before starting school, children and families can use a wide range of Early Years services across the county, including:
- Day Nurseries
There's a huge amount of choice in Rutland, all offering benefits to your child and reassurance and flexibility to you.
You can be confident that your child will be happy and safe, learning and developing through play.
All childcare settings registered with Ofsted deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage, where planned, purposeful play is a key way in which young children learn with enjoyment and challenge.
Through indoor and outdoor play, children learn, develop and keep healthy.
The Foundation Stage says that Early Years settings have to have arrangements in place to support children with special educational needs or disabilities.
If you think your child has a special educational need or disability, or are worried about their development, talk to your Early Years setting.
You can find out about services for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities in the Local Offer part of this site.
There are many different types of Early Learning and Childcare provisions.
There is no single type of childcare that best suits all families. Many families use a mixture of early learning and childcare from nurseries, childminders, playgroups, friends and relatives.
Grandparents often play an important role in helping childcare arrangements fit together - for example, by looking after children after nursery until their parents finish work.
In Rutland, we have the following types of childcare and early learning services availble for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities:
Nurseries and Pre-Schools: Opening hours vary; they may open mornings only or for a whole day. Providers must be registered with Ofsted if open for over two hours per session, and must be staffed by qualified leaders.
Childminders: Offer professional home-from-home childcare and early education. Childminders must register with Ofsted or a Childminding Agency.
Nannies: Employed to look after your child/children at your home. Nannies do not need to have formal childcare qualifications, but many do have nursery nurse or other relevant childcare qualifications. Nannies do not need to be registered or inspected by Ofsted unless they are looking after children from more than two families, so it is good to obtain references and check for DBS clearance before employment commences.
Before and After School Clubs: Some children need safe care before and after school hours, and also during school holidays. Out-of-school clubs are for children before or after school. They can be based on school sites (run by the school or other organisations), in community centres, church or village halls, nurseries, or pre-schools. Opening times vary. Some provide snacks, and others offer a cooked meal.
Parent and Toddler Groups: Offer opportunities for parents, carers and children to meet together, play and share experiences, and spend time in the company of others. Children are offered activities, and parents/carers may find these groups useful to meet other people in their local area. Groups usually last 1 - 2 hours during the week, although may not run during school holidays. They are often held in community centres or church halls and are frequently organised by parents or carers who attend the group. Toddler groups do not have to be registered, as parents/carers must stay with their children. There may be a small charge to join a group.
All Ofsted-registered provisions must follow the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage.
This framework states 'Providers must have arrangements in place to support children with SEN (Special Educational Needs) or disabilities... All providers who are funded by the local authority to deliver early education places must have regard to the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice'.
If you are worried that your child is not meeting their developmental milestones, speak with your childcare.
Providers offer flexible hours to access government funding for some two-year-olds, and all three- and four-year-olds.
You should expect that your childcare provider has checked that:
- anyone working with your child should have undergone security checks
- the equipment and facilities are suitable and safe for your child
- the environment is of a good equality e.g. having access to an outdoor space
Ask for their Ofsted Unique Registration Number (URN) and read their latest report.
If your childminder is registered with an agency, you can check out the agency report.
Finding good-quality childcare can be a difficult task for parents. There are lots of things to look out for and remember to ask when you visit a childcare setting. How do you know if your child will be happy? Will they cater for your child's needs? Do they provide feedback about how your child is doing? What if your child doesn't like it?
The Family and Childcare Trust have compiled five steps to choosing childcare.
Questions to ask:
- Are they registered with Ofsted?
- Are there places available now, or will there be places in the near future?
- Are there any age restrictions?
- Is it convenient for your home and work?
- Are the hours they offer and their costs suitable?
- What training and qualifications do the staff/childminder have?
- What is their attitude/approach to matters such as sleep, potty training, food, setting boundaries on behaviour, etc?
- Will there be a written contract covering hours, pay, illness, holidays etc?
Particularly for childminders:
- Are they registered with Ofsted or a Childminding Agency?
- How long have they been working with children, and how long to they intend to continue?
- How old are the other children in their care?
- If there are other adults in the home, how do they relate to children?
- Do they deliver to or collect from schools? If so, which schools?
Arrange a visit
You should make appointments to visit at least two of your chosen childcare settings. Try to do this at a time when the carer is looking after other children. The children should be happy and calm in a stimulating enviroment, and well supervised at all times.
Take your child with you so you can observe how the carers relate to him/her. Do they chat to him/her? Do they try to engage his/her interests? Do they have a settling-in policy? Take a list of questions with you in case you are side-tracked or distracted.
Time to choose
Once you have a shortlist, double-check that everything meets your requirements - suitability, availablity, cost, whether some/all of the hours will be "government funded" (free), etc. Try to speak to other parents who use the same provider and listen to their experiences and opinions. Don't be afraid to go for a second visit if you have any doubts.
Confirming your decision
Now is the time to double-check all the details of the arrangement: the hours, cost and conditions, how to secure your place until your child starts - do you need a deposit or retainer fee? - and how the settling-in period will work.
Get it in writing
You shoild use a contract or formal written agreement containing details of cost, hours and conditions, to ensure there is no room for misinterpretation or disagreement in the future. All providers should give you an agreement to sign, so read it carefully. This agreement needs to be reviewed in the Spring, Summer and Autumn terms.
All Early Years providers (including schools) must follow the Safeguarding and Welfare requirements of the EYFS Statutory Framework and follow guidance from the Leicestershire and Rutland Safeguarding Partnership Board.
The EYFS states ‘Children learn best when they are healthy, safe and secure, when their individual needs are met, and when they have positive relationships with the adults caring for them. Providers must take all necessary steps to keep children safe and well’.
If you have concerns about a child or your childcare provider, please contact Rutland County Council's Children's Social Care duty desk on 01572 758407.