Deciding to become a childminder is an exciting decision. But before you can get started, there are some legal hoops to jump through.
The first is choosing between Ofsted registration or Childminder Agency (CMA) registration. As you might expect, there are pros and cons to each option. In this article, we’ll go over what each pathway entails so you can decide which is right for you.
The advice below applies to prospective childminders in England. You can find out where to register as a childminder in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland here:
- Register as a childminder in Scotland
- Register as a childminder in Wales
- Register as a childminder in Northern Ireland
Table of contents
- What is Ofsted Registration and is it required to become a childminder?
- What do you need to become a childminder (and how long does it take)?
- Can you register for Ofsted through a Childminder Agency?
- What happens after the application is complete?
- Wrapping up
What is Ofsted Registration and is it required to become a childminder?
While you don’t need a degree to become a childminder, you do need to go through a registration process.
If you want to look after children under the age of eight in your own home for more than two hours a day, then you must either register with Ofsted or with an Ofsted-registered CMA.
You do not need to register with Ofsted or an agency if:
- You only want to look after children over the age of eight
- You look after children for less than two hours per day
- You won’t be looking after them in your own home (for example, if you’re nannying in the children’s homes – more on that below)
- You won’t be taking any kind of reward (such as payment or trade of services)
What exactly is Ofsted registration?
Ofsted is the regulatory body that ensures the safety and quality of care services for children in England. They do this by carrying out inspections in the education and care systems (including childminding services) and publicly reporting their findings.
Ofsted’s primary responsibility is to hold organisations that provide care services and education to the highest standards. Consequently, all childminders are obligated to be Ofsted approved, either by directly registering with Ofsted or with a Childminding Agency.
We’ll go into the details of each pathway in a moment. First, let’s tackle a frequently asked question.
Childminders vs. nannies: What’s the difference?
To set the record straight, childminders are not nannies and nannies are not childminders.
The primary difference is that a childminder is essentially an early childhood educator. They are held to the rigorous standards of childcare provision in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework to provide high-quality education.
Moreover, they leverage the power of play to help children meet Early Learning Goals.
A childminder will plan activities to build towards these goals using play. For example, a childminder might read a story and then invite the children to build the characters with playdough to encourage their gross motor development.
This is hugely valuable, as research shows that play and play training helps enhance divergent thinking, verbal intelligence, problem-solving, and many other cognitive functions in children. Active play also promotes physical activity, which helps children build motor skills and advance muscular development; factors that contribute to the development of skills like writing, for example.
A nanny, on the other hand, typically provides childcare in the children’s home, so they don’t always need to be Ofsted registered. Although Ofsted-registered nannies do exist, registration isn’t obligatory.
Nannies generally become embedded into your family unit. They often care for children like a parent would, as they help to feed them, clean up after them, transport them to and from activities, and of course, play with them. While many are qualified in childcare, there is less of an emphasis on high-quality, framework-specific early education.
Is a childminder the same as a nursery?
Nurseries are non-home-based settings. This means that, unlike nannies and childminders, children are cared for in a physical environment that is neither your home nor somebody else’s home.
Nurseries also tend to only look after younger children aged six weeks to five years old. Because they are staffed with several people, have bigger spaces, and have more children to look after, they are typically more expensive than childminders or nannies.
If you wish to work for a nursery or other daycare organisation, you will need to be Ofsted registered and follow the same EYFS framework.
To learn more about this process, visit the GOV.UK nurseries and other daycare (childcare on non-domestic premises): registration page.
The types of Ofsted childminder registrations
If you’re planning to register directly with Ofsted, you’ll want to make sure you apply to the correct category. The register you apply to depends on the ages of the children in your care.
The two main categories are:
- Early years register. This is for childminders caring for children below five (i.e. until the children reach the end of Reception in school).
- Childcare register. This is for childminders caring for children between the ages of five and eight. There is also a voluntary part of the Childcare register that covers after-school care for children over eight.
Note: Many prospective childminders register for both. If you plan to look after children in both age brackets, you’re able to apply to both registers.
If you choose to register through a CMA, like tiney, they often handle this process for you.
Who cannot register?
According to UK government regulations, there are restrictions on who can and cannot register as an Ofsted childminder. You may not register with Ofsted if any of the following apply:
- You’re under 18
- You’re not legally able to work in the UK
- You are a relative of all of the children you look after
- You have been previously disqualified
- You have previously been denied registration (unless it was because of a missed annual fee payment)
- You are childminding in a home where a disqualified person works or lives
- You are barred from working with children
Your application will be disqualified by Ofsted if you meet any of the above criteria.
What do you need to become a childminder (and how long does it take)?
The registration process for those who meet the criteria is thorough. It includes pre-acceptance Ofsted inspections, a check of your EYFS understanding, and a risk assessment, among other things.
For pre-acceptance, some documents may take some time to obtain. Therefore, it’s advisable to begin collecting them as early as possible in order to properly show your eligibility and readiness to become an approved child care provider.
The list of required documents include:
- An enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check, including a barred list, for you and any other member of your household above the age of 16.
- First aid training certificate from a full 12-hour course.
- A health declaration form signed by your GP as proof of your mental and physical capacity to handle the tasks involved in child care.
- Contact details for two references. Here at tiney, we’ve created a template to make this step as seamless as possible (remember, family members are not accepted as references).
- If you’ve lived abroad in the past five years, you’ll need a certificate of good character issued by the respective embassy.
Note: Ofsted will reject all applications, without exception, if they fail to provide any documents. Apart from this, anyone 16 years and above who resides with you or regularly works in your home, and has stayed abroad within the past five years, will also need a certificate of good character.
After your forms have been accepted, you will be tested on your EYFS framework knowledge during your Ofsted visit. Many prospective childminders complete a training course to ensure they’re up to speed and pass this step without issue.
If you register with an agency, often this training comes included. We’ll go into more detail about this (and how we support you through this process) in a moment.
How long does it take to become Ofsted registered?
The answer to this question depends on the route you take. If you decide to take the self-guided path and register through Ofsted, it can take up to 12 weeks.
Registering through a CMA, such as tiney, can take as little as four weeks for high potential and experienced applicants. By this, we mean applicants that have a teaching background (like teachers and teaching assistants) or people that have experience working in nurseries.
That said, it’s important to reiterate that absolutely no previous experience is required to become a childminder. Several of our tiney childminders come from an array of professional backgrounds, ranging from florists to legal secretaries.
All you truly need is a love for children and a desire to help them develop and grow. If you don’t have a background in childcare or education, the maximum time it takes to register through a CMA is three months.
We’ll dive deeper into the main differences between Ofsted vs. Agency registration in a moment.
How much does it cost to become an Ofsted-registered childminder?
The cost of Ofsted registration is something that surprises many childminders. Fortunately, CMAs like tiney cover some of these start-up costs to help you get on your feet.
The exact amount you’ll spend to become an Ofsted-registered childminder will vary depending on several factors. Some of these factors include the number of people in your household, the training provider you choose, and your insurance company.
Here is a breakdown of the costs to set up a childminding service.
- For childminders on the Early Years Register (caring for children ages five and younger only), the registration fee is £35
- For childminders on the Childcare register (caring for children ages five to eight only), the registration fee is £103
- For childminders on both registers (caring for children of all ages), the registration fee is £35
Note: All fees are nonrefundable and you must pay the registration fee annually in order to stay on the register.
Aside from this, there are costs for insurance and training, plus health and criminal background checks. These costs can vary, but here are some estimates for items you’ll need to pay for:
- Criminal record check: £48.10 per individual living in your home over 16
- Health declaration booklet signed by GP: £0 to £150
- First aid course: £118 (excluding VAT) for a 2-day Red Cross Paediatric first aid course
- Childcare training (specific to the care you will give): £50 to £200
- Annual public liability insurance: £25 to £100
- ICO registration for record-keeping of children: £40
- Materials to set up your childminding space as a safe and engaging learning environment: The possibilities are endless but you can make a nice start for around £100-200
As we mentioned before, many of these costs are covered by CMAs when you register with them.
Can you register for Ofsted through a Childminder Agency?
Yes! Registering through a CMA is the only alternative for those looking for a robust support team instead of dealing directly with Ofsted.
You can determine if this route works best for you by weighing up the pros and cons of each option. Before we dissect the details, let’s answer one important question.
What exactly is a Childminder Agency?
CMAs are the go-between for parents needing reliable, flexible, and high-quality childcare and childminders looking for support to set up and run their business.
CMAs help prospective and experienced childminders in a number of ways. Typically, they assist childminders with administrative support, training, advice, and marketing to parents.
Some agencies go even further than that. At tiney, for example, we try to foster a supportive and collaborative community. We host book clubs, online webinars and in-person events to connect our community members to one another. We also give every tiney childminder an all-in-one business app, which streamlines payments, manages daily communication with parents and keeps track of children's educational progress.
Registering with Ofsted vs. a Childminder Agency
Registering directly with Ofsted might seem like a straightforward route through the GOV.UK website. But there’s a lot to consider before you’re able to apply, much less be approved.
Registering directly with Ofsted means:
- A potentially slower process
- Less guidance
- Fewer fees (in exchange for less support)
If you don’t feel like you need much support and are happy to go it alone, registering directly with Ofsted may be the best route for you.
If you’re keen to access support pre, during, and post-registration, registering with a CMA offers the following advantages:
Competitive training. You can piece together training from various providers to satisfy the Ofsted requirements, but comprehensive training through a CMA will set you on the best path to provide high-quality, marketable education.
Administrative assistance. Get help with admin tasks and cutting through red tape so you can focus your energy on providing the best possible child care. This is key, as one study notes that 88% of childminders felt that the biggest challenge with the EYFS framework was the amount of paperwork involved. An agency helps you carry the load so that you have the time and flexibility you need to provide outstanding care.
Start-up costs. tiney will cover some of the costs associated with setting up, such as:
Paediatric first aid training
Local Authority/Social Services checks
Childcare insurance from Morton Michel
DBS checks and annual DBS updates for you and your family above 16
EYFS and Childminding training—tiney’s training fee (a £100 deposit) is considerably lower than a typical set-up fee, and it’s refundable upon completion of the course. It’s our way of ensuring a level of mutual commitment to the process, which is why we give it right back the moment you’re through training.
Childminding business coaching. One-to-one sessions including free marketing resources, admin support and a mobile app that supports payments, record keeping, and more.
Ongoing and community support. The tiney community is a tight-knit support network dedicated to helping childminders deliver the ultimate provision in childcare.
Although tiney covers a large part of the cost to get going, you’ll have to cater for a few things yourself. In particular, you’ll need to cover the health declaration from your GP and equipment for your childminder space at home.
What happens after the application is complete?
Again, this depends on how you choose to register to become a childminder. The next steps are different for each pathway.
If you apply directly through Ofsted, they will:
- Get to work checking out your paperwork, references and background information.
- Provide you with a reference number so you can track your application’s progress.
- Complete a home inspection to assess the potential risks (e.g. what are the safety hazards in your garden and how will you address those?). Often, this step only applies if you’re looking after children aged 0-5.
- Assess your level of English to meet their standards (e.g. the ability to read a prescription and complete records in English).
- Ask you questions about how you will care for the children (e.g. how you will meet the standards in the EYFS framework).
If you’re approved, you’ll receive your certificate of registration. If you’re not approved, you’ll get a notice of intention and an explanation as to why you were turned down.
You may remember from reading the criteria on who can apply that if you are turned down, you cannot apply again. You can, however, object to this decision and appeal a further rejection by following the steps outlined on GOV.UK’s website.
As for post-application steps when you apply through a CMA, the process will naturally vary depending on the organisation.
When you join tiney, you receive:
- A step-by-step walkthrough for all the paperwork and registration, including GP checks, DBS checks and local authority (LA) checks. Registering with Ofsted means piecing the puzzle together by yourself, but at tiney, we hold your hand through the entire process.
- At the same time, we provide training courses in EYFS, safeguarding and first aid for anyone without a certificate.
- Full support from the agency through registration and training roadblocks. Our in-app community is also a place where trainees can engage with each other and help one another through the process.
- A learning review that serves as the final phase of the training process. Upon passing, you are booked in for a one-hour pre-registration video call. This call prepares you for the Ofsted registration visit by offering clear feedback on the steps to prepare your home and its occupants, including yourself.
- Like Ofsted, we also perform a Registration Visit. This means that you will not be visited by an Ofsted inspector and instead will be met by one of our qualified staff. This visit takes three hours and tests your EYFS knowledge, the safety and sustainability of your house, and understanding of safeguarding measures.
- If you pass, you’ll receive your Registration Certificate and can begin receiving business and marketing support 🎉
Only you will know which path to becoming a childminder works best for you. Registering directly with Ofsted and registering with a CMA both have their pros and cons.
For those looking for an option with more guidance, including support to run your business once you’re approved and operating, a CMA may be the right pathway for you.
tiney offers over £3000 in value in your first year of childminding through training, 1:1 support, DBS checks, marketing materials, a robust community, and more.
If you’ve decided that becoming a childminder is right for you, begin your childminder journey with tiney today.