Choosing early years quality childcare

Quality care and education in the early years is essential for all children as evidence suggests that attending these services can improve children’s outcomes

Regulation of early education and childcare services is carried out by the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) or the Independent School Inspectorate (ISI).

Hampshire’s role in securing quality childcare

All registered providers are expected to meet the regulatory bodies national standards which set out the minimum requirements.

Hampshire County Council, through Services for Young Children (SfYC), provides advice, guidance and training to support the development of good practice.

Choosing the right service for your child

As well as looking at Ofsted inspection reports, download our handy checklists. They contain a range of questions you can ask potential childcare or early education services and give you a idea of what to look for when visiting services.

Further information about starting school

If your child has a special educational need or disability you may also want to search for services using the Hampshire Local Offer website.

Search for childcare and early years education 

The online Hampshire Family Information and Services Hub directory is for parents, carers and practitioners looking for childcare and early years education services in Hampshire.

Search for Ofsted registered childcare such as childminders, pre-schools, nurseries, before and after school clubs and holiday play schemes.

What is Ofsted

Ofsted is the Government department that aims to improve standards of achievement and quality of education in:

  • schools
  • nurseries
  • playgroups and pre-schools,
  • crèches
  • out of school clubs
  • holiday playschemes
  • childminders

Childcare Inspectors employed by Ofsted, register and inspect providers that are on the Early Years Register, Childcare Register and the Voluntary Childcare Register.

Childcare Inspectors inspect all childcare providers on an ongoing cycle. During the inspection, providers will need to show that children are safe, well cared for, and take part in activities that contribute to their development and learning. The Inspectors will check the work of the childcare provider against the standards set by Ofsted. Childcare providers who do not meet the Ofsted standards at the time of inspection will be given actions within a definite timescale or could potentially have their Ofsted registration cancelled.

Ofsted will look into complaints or other information which gives them reason to believe a childcare provider is not meeting the Ofsted standards or other requirements. Ofsted will also take appropriate enforcement action where necessary.

Ofsted and parents

When deciding which childcare provider to use parents should visit the services with their children and ask childcare providers to show their registration certificates and inspection reports.

Inspection reports have key inspection judgments:

  • Outstanding - this aspect of the provision is of exceptionally high quality
  • Good - this aspect of the provision is strong
  • Requires Improvement - this aspect of the provision requires some areas of improvement
  • Inadequate - this aspect of the provision is not good enough

Inspection reports are available from the Ofsted website.

Parental concerns

Ofsted advise that parents firstly try and resolve any issues directly with the provider.

Parents can also contact Ofsted if there is a concern about a childcare or early years education provider by phoning their helpline on 0300 123 4666.

Ofsted have produced some guidance for parents and carers: Information for parents and carers using childcare services, and this is their poster which explains their responsibilities, and how to contact them.