What are the regulatory bodies for childcare?

Nurseries in England have to meet the statutory requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), the statutory framework for care and early learning for children aged 0 to five in England which became statutory in September 2008 and was revised in September 2012. It sets out the legal requirements that everyone who is registered to look after children must follow, to keep children safe and promote their welfare. It includes the seven areas of learning and development which shape the activities and experiences for children in early years settings, along with the Early Learning Goals which are the expected stages of development for young children. For more information on the EYFS visit the Foundation Years website.

Nurseries in England are inspected by Ofsted. Nurseries can receive the following inspection judgements from Ofsted: Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement and Unsatisfactory. Visit the Ofsted website to view an early years inspection report. 


Nurseries in Scotland have to meet the National Care Standards. These are the standards required by all early education and childcare providers up the age of 16 in Scotland.

The Care Inspectorate inspects nurseries against the National Care Standards. 

For children aged 0 to 3, nurseries in Scotland must adhere to the Pre-Birth to Three guidance which outlines how to support children in this age group. From the age of three and above nurseries need to adhere to the Curriculum for Excellence framework. The framework sets out the eight curriculum areas and the experiences and outcomes for children aged 3 to 18. For more information visit the Education Scotland website

Download free childcare factsheets for parents

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All nurseries in Wales are regulated against the National Minimum Standards for Regulated Child Care.  The standards focus on securing positive outcomes for children under eight and reducing risks to their welfare and safety. The Standards were updated in March 2012.

Nurseries in Wales are inspected against the National Minimum Standards by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW). 

The Foundation Phase is the statutory curriculum for all 3 to 7 years old children in Wales in both maintained and non-maintained settings. The Foundation Phase places great emphasis on children learning by doing. It sets out the curriculum and outcomes under seven areas of learning which set out what children should be taught. The outcomes set out expected standards of children's performance. For more information visit the Welsh Government website.

Nurseries who deliver the Foundation Phase are also inspected by ESTYN which inspects the educational aspect of the provision. 

What is a typical daily routine in a nursery?

Routines in nurseries will depend on the individual nursery, and should be flexible according to the needs of the children, but a usual nursery day will consist of the following types of activities:

  • Nursery opening - welcoming children and families into the nursery and discussing individual needs
  • Breakfast time – nurseries will offer healthy breakfast choices according to individual dietary requirements
  • Circle time/songs/stories – welcome, singing, weather, individual news 
  • Continuous provision/independent choosing – the children will have access to a range of resources and activities to support their development. Children will be able to play with their friends, or alone, and will have the support of their key person and other nursery practitioners. Outdoor play should be accessible throughout the session
  • Some of the activities available may be: painting, music and singing, story sessions, puppets, messy play activities – wet and dry sand, play dough, soil, pasta or water, dressing up and a role play area, bikes, scooters, climbing equipment, balls, hoops, building blocks and materials, IT equipment i.e. cameras, video recorders, calculators and computers. Treasure baskets, boxes, musical instruments and a range of other resources will be available according to age and stage of development
  • Snack time and lunch – nurseries will offer a range of healthy snacks and meals and will cater for individual dietary requirements
  • Individual development - your child’s key person will plan activities that will support your child’s individual development. They will observe your child daily and use these observations to plan their ‘next steps’ in their learning journey
  • Home time - this is an opportunity for parents to chat to their child’s individual key person and find out about their day.

How do I choose the right nursery?

When looking for a nursery it's important to find one that suits your family, and we strongly recommend that you visit a shortlist of nurseries to take a look at what's on offer before you make your final decision.

You'll get a good idea which nursery is right for you from your visits, and it's important that both you and your child feel comfortable with your final choice. 

When you're deciding which nursery to select it is important that you ask the nursery managers to clearly explain the contract you will need to sign. This will include all of your terms and conditions and payment information. Ask the manager to talk you through exactly what you will need to pay and whether bank holidays and training days are included in your fees or cost extra. Also, ask about any additional charges such as food, nappies, late collection fees and a registration fee. Gathering this type of information will mean that you can more easily compare the prices between nurseries.

NDNA has produced a free factsheet: 'Choosing the right nursery for you and your child' which outlines some of the key questions and points to check when visiting a nursery. Visit our Parents Resources page  for this and other useful factsheets. 

Use our 'Find a nursery' 'Find a nursery' online search tool to find an NDNA member nursery in your area. 

Why can my nursery change my fees?

Your fees have to cover a wide range of expenses including staff wages, utilities, food, rates, rent or mortgage and the cost of updating equipment. A large percentage of fees go directly to staff salaries. The vast majority of nurseries work on very low margins, so when costs go up, most face little choice but to reflect this in fees. Most try to restrict how often they raise fees and give you advance warning.

I have separated from my spouse and don't want them to pick my child up, what should I do?

This is a difficult position for a nursery but legally they cannot stop a parent picking up a child if a spouse is named as being allowed to pick up the child and they have legal parental responsibility for the child. If you wish to stop your spouse picking up your son or daughter, an injunction will be needed. Please note if your spouse (or any other person) doesn’t have legal parental responsibilities then you can instruct your nursery to not let your child be picked up by this person. Throughout it is important that you stay in touch with your child’s nursery, so that they can help support your child and you. 

I called Ofsted regarding a payment matter but they said it wasn't their role. Why is this?

Ofsted deals only with complaints and queries in relation to welfare requirements and the quality of care children receive. Ofsted’s role is to regulate standards of care. Contracts are seen as a legal matter between the nursery and parent and are therefore not a matter for the organisation.

I signed a contract agreeing to pay for childcare if my child is ill. However I don’t agree with this, what can I do?

A contract is a legally binding document. Nurseries still have to pay staff if your child doesn’t attend. If you are unhappy with any element of your contract, you should discuss it with your nursery to receive a full explanation. If you have signed a contract and no longer agree with its conditions, you should seek advice from a suitably qualified solicitor.

I can’t pay my nursery fees, what should I do?

Although this is a difficult matter, you should speak to your child’s nursery as soon as you realise that you cannot pay. Nurseries do understand the difficulties parents face sometimes and may be able to help you with a repayment plan and help you check if you are getting all the financial support you are eligible for.