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Types of childcare

13 April 2018

You can find childcare in Essex using our interactive map. The childcare available includes: 


Pre-schools (including playgroups and nursery schools)   

These offer play and early education for children under five years old. This is sessional care usually provided during term time for children aged between two and five years old. They are registered by Ofsted. 

Day nurseries       

These provide full or part-time care and early education for babies and children up to the age of five. Some may also offer a provision for older children before/after school and in the holiday period. They are usually open from approximately 8am to 6pm and generally operate all year, including school holidays. They are registered by Ofsted. 

Maintained Nursery Schools

Maintained nursery schools are stand-alone local authority schools that provide early education and childcare to children under 5 between school hours during term time.  Nursery schools have a head teacher and all the classes are led by a qualified teacher responsible for no more than 13 children at any one time. There are two maintained nursery schools in Essex, both in Chelmsford.  

School Nursery Classes

School nursery classes are attached to an infant or primary school and also provide early education and childcare to children under 5 between school hours during term time. They are run by the school and provide free early education entitlement funded places and in some cases may provide non-funded early education and childcare for a fee. School nursery classes are led by a qualified teacher who will be responsible for no more than 13 children at any one time.  

Academy Nursery Provision

Academy nurseries are similar to the school nursery classes and are on the site of the academy, they may be run by the academy or may be run by a private, voluntary or independent provider leasing the nursery space from the academy. Academy nursery classes are not required to have a qualified teacher and can be led by an early years professional who will have responsibility for no more than 8 children at any one time.  

Independent Schools 

Independent schools are not attached to the local authority in any way and parents will pay fees for children to attend. Some independent schools do have nursery classes which offer free entitlement places but only some will allow parents to just take the free entitlement without taking extra hours which they will have to pay for. 


Childminders provide care for children, usually in their own home. They often offer flexible hours while providing a wide range of learning opportunities in and out of the home. They are registered by Ofsted. 

Out-of-school clubs    

These provide care and activities to fit around school hours. They are registered and inspected by Ofsted for children up to eight years old, but can also cater for children over eight. Out-of-school care includes breakfast clubs, after-school clubs (open between approximately 3pm and 6pm) and holiday play schemes which are provided during school holidays. 


These provide occasional care for children under eight years old. Some are in permanent premises and care for children while parents are engaged in particular activities, such as shopping or sport. Others are provided on a temporary basis, perhaps running alongside a one-off event. 


Provide childcare in your own home and can look after children of any age. Please be aware that our search facility does not show details of home-based carers such as nannies. For this, it is best to research a reputable nanny agency online.


Ofsted regulates and inspects services that provide childcare. When you are looking for a childcare provider, we recommend that you check their Ofsted report to ensure your child will be receiving good quality provision. For more information call 08456 404040 or visit the Ofsted website

Further information

Once you have chosen your childcare provider, you may want to: