Find a childcare provider

Types of childcare

When looking for childcare, it’s a good idea to allow as much time as possible to do your research. Some childcare providers have waiting lists, so contact those you're interested in as early as possible.

You should also visit providers to find out if they meet your family’s needs before making your decision.

There are a number of early education and childcare options to choose from in Essex.

Pre-schools (including playgroups and nursery schools)

These offer play and early education for children under 5 years old. This can be sessional or all day and is usually provided in term time for children aged between 2 and 5 years old. It is important to ask your provider of the days and hours their service operates to make sure it meets your requirements.

They are registered and inspected by Ofsted. All early years and childcare settings have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 and the SEND Code of Practice 2014 to be inclusive and meet the needs of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

Day nurseries

These provide full or part-time care and early education for babies and children up to 5. Some may also provide care for older children before or after school, and during school holidays.

They are usually open from 8am to 6pm and operate all year, including school holidays.

They are registered and inspected by Ofsted

Maintained nursery schools

Maintained nursery schools provide early education and childcare to children under 5 between school hours in term time.

Nursery schools have a headteacher and teachers are responsible for no more than 13 children at any one time. We run the 2 maintained nursery schools in Essex and they are both in Chelmsford.

School nursery classes

School nursery classes are attached to an infant or primary school. They provide early education and childcare to children under 5 between school hours in term time.

Schools run them, and they provide funded early education places. In some cases, they may charge a fee. Teachers are responsible for no more than 13 children at any one time.

If you use a school nursery class, there is no automatic guarantee that your child will secure a place in the school.

Academy nursery provision

Academy nurseries are similar to school nursery classes and are on the site of the academy. Classes are not required to have a qualified teacher and can be led by suitably qualified staff who will be responsible for no more than 8 children at any one time.

Independent schools

These are usually run by private or voluntary organisations and will charge a fee.

Some independent schools have nursery classes which offer funded places. Only some will allow parents to take just the free entitlement without taking extra hours, which they will have to pay for.

Childminders

Childminders provide care and education for children in their own home. They often offer flexible hours and provide a wide range of learning opportunities in and out of the home. They are registered by Ofsted and are suitably qualified to deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage.

Out-of-school clubs

These provide care and activities to fit around school hours for school-aged children.

Out-of-school care includes breakfast clubs, after-school clubs (hours may vary between providers) and holiday play schemes during school holidays.

They are registered and inspected by Ofsted

Crèches

A crèche provides occasional care for limited periods of time. This could be if you are going shopping, attending a course or going to the gym. Crèches are not a long-term childcare option and a parent or carer needs to remain close by.

Nannies

Nannies provide childcare in your own home and can look after children of any age.

Our childcare provider finder does not include home-based carers such as nannies. We advise you to search online.

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