As a working parent your first concern is to find good and reliable childcare in London after your relocation. Even if you or your partner can stay home looking after the kids you might want to consider half-day care or attend toddler groups with them. If English isn’t your child’s mother tongue, he/she will learn the language quicker when playing amongst other children.
Crèches offer temporary childcare. They are a good option if you need few hours to do shopping, visit the gym or attend a doctor’s appointment. It is better to pre-book to be sure that there is space for your child.
Playgroups and Pre-schools
Playgroups and Pre-Schools offer care for two to five year olds. They organise play and education sessions that last about three hours, and hence do not offer full-time care.
Nursery Schools and Classes
Nursery Schools and Classes provide care for children from three to five years of age at local schools. They are open during school hours and offer morning or afternoon care. Some provide also full school day care.
Day Nurseries provide care for children from birth until school age. They are usually open during regular working hours and offer both full and half-day care.
Childminders look after children normally at their own home. They are registered and have completed an approved training. Childminders can have a maximum of six children at their care simultaneously. Of these six, only three can be under five years of age and only one less than a year old. Childminders can be more flexible with their working hours than nurseries and their fees are usually lower.
A nanny will look after your children of all ages at your own home. Like childminders they can be more flexible with their working hours than nurseries. Nannies’ costs vary depending on their experience, qualifications and hours that they work. It is easily the most expensive childcare option. Remember that as an employer, in addition to their salary, you will have to pay your nanny’s tax and National Insurance contributions as well as holiday and sick pay.
Au pairs aren’t usually trained to work with children, and can work only up to five hours a day, five days a week. Au pair lives at you home and in addition to the weekly pay you need to provide daily meals.
You can find babysitters on Internet through babysitter agencies. However, babysitters are not registered, so it is important to check references. Some Ofsted registered childminders do also babysit on evenings and weekends. Alternatively, you could ask recommendations from nursery or playgroup teachers or other mothers in your neighbourhood.
If you and your partner are both working, you might need also childcare for your older, school aged, children. Some children attend breakfast clubs before school hours but after school clubs are more common. They provide childcare for about three hours after school days. There are also holiday clubs for children during the school brakes.
Unfortunately, childcare does not come cheap in London. The average nursery place cost in London for a child under two is £6.08 per hour and £5.63 for over two year olds. Respective childminder costs are £5.85 and £5.77. The average cost of an out-of-school club is £3.58 per hour and childminders charge on average £89.94 per week to pick up and look after a child after school. (Family and Childcare Trust’s Annual Childcare Costs Survey, 2015.)
Some employers help with childcare costs in the form of childcare vouchers. The government is also supporting families with their childcare costs. In addition to child benefits, low-income working parents might be able to receive tax credits (being replaced with Universal Credit by 2017). However, if you are subject to immigration control you may not qualify for either of these. Also higher-earners might choose not to receive child benefits since they could become liable to the High Income Child Benefit charge.
From three years of age all children in England are entitled to free nursery education for 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year. Check from your council, which nurseries, playgroups, children’s centres or childminders qualify, and follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) standards. The aim of the programme is to support children’s learning and social development and prepare them for school.
Child Benefit (HM Revenue & Customs)
Early Years Foundation Stage (GOV.UK)
Your local council’s Family Information Service (FIS) is the best place to get information on registered childcare providers as well as out-of-school and holiday childcare. If you are looking for nannies, au pairs or babysitters check relevant agencies from the Internet.
Playgroups, pre-schools, nurseries, children’s centres and childminders are regulated by Ofsted (=Office for Standards in Education), and you can read their inspection reports. Nannies don’t need to be registered with Ofsted but might have chosen to. Au pairs and babysitters are not regulated. If you decide to use the services of a nanny, au pair or babysitter, do check references.
After you have made a shortlist of your preferred childcare places go and visit them. Pay attention on the environment and feel of the place. Ask for their staff/child ratio and staff turnover. If possible, talk to parents whose children go there. Mostly trust your own instinct.