Choosing childcare for children with SEND

Choosing childcare

Choosing childcare and early education is a big step for you and your child. There are lots of differences between types of childcare, early education or pre-school services and also between individual childminders, nurseries, playgroups or out-of-school clubs. Try and give yourself enough time to visit several possible options in your area to get a good idea of what could suit your child. It can be a good idea to take your child with you to see how staff work with them.

Quality childcare

Everyone wants the best quality childcare and education, but how do you know what to look for? One way is through the Ofsted inspections which check that a provider is meeting the national standards. You can get a copy of a childcare providers latest report:

Top ten questions

Here are some suggested questions to ask when you visit. Add your own questions as well:

  1. Does the provider have a SENCO in place?
  2. Does the provider ensure that they attend regular training to update and refresh their skills and knowledge?
  3. How long have you been working with children? What experience do they have of supporting children with additional needs.
  4. Are they trained to give medication or use specific equipment?
  5. Where will my child rest?
  6. What kind of food and drink will you give? Can you support my child’s dietary needs?
  7. How would they approach your child’s disability with other children/parents?
  8. Will my child be with a regular group of children? How old are they?
  9. How will they communicate with you about your child’s progress and needs?
  10. What will be put in place to support the child's transition?

Quality pointers

When you visit possible childcare options, look for these Quality Pointers. You could add your own as well:

  1. Are the children calm, safe and happy?
  2. Do children play and talk together?
  3. Are the staff listening to the children and answering them carefully?
  4. Are the staff friendly and proud of their work?
  5. Are the staff joining in with what the children are doing?
  6. Are there lots of activities planned to help children learn and play? Can the children plan some of these themselves?
  7. Are the resources and equipment clean and well maintained? 
  8. Are the premises clean, well-kept and safe for children with a fun outside play area (or will children go to parks and other places regularly)?
  9. Do parents have plenty of chances to say what they want for their children?
  10. How will you track and keep me informed about my child's progress?

Getting to know your child

Talk to the setting about what they will do to understand your child’s needs. Will they meet with you and your child before starting to use the childcare? Do they offer settling in sessions so you can see how it works before fully committing?

All childcare should have:

Trained or experienced staff

Working with children is a skilled and demanding job. Training gives people skills and confidence. It helps staff to deliver a top quality service to your family. Many excellent childcare staff don’t have formal qualifications but lots of experience and enthusiasm.

Staff need: 

  • To respond to your child as an individual
  • To plan activities and play to help your child learn
  • To help your child be safe and secure
  • To communicate well with your child and with you
  • To respect your family’s culture, religion or language
  • To be enthusiastic about their important job

Safe and clean premises

Children deserve comfortable, well-equipped premises which are carefully looked after. Children should be able to see toys, books and fun equipment and reach some of it themselves. Fresh, healthy food and snacks should be available. Equipment for disabled children and those with additional needs is likely to be popular with all the children. When children are asked what they like best about childcare, they often talk about their friends and the garden or outside space. Your child should be in a place which is:

  • Bright and cheerful
  • Clean
  • Friendly for children with some child-sized equipment
  • Fun activities planned each day

When children feel safe and happy they are learning all the time. All children learn at different rates and so activities need to be planned with the needs of each child in mind. Childcare staff should plan the day’s activities before children arrive. Children enjoy making friends with other children. This is much easier if children attend the childcare service regularly and know who and what to expect each day. Make sure the childcare you choose provides plenty of encouragement for your child whatever his/her age, gender or abilities.

A big welcome for you and your child

When you visit your childcare service, you and your child should feel welcome. Staff should find time to listen to you when you want to ask questions. They should answer any questions you have about the childcare service or about your child. Think about how your childcare service will:

  • Include you in planning your child’s care
  • Help your child’s routine- sleep, food, any special needs
  • Work collaboratively with you about what you think is best for your child
  • Encourage your child to feel happy and confident whatever his/her ability, race, culture, language or gender


York Family Information Service and Information Service for Young People

01904 554444 / 01904 555400

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