Childcare - Frequently Asked Questions

Reading Family Information Service

Frequently Asked Questions - Finding the right services for your child can be stressful so we've compiled a comprehensive list of Frequently Asked Questions that might help you. 


Next review date June 2024


1. What kind of service do childminders provide?

Childminders are registered with Ofsted to look after other people's children in their own home. They can provide flexible individually tailored care in a home environment as well as linking with other services in your local community such as children’s centres, pre-schools, schools and toddler groups. They can also take your child to local parks, playgrounds, libraries and community events. 

2. How flexible can childminders be with the hours they offer?

Childminders can offer flexible hours, part time or full time, term time and holidays, to suit you and your child's commitments and can look after children of all ages as long as they have vacancies in the age group required. Some childminders are registered to offer overnight care.

3. Are childminders registered?

Childminders must be registered with OFSTED  (Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills) if they look after children up to eight years old for more than two hours a day, in their own home for pay or reward. 

This means they are inspected on a regular basis to make sure: 
• The care and learning they provide meets the Early Years Foundation Stage 
• They and their homes are safe and suitable 
• They and all adults (16 and over) in their house have an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check 

4. Do I have to have a contract with my childminder?

Drawing up a written contract at the beginning of your relationship with your childminder can help you avoid any disagreements or misunderstandings at a later stage. 

You may feel uncomfortable talking about money and your personal childcare preferences, however it is important that everyone clearly understands what is being agreed by both parties at the very start of the relationship. 

Suggestions of what should be included in your contract? 

• The retainer fee or deposit to secure your child's place – how much needs to be agreed 
• The amount you pay for the childcare, and what it covers (for example nappies, food, days out) 
• The hours/days your child will attend – any additional hours you may require 
• Any personal additions, things you would like the child to do or not do e.g. limiting sweet treats 
• Payment for time off during holidays, statutory public holidays and holiday notice periods 
• What you pay if your child or the carer is sick 
• Notice of termination of the contract and notice payment 
• Start date for the contract and review date 

Once the details of the contract have been understood and agreed by both parties, it should then be signed and dated by all and each party should keep a copy. It is then a legally binding document that's enforceable by law. 

If you have any concerns about signing your contract you can contact the Citizen's Advice Bureau. The Family Information Service can provide some general advice, but cannot advise on legal matters. 

5. How can I find a childminder in my local area?

You can contact the Family Information Service on 0118 9373777 option 2 for a tailored search that meets your requirements. You can also search for childminders in your local area Childminder Search this will only include childminders who have given us permission to advertise their services via the website. Email


6. How much does a childminder cost?

Childminders generally charge an hourly rate, this can vary depending on hours, age and whether they offer discounts if the family is using the service for more than one child. Average cost per hour currently stands between £5.50 & £6.50 per hour.

7. Can a childminder provide the Free Early Years 2, 3 & 4 year funded places?

Childminders can provide 3 & 4 Year Funded places - 3 & 4 Year Old Free Early Years Funding (including 30 hours childcare) Childminder who have a Outstanding or Good Ofsted rating can offer 2 year funded places, to find out more 2 Year Old Education & Childcare Funding childminder registered to offer 2 year funded places - Childcare Providers Search

8. What is a pre-school/playgroup?

Pre-school groups, also known as playgroups provide play time and often early years education to under fives. Groups which are open for two hours, or more, a day must be registered with OFSTED

9. What kind of education do pre-schools provide? And at what age can my child attend pre-school?

Most pre-schools will take your child between the ages of three and five years old, although some will take two year olds and are open term time only, they offer morning or afternoon sessions lasting between two and a half to three hours, are mostly non profit making and run by a committee of volunteers. 

Pre schools registered to claim the early years free entitlement can offer early years free entitlement to children the term following their third birthday or second birth if the child is eligible for a 2 year funded place. For further information please contact us on 0118 9373777 (Option 2).

10. Can a pre-school provide the Free Early Years 2, 3 & 4 year funded places?

Pre-schools can provide 3 & 4 Year Funded places - 3 & 4 Year Old Free Early Years Funding (including 30 hours childcare)

Pre-schools who have a Outstanding or Good Ofsted rating can offer 2 year funded places, to find out more 2 Year Old Education & Childcare Funding

To find out more about pre-school that provider funded places - Childcare Providers Search

11. Do I need to register by a certain date for my child to access the free early years funded place?

Each term Reading Borough Council will set a ‘head count’ day and children not attending at an early years setting by that date may not be able to claim a free funded place until the start of the following term. Please ask your chosen setting for dates of the head count days.

12. How does the payment system work for the free early years funded places?

The Pre-School will be sent twice termly payments by Reading Borough Council to provide free early years places to eligible children for up to a maximum of 15 hours per week. No charge is made for the free places, however if you exceed your free entitlement you will have to pay a fee for any additional services or time spent at the setting. This could include hours attended during the academic school holidays as the entitlement only covers children for a maximum of 38 weeks a year. 

13. Where can I get a list of all the pre-schools/playgroups in my area?

A full list of pre-schools can be accessed Childcare Providers Search  Alternatively you can contact us on 0118 9373777 (option 2) to get information on pre-schools and other settings that provide early years education. Email

14. What is a Maintained Nursery Class?

A local education authority (LEA) maintained nursery class or school offers funded early education places to children aged between three and five. A Maintained Nursery will be Ofsted registered through the school.

15. How many hours can a Maintained Nursery offer my child?

Places are generally available on a part time basis, either in the morning or afternoon, term time only. It is advisable to register your child well before their third birthday if this is your preferred choice for accessing the free early years education. Children usually go onto their waiting lists from their second birthday.

16. How do I apply for a place at a maintained nursery?

You should apply for a place through the school or governing body of the nursery school or class. If you are successful in getting a nursery place for your child it doesn’t guarantee that they will automatically be given a place at the infant or primary school. 

17. How do I get a list of Maintained Nursery Classes in my area?

A full list of maintained nursery classes can be obtained Maintained Nursery Schools and Classes or contact us on 0118 9373777 (Option 2) or the Schools Admissions Team at Reading. You can also get a tailored search for schools and nurseries in your area by visiting the Reading Borough Council website and entering your postcode for ‘local services’. 

18. How do I find out about the day nurseries in my area?

You can find information about the day nurseries in the Reading Childcare Providers Search Alternatively contact us on 0118 9373777 (option 2) and we can send you a list. Email

19. How do I know which day nurseries are the best?

All day nurseries are different, what may be right for your child may not be right for someone elses. Visit a number of nurseries, ask lots of questions and see what you think. You know what is best for your child. We also produce a leaflet entitled “Choosing a Day Nursery” which can be downloaded from our website or contact us for a copy

20. Are day nurseries registered, does that mean the staff are police checked?

All day nurseries need to be registered with Ofsted this includes all staff having enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks. Our listings only have information on OFSTED  registered day care. 

21. What is the best for my child - a day nursery or a childminder?

This is personal to individual families depending on their requirements, and it depends on what you are comfortable with. Childminders are usually more flexible especially if the parent is a shift worker. Day nurseries offer full day or sessional care and have set opening and closing times. The environments will also be different, you will need to think about whether you want more home based childcare or not. 

22. What is the difference between a nursery and a day nursery?

If you are looking for full day childcare then you need a day nursery. A nursery is usually sessional care for children between 3 to 5 years old. 

23. How much do day nurseries charge?

Cost vary from nursery to nursery, the listings we produce include costs where the nursery has included this information on their returns to us - Childcare Providers Search

24. Can a day nursery provide the Free Early Years 2, 3 & 4 year funded places?

Day nurseries can provide 3 & 4 Year Funded places - 3 & 4 Year Old Free Early Years Funding

Day nurseries who have a Outstanding or Good Ofsted rating can offer 2 year funded places, to find out more 2 Year Old Education & Childcare Funding

To find out more about day nurseries that provider funded places - Childcare Providers Search

25. How do I find out about after school and breakfast clubs, are there any in my area?

These are both available in the area, some are for individual schools and or on their premises, others collect from multiple schools. For more information you can search on our website or contact us on: 0118 9373777 option 2, Email -

26. Is there any childcare available during the school holidays?

Yes there are holiday clubs and schemes available in the holidays, some also run during half term and Christmas. For more information you can search on the website or contact us on: 0118 9373777 option 2, Email -

27. Are the after school and holiday clubs registered with Ofsted?

Holiday clubs, after and before school clubs and schemes are registered if they care for children under the age of 8 years for more than 2 hours. If they cater for older children they can be “quality assured” by a scheme recognised by the government. Some after school and holiday clubs are run by the school and may be part of their Ofsted registration. 

28. I don’t need childcare, but what is available to keep my children occupied during the holidays that is cheap or free of charge?

There is a Things to Do section on the website where you will be able to find leisure activities for all ages - Things To Do 

For Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND) Special Needs Activities

29. Are there crèche facilities available in the Reading area?

There are a few crèches available usually at leisure centres or where courses are being run - Childcare Providers Search

30. I'm looking for activities for my child who has special needs, can you help?

We can add parents/carers to our special needs mailing list and they will receive quarterly newletters and monthly updates on activities and support groups. We also send out our special needs leisure guide. Information can also be accessed through our website. 

Special Needs Activities

Get in touch if you would like to receive regular updates -

31. I need respite care for my child, who do I contact?

Please visit our SEND Short Breaks (all ability activities & overnight breaks) page to find out more.

32. My child has just been diagnosed with an additional need, I don't have any information or know what to do next. Can you help?

We can send out information on support groups and activities relevant to the childs additional needs and research further information if required. To find out more visit 

Special Educational Needs & Disabilities - Reading's Local Offer

33. I need Holiday a Club for my child who has additional needs

We hold information on various holiday clubs in the Reading area. 

Please visit - 

Special Educational Needs & Disabilities - Reading's Local Offer

34. What is a Brokerage Service?

The Family Information Service [FIS] offers a brokerage service which is designed to support parents, carers and professionals working with families during the process of finding childcare and/or pre-school education that meets their individual requirements. 

The FIS team is able to provide information about the range of options available which may enable parents and carers return to work, education or training. All staff members delivering the brokerage service are NVQ Level 3 or 4 qualified in Information, Advice and Guidance. 

The service was introduced as a requirement of the Childcare Act 2006, which stipulated that local authorities should provide an enhanced information service to local families who may benefit from a little extra help. 

35.Who can use the brokerage service?

The service is primarily aimed at: 

• Lone parents/carers who are thinking of returning to work or study 
• Families who have children with an additional need 
• Parents/carers who cannot find childcare that meets their needs from the lists obtained from the Family Information Service 
• Parents/carers unable to find a suitable free early education place 
• Parents/carers who are concerned about leaving their child with someone else for long periods during the day, especially first time parents 
• a family living in a rural location 
• a family living on a low income 
• a family where the parent is suffering from a serious illness 
• young parents 
• a family where the parent only speaks English as an additional language 

36. How can the Family Information Service help?

The Brokerage Service provided by the Family Information Service will support families through making worrying decisions. We can offer detailed information so that the choices you make are the best ones for you and your family. 

You can talk to the Family Information Service about the availability and types of local childcare and early education providers. Other ways we can help are: 

• Finding suitable childcare options for families which meets their needs and the needs of their children 
• Helping to find emergency childcare options or alternative childcare at short notice 
• Speaking to childcare providers and support services on the families’ behalf 
• Helping families to access childcare and other services if they or their child has a disability or special needs 
• Ensuring that any financial help families may be entitled to has been thoroughly investigated 
• Helping families to understand the information available to them, for example if a parent has a visual impairment, language or literacy difficulties 

For further information about the Family Information Service Brokerage Service please contact us on 0118 9373777 option 2, Email

Related Advice

Childcare Providers Childminders Day Nurseries Out Of School Care Pre-Schools Childcare Contracts and Complaints

Page last reviewed: 12/06/2023

Contact the Team

Family Information Service 0118 937 3777 OPTION 2 0118 937 3777 OPTION 2

SEND Local Offer 0118 937 3777 OPTION 2 0118 937 3777 OPTION 2

Adult & Carers Support 0118 937 3747 0118 937 3747
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