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A career in early years and childcare

You will need a range of skills and qualities to support children’s learning and development, most importantly you must:

  • enjoy working with children
  • have lots of enthusiasm and a sense of fun 
  • are patient and understanding
  • have good communication skills 
  • want to learn new things and develop your knowledge
  • want to develop your career by undertaking a qualification

You can find a useful career pathway map, which details progression routes into early years careers on the T Levels website, along with further information about the different types of childcare and qualifications required for a variety of early years roles at

Types of childcare

Registered childcare - if you are intending to work with children for more than 2 hours per day, for pay or reward, you must register with Ofsted. There are some limited exceptions - please see Childminders and childcare providers: register with Ofsted for these.


Childminders must be registered with Ofsted or with a childminder agency. They provide childcare on domestic premises, but can also include a maximum of 50 per cent of their time in approved non-domestic premises. For more information about childminding visit our becoming a Childminder page and Ofsted's registration guidance for childminders and childcare on domestic premises.

Day nurseries

Day nurseries offer full or part time care for children from birth to five years. Some nurseries will also offer care for children before or after school and in the school holidays. All day nurseries must be registered with Ofsted. They can be run by private individuals, community groups, or other types of organisations. For more information, see our setting up a group provision page.

Out of school clubs and play centres

Out of school clubs and play centre providers require early years registration where extended provision is offered for children under compulsory school age. They can operate before school in the mornings, from the end of the school day, during the school holidays, or a combination of all three. For more information about setting up and running an out of school club view the Out of School Alliance.


Preschools usually cater for children aged two and a half to four by offering sessional care to children in the local community, either in a morning or afternoon session. Preschools are often run by voluntary groups or charities and managed by a committee but can also be owned by private individuals. They must be registered with Ofsted on the early years register. See our setting up a group provision page for more information.

School provision

Schools with an early years provision must have regard to the early years foundation stage (EYFS) along with keeping children safe in education and working together to safeguard children. Further details can be found on our school readiness web page. Read more about different types of schools.

Baby and toddler groups

Baby and toddler groups provide drop-in sessions for parents and / or carers with young children. These sessions may be run by parents, voluntary groups, charities and other organisations such as a church. They are not required to be registered with Ofsted. For more information read 'how to start a baby and toddler group' on the the early years alliance's website.


Crèches provide occasional care for children under eight years old. Some are in permanent premises and care for children for four hours or less per day while parents are engaged in particular activities, such as shopping, adult education classes or sport. Crèches can also be run on a temporary basis, perhaps running alongside a one-off event. Crèches are exempt from registering with Ofsted but there are some exceptions to this which is explained in Ofsted's Early Years and Childcare Registration Handbook.

Nannies and home child carers

Nannies and home child carers look after children of one family. They may have a flexible work pattern to meet the needs of the family. It is not compulsory for nannies to register with Ofsted, however they may choose to do so either in their own right or as part of an agency. By law, nannies are not required to hold any specific qualifications or to attend any training, although many choose to do so. For more information visit the professional association for childcare and early years (PACEY) and Ofsted's guidance on registration for nannies.