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A career in early years and childcare

There are many early years and childcare career choices creating a diverse and multi-skilled workforce across Essex. Whatever your age or background, whether you are male or female, a career in childcare could be the right choice for you. 

You will need a range of skills and qualities to support children’s learning and development but the most important things are that you:

  • 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.

Types of childcare

Early years and childcare provision and regulation is underpinned by the Childcare Act 2006.

Baby and toddler groups

These groups provide drop-in sessions for parents and / or carers with their 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 please see the Early Years Alliance building and supporting baby and toddler groups web page and setting up your own toddler group web page.


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 the our Becoming a Childminder page and the Ofsted's registration guidance for childminders and childcare on domestic premises on the 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.

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. See our Setting up a Group Provision page.

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. Although it is not compulsory for nannies to register with Ofsted, 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 qualification or to attend any training, although many will choose to do so. For more information visit the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) website and Ofsted's guidance on registration for nannies.

Out of school clubs and play centres

These 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 visit the Out of School Alliance website.


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.


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.