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The law defines childcare as any form of care for a child including education or any other supervised activity.

We register care provided for children on two registers: the Early Years Register and the Childcare Register. You can read more about the two registers below. People can apply to join one register or both registers at the same time.

Most childcare providers caring for children aged under eight must register with us unless the law says they are not required to do so. We have a fact sheet that tells you about the types of care that are not required to register with us Registration not required. If a childcare provider is not required to register with us, then in some circumstances they may choose to do so by joining the voluntary part of the Childcare Register.

If you are not sure whether you need to register, you can ring our helpline on 0300 123 1231 for more information.

How to contact us

The Early Years Register

All childcarers – such as childminders, day nurseries, pre-schools and private nursery schools – providing for children from birth to the 31 August following their fifth birthday (known as the early years age group) must register with us on the Early Years Register and deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage.

Maintained and independent schools that are directly responsible for provision for children aged from birth to the age of three, where at least one child is a pupil of a school; or who provide childcare for children in the early years age group, where no child is a pupil of the school, must also register with us.

Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)

The Early Years Foundation Stage is the statutory framework for the early education and care of children in the early years age group. The EYFS includes requirements for the provision of young children’s welfare, learning and development that all providers must meet, as well as good practice guidance. From September 2008 the EYFS must be delivered by all registered early years settings and all schools with children in the early years age group, whether or not they are registered on the Early Years Register.

You can find out more about the EYFS on the following website:

The Childcare Register

The Childcare Register has two parts: a compulsory part and a voluntary part.

Registration on the Childcare Register relies on the applicant making a declaration to confirm that they will meet the requirements of registration. Ofsted carries out a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check on the applicant but does not normally carry out any other checks.

We do not usually interview applicants for the Childcare Register to assess their suitability, as we do for the Early Years Register. If the applicant has lived abroad in the last five years we may require a Certificate of Good Conduct from the relevant country before we grant registration.

Compulsory part

A childcare provider must register on the compulsory part of the Childcare Register if they care for children from the 1 September following their fifth birthday up to the age of eight, unless they are not required to register. This is usually six- and seven-year-olds, but could include some five-year-olds.

Voluntary part

Some childcare providers can choose to register with us if they want to provide care that does not need to register with us. This includes:

  • home-based care in the home of the child (nannies)
  • activity-based settings such as sports coaching or tuition
  • short-term care such as crèches
  • care that is only for children aged eight to their 18th birthday.

Tax credit childcare provider’s helpline

This is Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC) helpline for childcare providers only; it provides advice for the childcare element of working tax credit.

HMRC cannot comment nor discuss customer’s claims with any childcare providers, nor what actions may be taken following checks HMRC make.

The helpline number is 0845 300 3941/0845 300 3909 (textphone). It is open:

  • 8.00am to 8.00pm, Monday to Friday
  • 8.00am to 4.00pm, Saturday.

You can make an enquiry in writing to the following address:

Tax Credit Office
PR1 0SB.

For further information, see Working Tax Credit – The childcare element – Information for childcare providers. This leaflet is on the HMRC website's tax credits leaflets page.

Frequently asked questions

Visit the FAQ section if you have any questions not answered here.

FAQ about childcare

More information

Information for parents and carers using childcare services

Easy read publications

The easy read image: girl with book

We have three publications available in easy read format.

What are the secrets of successful childcare?

What are the secrets of successful childcare? You can find out what outstanding providers told us in these leaflets.

Childminding: a passion to be outstanding

Childcare groups: a passion to be outstanding