Finding and choosing childcare, how to apply

You can use this directory to find childcare. Or contact our friendly Family Information Service team: 020 7527 5959; email

See also our information on Paying for Childcare and Free early learning and childcare for 2, 3 and 4 year olds

Childcare explained!

Types of childcare

Choosing childcare is an important decision for parents. Different kinds of childcare offer different experiences for your child, and you will need care that fits in with your needs.

It is advisable to choose childcare which is registered. Ofsted registers and inspects childcare. 

You can see how early years settings are inspected by Ofsted here.


Childminders look after children in the childminder’s own home. Most childminders work Monday to Friday, between 8am and 6pm, but some work flexibly providing care early morning, evenings, and at weekends. They can also provide part-time, before and after school and holiday care. The benefits of using a childminder include flexible childcare and early learning in a home-from-home environment and use of all that the local community has to offer – stay and play sessions, parks, farms and libraries.

Childcare on domestic premises

Childcare on domestic premises is childcare in a home where four or more carers look after children at the same time. It’s a small nursery operating on domestic premises.


Nurseries offer full or part-time places, for children from 3 months to school age, depending on the type of nursery. Full-time day care hours are typically 8am to 6pm, all year round (apart from a few weeks holiday) although a few private nurseries are open from 7.30am to 7pm.

School nursery classes

School nursery classes can take children from 3 years old, full or part time, but are only open during term-time. Some schools provide free early learning for 2 year olds.

Children’s centre and early years centre nurseries

For children from 6 months to 4 years. Places are all year round, part time and full time. Parents who work or study and live in Islington are prioritised.

Community nurseries

Monitored and supported by the council and offer full- and part-time places. Parents who work or study and live in Islington are prioritised.

Sessional playgroups

For children from 2 years’ old, are usually part-time and term-time only, although some operate a core day, 9.30am to 3.30pm.

After-school and holiday playschemes

Run by schools, community organisations and private companies. Depending on the age of the children, they are registered by Ofsted on the Early Years, Childcare or Voluntary registers.


Nannies are employed directly by parents and look after children in the child’s home. Nannies do not have to register with Ofsted but parents should encourage a nanny to register with Ofsted on the Voluntary part of the Childcare Register (VCR) which requires basic training standards and a DBS check. Using a registered nanny also enables a parent to claim any tax credits or childcare vouchers or Tax-Free Childcare to help with costs. If you use an unregistered nanny, you will have to carry out your own safety checks.

Family or friends

Can be a convenient childcare option for some parents, but because they are not registered by Ofsted, it is not possible to get help with childcare costs from tax credits or childcare vouchers or Tax-Free Childcare.

Childcare for children with disabilities

Islington Council aims to support children of all abilities into all nurseries and registered childcare. Talk to the nursery and your health visitor or GP about your child’s needs. Each nursery has a special educational needs co-ordinator (SENDCO). There are some specialist schools with nurseries for children who have disabilities. Contact the FIS on 020 7527 5959 or visit for help finding suitable childcare for disabled children.

Finding childcare

To find registered childcare in your local area, you can add 'childcare' and your postcode to the search boxes. The results you get will show all your options close to your home. You can click on each record to see full details of the childcare offered. To see a list of all childcare providers in Islington, use the Childcare and Early Education section of this directory. If you need a downloadable list, see 'Downloads'.

You can contact childcare providers to arrange a visit and apply for a place directly with them. There is no central admissions system in Islington for childcare providers.

Many providers will not have immediate vacancies, but you will be able to join a waiting list until a place becomes available. You can join as many waiting lists as you like and it is a good idea to give yourself a range of options.

To find childminders advertising immediate or future vacancies, you can use the 'Childminder vacancies' filter in this directory. You can also meet Islington Ofsted registered childminders at stay and play sessions where you have the opportunity to talk to childminders.

To find holiday childcare, see 'Holidays - childcare and things to do' in Related information'.

Choosing childcare

Make appointments to visit two or three different childcare providers to compare what’s on offer.

Think about your child’s personality and interests – what environment will they prefer?

Check opening times, holiday dates and costs. Check what is included, or excluded from costs.

The setting must be registered with Ofsted – check their inspection report on the Ofsted website Settings are inspected by Ofsted when they register to make sure they are meeting the requirements for safety and learning and development, but this inspection report is not published. Ofsted will carry out a full inspection and publish a report online within the first 30 months of registration.

Give yourself plenty of time to choose, you may not always get a place at your first choice.

What should I look for in a childcare setting?

  • Does the childcare setting have a friendly feel? Do you feel welcome? How do staff interact with you and your child?
  • Is it clean, light, well-ventilated and big enough for children to be active indoors and outdoors? All childcare providers must ensure children access the outdoors daily.
  • If it's a nursery, does the baby room have access to an outside area and is it suitable?
  • Where will your child sleep? Do staff always stay with the children when they sleep?
  • Are there suitable places where the child can rest?
  • Are the toys varied (do they differ in size, texture, colour and shape)?
  • Do the children look happy? Are they engaged and having fun?
  • Are the staff talking to the children in a way that interests and encourages them?
  • Are there enough staff to keep an eye on all children? At nursery there should be at least one member of staff for every three children under 2 years old, one member of staff for every four children aged 2 years, and one member of staff to every eight children aged 3 years and over. Childminders can look after up to six children under 8 years; no more than three children under 5 years (only one child can be under 1). Childminders may be able to look after more children if they work with assistants.
  • Do staff manage behaviour appropriately? There should be a written policy for you to see.
  • How will your child be settled into a nursery or with a childminder? What does the childcare provider want to know from you about your child? A good provider will help your child adapt gradually.
  • What food is provided and is it healthy?

When choosing childminders

Childminders will look after your child in their own home, but they will also take children out regularly. Your child will have a familiar carer who provides fun and learning. Some childminders have a garden or they take children out to the park to give them access to outdoor play. Childminders are self-employed and services, fees and opening times vary.

Ofsted requires that everyone who lives in the home over 16 must have a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. Childminders have attended training before Ofsted registers them and they should regularly attend training to keep up to date. Some also have qualifications

Islington encourages partnership working between the Early Years and Childcare service and childminders. Qualified childminding coordinators, part of Islington's teaching and learning team, work with Islington's childminders to support them in providing high-quality provision and practice. They work closely with the Family Information Service and the Childcare and Childminding Information Officer to support families to find childcare.  

Additional questions for childminders

  • How many children do you look after, and how old are the children?
  • What training and experience do you have?
  • What activities and routines do you provide for the children and where do you take them when you go out?
  • Do you have pets?
  • Who else will be in the house when you are minding?
  • Do you drive? If yes, do you have suitable insurance and car seats?
  • Do you have references from parents?

When choosing unregistered childcare

Ask to see references, certificates for qualifications, including First Aid, and DBS, Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) disclosures.

How to apply for childcare

Apply directly to each provider for childcare and early learning, including nursery classes in schools. You do not apply through the council - there is no central admissions process. You can apply for as many as you like.

Islington's Early Years admissions policy sets out how we offer places at council-funded nurseries, including children’s centres, nursery classes in schools and community nurseries.

Private nurseries will have their own admissions policies, which are usually available on their websites.

Related articles