We Provide Free, Impartial Information for Families

Choosing Quality Provision

Choosing Childcare

Scientific evidence shows that a child's brain in its earliest years develops at a phenomenal rate. These first few years represent a golden opportunity for us to give our children the best possible start in life. So choosing childcare and early education is a big step for you and your child. Early education and pre-school services can differ, as can individual childminders, nurseries, nursery classes or out of school clubs. Try and give yourself enough time to visit several possible options in your area to get a good idea of what could suit your child. You are the expert on your child – trust your feelings. It can be a good idea to take your child with you when you visit a setting to see how staff talk to him or her. Try to visit when children are there so you can see if they are calm, happy and busy.

What to look for when choosing childcare - Top ten quality pointers

  1. Children appear happy, content and actively engaged with what they are doing.
  2. Childcare providers have a genuinely caring and friendly relationship with the children; a calm atmosphere with no raised voices.
  3. The setting is safe, adequately lit and maintained to a good standard of hygiene.
  4. A broad range and generous supply of toys and equipment easily accessible to children.
  5. Adequate personal space for children to play.
  6. Calm area with subdued lighting where very young children can rest and sleep.
  7. Comfortable area where children can relax.
  8. Toys, books and displays that represent and promote different cultures in a positive way.
  9. Clean, appropriately sized toilets and hand basins with individual or disposable towels provided.
  10. A secure and safe outdoor recreation area.

Good childcare staff expect you to ask questions and will be happy to answer them.

Top Tips

  • Always take up references. You could ask for names of other parents to talk to about your chosen service.
  • Listen to your child and find out more if he or she seems unhappy.
  • Always trust your own feelings about your childcare – you know your child best.
  • Ask to see the service’s latest report from the Care Inspectorate and, if it is a setting which provides Pre School Education,Education Scotland.

Choosing Quality Provision

Employers, workers and a number of organisations in Scotland are striving to raise the quality of early years and childcare services. This can be done in a number of ways by assessing everything from the physical premises of a centre to the qualifications of the workers.

Responsibility for assuring standards in Scotland rests with three key organisations:

Care Inspectorate (previously SCSWIS)

In order to operate an early years or childcare service (e.g. day nursery or childminder) in Scotland the provider must be registered with Care Inspectorate. It has its own inspection process to ensure the health, safety and quality standards expected are being met. To find more information or the latest inspection reports visit their site at:

Open www.careinspectorate.com in a new window

Education Scotland

As well as inspecting primary and secondary schools, Education Scotland inspects establishments delivering pre-school education. To find the latest inspection reports visit their website:

Open Education Scotland website in a new window

Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC)

Since October 2006, staff working in the early years and childcare sector have been eligible to register with the SSSC. To be on the register a member of staff needs to have, or be working towards, an appropriate qualification. For further information, please visit their website:

Open www.sssc.uk.com in a new window