When to apply for childcare

The information below is intended to be a guide. Remember to allow a ‘settling in period’ while your child gets used to his or her new surroundings.

Childminders

Start looking ten to 12 weeks before you want care to start. Some childminders might not know that they will have a vacancy until a month before. This is due to the usual notice period of a month that families should give when leaving a childminder. However sometimes childminders may be able to offer childcare at short notice or to cover an emergency or temporary childcare need.

Check if the childminder offers Early Education Funding, entitling your child to 15 hours of free early education from the term following their third birthday.

Day nurseries

Start looking as early as you can. Places for babies especially can get filled quickly as many parents register their baby on a waiting list as soon as they know they are expecting. Check if the group offers Early Education Funding, entitling your child to 15 hours of free early education from the term following their third birthday.  

Pre-schools and playgroups

Many of the popular groups have waiting lists for places so we would advise you to contact groups to find out when to register. Registering with a group does not guarantee you a place so you should also consider registering with more than one. Check if the group offers Early Education Funding , entitling your child to 15 hours of free early education from the term following their third birthday.  

Nursery classes and schools

Your child cannot start at nursery class until the term following their third birthday but you must apply for a place by the deadline for applications which is usually in March. Check the Schools Admissions page for the cut-off date for that year, and to find out when each nursery school has an intake of children. 

Think about how well you meet admission criteria for the school, and if you require a longer session of childcare, does the school offer it or can you arrange this with a child minder or out of school club?

Breakfast and after school clubs

Start looking as soon as you know which school your child will attend or if your childcare needs to change. Remember that child minders can also offer before and after school care.

Holiday clubs play schemes

Bookings for holiday schemes usually open a few weeks before the start of the school holiday – start looking as soon as you know you will require childcare during holidays. Some child minders may also offer care during school holidays only.