Please enable JavaScript in your browser
Bright Horizons

Ratios in England

Caring for childrenHow many children can I care for?

In England the number of children a childminder may care for and the indoor space requirements are set out in the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage, Safeguarding and Welfare requirements.

The numbers of children set out below represent the maximum number of children who may be cared for by a childminder at any one time.  

Each childminder may care for:

  • a maximum of six children under the age of 8;
  • of these six children, a maximum of three may be young children, (a child is defined as a "young child" up until 1st September following his/her 5th birthday). 
  • no more than one child may be under the age of 1.

In all circumstances the maximum number of children under 8 being cared for must not exceed six.

September 2012 changes

Since September 2012, Ofsted, in most cases, will not set out the numbers and ages childminders may care for, or require childminders to apply for a variation. It will be up to the childminder to follow the requirements set out in the Statutory Framework.

When deciding how many children to care for childminders must consider the following:

  • whether there are any other children under 8 years of age who they regularly care for, including their own children, any foster children, children of relatives, or any other child they look after regularly without payment – childminders must include these children in the overall number that they may care for in this age range.
  • any children aged 8 and over who they regularly care for, and whether these children affect the space available to younger children or the time the childminder can spend with them – childminders may have to reduce the number of children they look after if they care for older children; Ofsted will check if they meet the younger children’s needs at inspection.
  • whether any children or adults regularly present, including those they provide a childminding service for, have additional needs that require extra care – childminders may have to reduce the number they childmind if children have particular needs.
  • the space available for childminding: space requirements are set out in paragraph 3.56 of the EYFS – childminders must reduce the number of children they care for if they do not have enough space for the maximum number.
  • any health or other difficulties they might have that prevent them from caring for some children (such as difficulties in lifting) – if the childminder has such difficulties, Ofsted will normally restrict the number of children that they can care for in a condition of registration.
  • when looking after children overnight, whether they need to reduce the maximum number of children they can care for in order to meet any overnight needs, including sleeping arrangements and being within the hearing of the childminder.

Exceptions to the numbers and ages of children

Paragraph 3.40 in the EYFS allows childminders to care for more than one baby in certain circumstances, for example when caring for twins or your own baby.

Childminders may also care for more children in the early years age group if the children are aged 4 and 5 and attend other provision for a normal school day and/or the school holidays.

Paragraph 3.29 in the EYFS also allows childminders to care for more children in the early years age group through an overarching "exceptional circumstances" statement. Ofsted will normally interpret an exceptional circumstance as relating to the continuity of care for children and/or where sibling children are not babies.

These are times where it may be in children’s best interests to be with their brothers and sisters who are already with a childminder, or to remain with the same childminder where circumstances may change the number of children the childminder can care for, such as a parent extending their working hours.

This type of arrangement would end when either the parent adjusted their hours or a child left the childminder’s care. It does not give the permission to operate with more children in the early years age group at all times.

In all cases, when deciding to care for additional children in the early years age group childminders should consider:

  • the length of time they are providing care
  • whether their furniture, indoor space and equipment is sufficient
  • how they will deliver the learning and development requirements of the EYFS to all the children they care for and help them make the best possible progress
  • how they organise their day so that all children get enough of their time
  • whether they have assessed and mitigated any risks in relation to taking on any additional children, for example through considering how they might have to rearrange play spaces to cope with an extra child or manage outings.

Keeping up to date

Laws about childcare in England can be confusing. It can feel as though they're constantly changing. PACEY will keep you up to date about how these changes affect what you do, so you can concentrate on looking after children. Become a member today for less than £8.02 per month*.

*Membership paid annually

Want to be part of PACEY? Join online here or if you’re already a member login to MyPACEY