Registered childminders are given a maximum number of children that they can care for at any one time.
Because of the differences in registration requirements between England and Wales, the number of children that childminders in these countries can care for is slightly different.
Childminders in England
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.
A 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 a young child until 1st September following their 5th birthday).
If children aged 4 and 5 only attend the childminding setting before and/or after a normal school day and/or during school holidays, they may be cared for at the same time as three other young children.
If a childminder is providing wraparound care (before and/or after school) for a 3-, 4-, or 5-year-old child taking up their 30-hour place in a school (that is a maintained school, academy or independent school, but not a PVI setting), an exception to the usual ratios can be made.
The key conditions are that:
- the childminder must be able to demonstrate to parents and/or carers and Ofsted inspectors or their childminder agency that the individual needs of all the children are being met
- the total number of children under the age of 8 being cared for must not exceed six.
If a childminder employs an assistant or works with another childminder, each childminder (or assistant) may care for the number of children permitted by the ratios specified in sections 3.43 of the EYFS Statutory Framework, subject to any restrictions imposed by Ofsted on registration.
Children may only be left in the sole care of assistants for no more than two hours in a single day. Childminders must obtain parental permission to leave children with an assistant.
If a childminder can demonstrate to parents/carers and Ofsted that the individual needs of children are being met, then exceptions to the usual ratios can be made where childminders are caring for sibling babies, or caring for their own baby. This is to allow continuity of care for families. Exceptions may also apply in the event of short-term and unforeseeable emergencies, as long as care for all children is safeguarded and the one-to-six ratio is not exceeded.
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.
Childminders in Wales
Under the 'National Minimum Standards for Regulated Childcare for children up to the age of 12 years' childminders may care for no more than 10 children under 12.
- of those 10 children, no more than six may be under 8 years of age
- no more than three children may be under the age of 5
- normally no more than two children may be under 18 months of age, although exceptions can be made for siblings.
Where a childminder employs an assistant, the same adult:child ratios apply for any additional children. However, the space available for children on the premises may also affect the numbers for which provision can be registered.
Children aged 3 to 5 years who attend full-time education provision may be classed as over-5s for the purposes of the ratios relevant to childminders.
The ratios include the childminder's own children and any others for whom they are responsible and who are on the premises. Students on training placements of 12 weeks or less are not included in the adult:child ratio.