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5 Childcare Options


Before deciding which form of childcare would most suit your family, it makes sense to ask yourself questions.

  • What is the purpose of the childcare and which provider best meets those needs?

  • Would you rather the childcare take place in your own home or outside it?

  • If you need childcare to cover your work hours, how far are you able to travel each morning?

  • If you are delayed at work, do you have a back-up plan in place?

  • What would happen if you or your child were ill?

  • If you chose a childminder, what would happen if your childminder were ill?

  • What would happen during your own or a childminder’s holidays?

  • Is there a clear fee structure?

  • Would this include meals, snacks, nappies and days out?

You can find a more comprehensive ‘Nursery Checklist’ in this years Nursery Guide Magazine.. Many of the questions on this checklist apply to other childcare options too.

What is the purpose of the childcare and which provider best meets those needs.

1. Day Nurseries

Day nurseries offer care for children from birth until the age of four or five. There are different types of nurseries including private, community, local authority and workplace nurseries. Edinburgh Council nurseries provide a place for every 3- and 4-year-old child and eligible 2 year-olds with 1140 hours of funded childcare, either in a council setting or within a partnered private nursery. See page 34-35 for a list of Edinburgh Council nurseries with the hours and days they provide childcare and education.

Nearly all private daycare nurseries in Edinburgh are in partnership with Edinburgh Council. They provide you with 1140 free hours per year from the September after your child turns three. There are many reasons why working parents choose the private daycare nursery option; one key reason is that these nurseries are open all year round. Even if a staff member were ill or on holiday, there would be someone else in the nursery who could look after your child. Some parents choose a nursery setting because there tends to be more children for their child to interact with. The number of children attending may vary from nursery to nursery. You may prefer a small or large nursery. However, every nursery setting must comply with the staff ratio 1:3 for 0-2 year-olds, 1:5 for 2-3 year-olds and 1:8 for 3-8 year-olds.

All managers should be qualified in childcare to SVQ level 4, and as a minimum, at least half of the staff in any one facility should be qualified in childcare to SVQ level 2.

Furthermore, at least one member of staff should have a First Aid Certificate. See pages 47-50 for more questions to consider when selecting a private nursery. There are many nurseries in Edinburgh, so you should be able to choose the one that’s right for you and your child.

Costs Private daycare nursery costs depend on the area, but within Edinburgh and the surrounding areas you can expect to pay from £45 - £70 for a full day at nursery (8am-6pm), or around £30 for a half day. Nearly all fees include lunch and snacks; some also include breakfast, tea, nappies, wipes, formula milk, extra activities and the cost of small outings. Daily fees go down the older a child gets, and there maybe a sibling discount if you have more than one child in the same nursery.

In addition to the basic nursery cost (in normal times), there may be extra charges for ‘extra-curricular’ classes that some nurseries run. `However these are usually optional and only operate if there is enough take-up by parents. Some nurseries may charge extra for a breakfast club should you need to drop your child off early.


2. Childminders

Childminders are self-employed and usually take care of children within their own home, providing a home from home environment. They offer a high-quality service and are registered with the Care Inspectorate. This means they adhere to the same standards as a nursery. Childminders are registered for up to a maximum of six children aged under 16 (including their own) at any one time, unless specified otherwise with the Care Inspectorate. Of the six children, no more than three can be pre-school age and no more than one child can be under the age of one.

Childminders plan fun, educational activities for children and should be able to tailor them to the individual child’s interests or stage of development. They are able to be more flexible with opening and closing times, so they can suit shift workers. They can often do those little favours of working early or late when required to. Childminders operate on an hourly rate and will arrange a childminding contract with parents to set out hours, holidays, fees and other terms of service.

Costs Fees vary depending on the type of service required, but the average rate for a childminder in Edinburgh is £5 - £7 per hour, per child. They may also offer a discount for siblings. Childminders can provide government funded hours for eligible 2 year-olds and 3-4 year-olds if they are in partnership with Edinburgh Council. Some childminders work term-time only, but the majority work all year round. If a childminder is unwell, or their own child is unwell, they may not be able to work. Thus Parents will need to make other plans or take time off work. When childminders take holidays, parents will need to take the same dates or arrange their own childcare.


3. Pre-School Playgroups

Less formal than nurseries, these groups operate for a few hours each day only and do not provide full-time care. They tend to be run by private individuals or charities. Parents may be asked to volunteer at times. State must be qualified to the same levels as nurseries. Playgroups provide sessions of play and education for children from around 2 years of age. Some playgroups also work in partnership with their local authority to provide free, part time pre-school education places for 3 and 4 year-olds. These will be inspected by the care commission, measured by the same standards as nurseries and childminders. Gaelic playgroups are also available in some areas.

A playgroup is not the same as a ‘Parent Toddler Group’ which you attend along with your child. Playgroups usually run for 2.5 hours - 3.5 hours per day, mornings or afternoons, up to 5 days per week. They run during school term times.

Costs The full cost of a session (usually 21⁄2 hours) will be around £8 - £9 per session. If your playgroup is registered with the local authority, your 3 or 4-year-old will be eligible for a fully funded place.


4. Nannies

A parent wanting someone to come and look after their child in their own home and keep to their routine will need to hire a nanny. If you are looking for a full-time nanny, then you have the option of a ‘live-in’ or ‘live-out’ nanny. Live-in nannies usually work a 10-12 hour day Monday to Friday, including two nights of babysitting. Nannies living in your home will take sole charge of your children. They will prepare children’s meals, clean up, tidy away toys and do the children’s washing and ironing. A nanny would not usually carry out housekeeping duties for the rest of thehouse. Nannies usually work year round except during their holidays. There are also male nannies or ‘mammies’, bilingual nannies, holiday nannies, nanny shares and after school nannies. It is not a legal requirement for a nanny to be trained, registered or inspected. However, agencies supplying nannies must be registered with the Care Inspectorate.

Costs You have the choice of going through an agency or finding one independently, either through advertising or word of mouth. You can expect to pay from £12 - £16 per hour, depending on the number of children you have. It’s worth remembering that if you employ a nanny, you will be obliged to pay their tax, NI and expenses (such as petrol) and insurance on top of the hourly fee. If you use an agency, you will also need to pay them to arrange payslips or use an online payslip company so you meet PAYE regulations.


5. Au pair

Au pairs are far and few between since Brexit. As far as childcare is concerned, au pairs are not generally recommended for children below school age and certainly not under the age of two. Families who go down the au pair route need to be prepared to have an additional adult living at home. The vast majority of au pairs are young people (aged 18-23) taking a 6-12 month gap in their studies to improve their knowledge of another language and culture. This will mean they require free board and lodging at your home, paid holidays and sick leave. Since it is a cultural exchange, it cannot be seen in purely monetary terms. Families have to invest a bit of time rather than money when they elect to have an au pair. It may be possible to host a student who is in Edinburgh studying. In return, they would work a few hours per week.

Costs An au pair generally works for five to six hours per day helping with childcare and light housework. Their weekends are usually free. They have the same holiday entitlement as other workers i.e. 14 days for every six months worked.

As things stand, a limited number of T5 Youth Mobility visa holders from Australia/New Zealand might travel to the UK as au pairs when the borders reopen in January 2022. However they can apply for any job and are only likely to want to work as au pairs if they need to get experience working with children for their planned are of study/work. These applicants tend to be older than the pre-Brexit EU applicants and expect to be paid £120 per week. An au pair is not considered an ‘employee’. They do not earn enough to pay tax or national insurance.

There may also be a limited number of full time language or university students hoping to work as au pairs. However a student visa only enables them to work for 10 hours per week. Language students have to attend a British Council accredited language school and there are relatively few of these in Scotland/UK. They are unlikely to stay for more than 6 months and 3 months is more likely since they will be paying over £100 a week for language classes.


Further childcare information


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