Choosing an Early Years Service - questions to ask & what to look for?

 

 The Learning Environment:

Look for:

·         Is the environment spacious both indoor and outdoor, bright and                       welcoming?

·         Are the premises in good repair, clean, secure and safe?

·         Are the rooms well laid out allowing for safe movement of the children?

·         Is the equipment and toys age appropriate, safe, in good repair and                   varied?

·         Do all children have an easy access to the toys and learning materials?

·         Is there evidence of the children’s work displayed throughout the                       service?

·         Are children free to choose activities?

·         What learning opportunities are offered through the curriculum, i.e.                    physical play, outdoor play, individual activity, group activity, creative              activities, construction opportunities?

·         Are the children content, comfortable and happy in their surroundings?

·         Are the children engaged with an activity/meaningful play?

·         Can you observe caring and respectful interactions between adult and                child?

·         How is daily information about children communicated to parents/guardians e.g. diaries, scrapbooks etc.

Ask:

·         What will a typical day for my child look like? Is independence promoted and encouraged?

·         How will staff work with the child to help the settling in process?

·         Do the children have an opportunity to mix with those outside of their room, i.e. siblings?

·         How often do the children go outside?

·         What curriculum approach is used?

·         How many children are in the age group you are interested in?

·         How do staff manage difficult or challenging behaviour?

·         Is there an open-door policy? Can you visit at any time?

 

Health and Safety:

Look for:

·         Clear and clutter free entry and exit points to the building.

·         Do the classroom doors have viewing panels?

·         Does the Parent Notice board have details of First Aid Certificates, contacts for Health and Safety Officer, Designated Liaison Person for Child Protection concerns?

·         Fire Evacuation assembly point sign, fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, fire exits clearly marked etc.

·         Safe and appropriate outdoor play area, nappy changing, sleeping and resting facilities.

·         Is there a suitable area for the preparation of food? Is it safe, hygienic and inaccessible to the children?

Ask:

·         Who has access to the building?

·         Is there a safety statement and can you view it?

·         Transport: Is there a school drop off/collection service in place? Does the vehicle have seatbelts and /or booster seats as appropriate? Is the vehicle appropriately insured             with driver and qualified staff member?

·         Child Protection: Is there a child protection policy in place? Have staff attended child protection training and hold up-to-date certification? Is there a Designated Liaison             Person and Deputy Designated Liaison Person? Have all staff been Garda Vetted?

·         Collection policy: Who can collect the child? What measures are in place to ensure only those authorised to collect the child have access to your child? Are passwords or             ID required?

·         Illness policy: What is the setting's illness policy and their policy around the administration of medication?

·         Accident/incident/ emergency care: What procedures are in place in the event of a medical emergency, access to doctor, nurses etc.? At what stage of an emergency will              you be contacted? How are you informed of any incidents/ accidents relating to your child?

·         Outings: Are the children taken on outings? If so what kind of trips, how frequent, what are the adult to child ratios? Are these outings covered by insurance? Ask to see                the Outings Policy.

·         Healthy eating policy: Do you have to supply lunches or does the service supply food? Are there sample menus available? Can the service cater for specific dietary          

           requirements that your child may have? What are the meal times? What happens if your child doesn’t eat their dinner? What types of drinks are permitted in the service? Is             water available throughout the day?

·         Is the service registered with Tusla? A list of registered services can be found here.

 

Management & Staff:

Look for:

·         Copies of staff qualifications and certificates of Continuous Professional Development on display. All staff working directly with children must hold a minimum of QQI               Level 5 Major Award in Early Childhood Care and Education.

·         Is there adequate staff in the rooms to meet the adult:child ratio requirements set out in the Early Years Regulations 2016.

·         Are the staff positively interacting with the children and colleagues e.g. at the child’s level, verbal and body language communication is respectful and encouraging?

·         Are staff professional and caring in their approach to the children, colleagues and you as a potential parent of a child in their care?

·         Do you feel comfortable and reassured with the manager and any staff that you meet during the visit?

Ask:

·         Who will be looking after your child?

·         Is there a Key Worker System- staff member assigned to your child ensuring consistency to your child’s day? How often do you have access to this person?

·         Is there a high turnover of staff? If so, any reasons or explanation for this.

·         Are the staff Garda Vetted and references checked as required by the Early Years Regulations 2016? ? Do new staff members complete an induction followed by adequate  

          supervision?

·         Is there a senior member of staff on the premises at all times during hours of operation of the service?

·         What opportunities if any are there for you to get involved with the service (e.g. outings, plays, family events, etc.)?

·         How are concerns about children, staff or the service are dealt with? Is there a complaints policy/procedure?

 

 Fees:

·         What is the weekly/monthly charge for the childcare you require? How often are fees paid? What is the preferred method of payment? What period of notice do I need to

           provide when I no longer need childcare?

·         Is a deposit required? Is the deposit refundable? Always ask for a receipt of deposit.

·         Are there any extra charges e.g. late collection, additional hours etc. 

·         What are the payment arrangements regarding holidays, i.e. Christmas and mid-terms?

·         If transport is supplied to and from school, is this an extra cost?

·         What National Funding Programmes does the service participate in, if any and which programme are you eligible for? 

Information on childcare funding programmes can be found here

Click on the What’s Next section to see What's Next Once You Have Chosen an Early Years' service