Thinking of starting a childcare business
Starting a Playgroup (known as Sessional Care)
Playgroups usually operate from community centres, schools or church buildings and offer sessional care for children aged between 2 and 5 years. Playgroups operate for 2 to 3 hours in the morning and/or afternoon mainly during term time.
Wraparound care operates in schools and offers sessional care for children aged between 3 and 4 years. Wraparound care allows children attending the school nursery to stay on the school premises all day. For example, children attending morning nursery will be able to use the wraparound care after their school session to stay in school until 3.20pm. Children attending afternoon nursery school will use wraparound care in the morning.
Where two sessions are offered in any one day, children must not attend more than five sessions per week. There must be a break between sessions with no children in the care of the provider.
Before starting a new playgroup it is very important to assess what the demand for the group will be. You need to know how many 2 to 3 year olds there are in the area and how the local population figures are likely to change, e.g. are there any housing developments planned?
You have to be sure that the parents of those children want them to attend some form of provision, and find out what kind of provision they would like. Parents are the obvious partner when caring for and educating children in the early years. By building parents' ideas, views and values into the heart of your provision for their children, you will actively engage them to support and help develop your setting.
Carry out ‘market research' by talking to parents and carers in parent and toddler groups and by talking to health visitors who have a good picture of community provision in their own area.
Every local authority in Wales is required to carry out a Childcare Sufficiency Assessment (known as a CSA) every three years where childcare supply and demand is analysed and gaps in provision identified. The CSA can be a useful tool when researching ‘childcare' needs within a specific area.
If there is sufficient demand, the next steps are:
- Deciding on the structure of the playgroup (school run, voluntary committee or run privately)
- Finding suitable premises
- Registering with the Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW)
- Employing the right people
- Equipping the playground
- Getting the paperwork in place
When looking for suitable premises you need to consider whether the building is in a good state of repair, if it is safe and secure for the children, whether appropriate toilet and kitchen facilities are available, whether the premises are easy for families to get to and whether they are accessible to children and adults with disabilities. You must also consider what outside play space there is, and how this is/will be secured.
All playgroup settings looking after children under the age of 8 and operating for more than two hours in any one day must be registered with the CIW.
The main aims of registration are to promote quality and to protect children, ensuring that they are cared for in safe and suitable surroundings.
A childcare setting must meet the CIW National Minimum Standards before registration can be granted.
Managing the playgroup/wraparound care
The person in charge must:
- Have at least 2 years experience of working in a day care setting and have at least a level 3 qualification of Accepted Qualifications for the Early Years and Childcare Workforce in Wales or Skills Active's Integrated Qualification Framework for Playwork (or any lists which supersede them), which is appropriate to the post.
- At least 50% of the non-supervisory staff holds a qualification at least at level 2 from the Care Council for Wales' current list of Accepted Qualifications for the Early Years and Childcare Workforce in Wales or Skills Active's Integrated Qualification Framework for Playwork (or any lists which supersede them), which is appropriate to the post.
- All staff must undergo an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau disclosure
- Further information on good practice in the recruitment, management, and supervision of staff is available from: Social Care Wales
In day care the minimum staffing ratios are:
- One adult to three children under 2 years.
- One adult to four children aged 2 years.
- One adult to eight children aged 3 - 7 years.
These ratios include any children of staff or volunteers and apply to any activity including escorting and transporting children.
Regular volunteers can be taken into account in the normal staffing ratios.
Staffing levels are maintained during outings and, according to circumstances, it may be necessary to exceed them. Staff supervising outings are qualified to level 3.
Suitable contingency arrangements are in place to cover emergencies and unexpected staff absences. There are sufficient, suitable staff and volunteers to cover staff breaks, holidays, training, sickness and time spent with parents.
There must always be at least two staff on duty.
Before purchasing any equipment, it is important to consider the space and layout of the premises. Activity areas should be developed to attract the children's interest and stimulate learning, with carefully selected resources that will offer open-ended opportunities for play. The space and activities should reflect and promote positive images of diversity, encourage children and adults to enjoy playing and interacting with each other, whilst also promoting children's independence. The equipment does not need to be new; however, it should be of good quality and condition, and it should be safe for the children to use. Toys should display a kite mark and CE mark indicating that they comply with British and European Safety Standards. You must ensure that the resources are appropriate for the age-range and various stages of development of the children in the setting. Natural materials should be used where possible.
Health and safety
It is important that you draw up a safety policy, which clearly sets out your aim for a safe and secure environment and includes procedures for identifying, reporting and dealing with risks, accidents and faulty equipment. All accidents at the setting must be properly recorded and the accident book checked regularly.
There is a duty on providers to:
- develop effective procedures for safeguarding and protecting children from harm or abuse
- for ensuring that the setting - premises and equipment - is secure and that any risks are identified and managed through regular risk assessments
- for regularly checking fire procedures and equipment
- for ensuring that there is always a member of staff on the premises with a current paediatric first aid certificate.
- make routine safety checks of their premises and equipment on a daily basis before the children arrive. In addition, you must also carry out a systematic risk assessment of your premises, equipment and the activities you offer, to highlight any potential problems.
- to ensure that Food Standards Agency and Environmental Health requirements are complied with.(Settings may be inspected to ensure that the food preparation area is suitable and clean, food storage is adequate and hygiene procedures are in place for food preparation)
Further support and guidance on setting up a playgroup is available from:
The majority of groups become members of Early Years Wales or Mudiad Meithrin (MM) who offer general help, support and guidance in setting up and running a playgroup/Cylch Meithrin.