Do I have to register my out of school club with Ofsted?

A requirement to register with Ofsted is dependent on two things, which UK country you’re in and the type of out of school provision you offer.

Each of the four UK nations has its own regulatory body for out of school provision:

In all four countries you are usually required to register clubs that provide wraparound childcare services, but not those that are specific extra curricular activities. The age of the children you care for is also a factor.

All of them are legal requirements. And you face prosecution if you don’t register.

As you know, there are many legal prerequisites  to setting up an out of school club. You need to master all of them: staff and space ratios, staff qualifications, police checks, fire certificates, food safety certifications. And the rest.

We know, it’s a lot. But it’s worth it to keep everyone safe. And it’ll be worth all the time and effort when yours is up and running.

This article solely focuses on which regulatory body you need to register with and if you’re obliged to register your particular kind of out of school club. With some helpful links to other legislative details. We work our way, alphabetically (the only fair system!) around the UK’s four nations.  

All the information is correct at the time of writing. But, as we all know, legislation changes regularly, so please check the current situation with your relevant body.

Here’s where you can skip to the bit that concerns you (click on the link).

England - Northern Ireland - Scotland - Wales

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Ofsted regulations state that you must register your childcare provision if you’re working with children under 8 years old, for more than two hours a day.

Unlike the other countries of the UK, Ofsted have two different registers: The Early Years Register and the Childcare Register. The Childcare Register has both a compulsory and voluntary section.

Early Years Register

Childcare Register – Compulsory Section

  • You must register on the Childcare Register if you’re looking after children between the ages of five (precisely, from the September after they turn five) and eight. This usually applies to Breakfast Clubs, After School Clubs and other wraparound care services.

Childcare Register – Voluntary Section

You can choose to register voluntarily if:

  • You run an activity-based club, that isn’t required to register

  • The children are over 8 years old

The full list of requirements to register on all versions of Ofsted lists can be found here. It contains everything you’d expect. All the laws you must comply with around Child Protection, Health and Safety, and Diversity and Inclusion.

How do I start the registration process with Ofsted?

You need to register with Ofsted through a Government Gateway account. You’ll need enhanced checks from the Disclosure and Barring Service and an EY2 form for everyone involved.

You’ll get a Unique Reference Number in the mail. If you’re joining the Early Years Register, then you’ll be contacted by Ofsted to organise your pre-registration visit.

How often will I be inspected by Ofsted?

On the Early Years register, you are inspected before registration and then once within your first 30 months of opening. After that, you can expect at least one inspection every six years.

If you’re only on the Childcare Register (and not on the Early Years register), there are no pre-registration or ‘during your first year’ visits. Ofsted inspect a random 10% of settings on the Childcare Register every year.

Who doesn’t have to register?

You don’t have to register your out of school club with Ofsted if it’s direct “tutoring or coaching” for the over 3s in one of these categories (see the registration exemptions for more details):

  • school study support or homework support

  • sports

  • performing arts

  • arts and crafts

  • religious, cultural or language studies”

But you can’t care for children aged less than 5 for more than four hours in any one day.

Basically, if your club teaches children a specific activity, rather than being part of wraparound care, you don’t have to register with Ofsted but you might want to.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, you must register your out of school club with the Early Years Registration and Inspections Team office of your local Health and Social Care Trust (HSC). They register and inspect all out of school childcare provision for children up to 12 years of age that is “full day care, pre-school sessional care, creches, out of school clubs and childminders.”

You will need to prove that you are implementing the relevant part of this specific legislation:

How do I start my registration with my HSC?

To begin your registration procedure, you need to fill in an online form and send the necessary documentation. Each of the five HSC’s have their own guidance on this, which invariably requires the same information. For example, this is a detailed registration document published by the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust.

It lays out what documentation is required at the start and gives a full list of everything you’ll need before registration is complete.

How often will I be inspected?

You’ll get an allocated social worker who’ll visit your site and help you through the rest of the application procedure. Once you’re fully registered and opened, your Early Years Inspection Team will make annual visits to ensure the consistent quality of your provision.

When you don’t have to register

If your out of school club fits into one of these categories, you don’t have to register with an HSC:

  • Religious activities

  • Skill development; like languages, music, art, crafts, sports

  • Leisure and recreational activities

  • “Uniformed organisations”, like the Brownies/Guides and Scouts

  • Tuition, like a study group or booster class

  • If no child stays for longer than two hours

  • You operate less than six days a year


In Scotland, the regulatory body is the Care Inspectorate. You’re legally required to register with the Care Inspectorate if you provide daily childcare for more than two hours in a non-domestic setting, for children up to the age of 15.

This concerns breakfast clubs, holiday clubs and other wraparound care provision.

Where do I start with applying to the Scottish Care Inspectorate?

The Care Inspectorate assesses your out of school facility against the Health and Social Care Standards. These replaced the National Care Standards, with a view to having one document that covers all health and social care provision. You will need to show your understanding of these Health and Social Care Standards by already having polices and practice in place before your first inspection.

When you first apply, the Care Inspectorate will send an inspector to your facility to assess whether or not it meets the registration criteria. At this stage, they may suggest improvements to any area of your provision. These will need to be met before you’ll be allowed to officially register and open.

How often will I be inspected?

After that, you’ll be inspected again during your first year. Services are graded on a scale of one to six, with six being ‘excellent’. Depending on your grading, you’ll then be inspected every one-to- three years. If your grading is low, you’ll be inspected more frequently and will be supported to improve your provision.

The Care Inspectorate has the power to shut down any service that remains unsatisfactory over a period of time.

There are 14 different Care Inspectorate offices around Scotland, you need to register with the one closest to your out of school provision.

When you don’t need to register with the Care Inspectorate

  • The provision is for less than two hours per day

  • Homework or study clubs

  • Extracurricular clubs that develop a specific skill, like art, languages or netball

All staff working in registered out of school clubs must hold the same qualifications as people working in early learning and childcare and be registered with the Scottish Social Services Council.


If you live in Wales, you need to register your out of school provision with Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW).

You must register if children are with you for over two hours per day.

Care Inspectorate Wales suggest that you use the Local Family Information Service to check you meet all the necessary staff qualifications.

They also recommend getting in touch with the organisation best suited to your out of school club to get more information about starting up.

How do I start my application?

You apply to register through the Care Inspectorate Wales’ online service. This will require you to already have your Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate. You may already have this through your current employment. If you don’t, you can get all the details on CIW page.

How often will I be inspected?

You will get a full, routine inspection around six months after you open. Then you’ll be put into the out of school care, once in every three years, cycle.

When you don’t have to register

The Guidance states that you are not required to registered “if the care provided is incidental to tuition or coaching in the following activities:

  • sport
  • performing arts
  • arts and crafts
  • school study or homework support
  • religious or cultural study

Two exceptions to this:

  • children are under 5 and are with you for over 4 hours per day
  • the coach or tutor offers more than two of the listed activities

How are you feeling?

It’s a bit overwhelming at first, isn’t it? Hopefully, this concise breakdown of who you need to register with and the basic regulations has been helpful. There is a long list of legislative targets to meet when you’re involved in childcare. And right at the start it’s pretty daunting. But, as you can see, wherever you are there are organisations to advise you and most of the actual regulations turn out to be what you’d expect.

There are two similarities between all of the four nations;

  • You don’t have to register ‘extra curricular activities’ that develop a particular skill or support school learning. But, in England, you can join the voluntary register.

  • The process takes a long time. You need to allow months, not weeks, to complete your preparations and allow your organisation time to complete their due process.

It’s particularly important to note that parents/carers can only get tax free childcare and use childcare vouchers for registered out of school provision.

And, when it’s done, it’s done! You’ll have to amend policies as laws change over time. You’ll need to complete the same procedure when you hire new members of staff. There’ll always be amendments. But once you’ve got yourself registered and legally set up, you’re good to go!

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