Regulatory bodies for Wales childcare

Within Wales, there are two independent regulatory bodies that inspect childcare and play services; Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) and Estyn. Find some further information on each of these organisations below.

Care Inspectorate Wales

care inspectorare wales

Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) is responsible for inspecting social care and social services in Wales, they register, inspect and take action to improve the quality and safety of services in Wales. Childcare providers must be registered with CIW if they wish to access funding from Welsh Government such as Flying Start or Childcare Offer.

Care Inspectorate Wales regulates social care and early-years services using the regulations and statutory guidance set out in the National Minimum Standards for Regulated Childcare for Children up to 12 years (NMS). The standards enable CIW to regulate   childcare providers in Wales. 

The National Minimum standards are regularly reviewed. In May 2023, following a consultation with the sector, the standards were updated to reflect the current early years environment. A number of changes have been made, including to mandatory training in Paediatric First Aid and Safeguarding and changes to the standard on staffing ratios. Full details of these and all the other changes together with further information on how they impact the running of a childcare setting can be found on the NDNA Cymru Welsh Government & Childcare Support pages. 

Childcare Providers that are registered with CIW are required to complete a Self Assessment of Service Statement (SASS) annually. This online form enables CIW to gather data on childcare settings and the children who attend them. 

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Nursery education for 3-and-4 year olds 

Within Wales, every local authority is required to offer all 3-year-old children a funded part-time place in an education establishment in the term following their 3rd birthday. Local authorities offer these places in maintained schools and non-maintained settings.  

Where provision is delivered in non-maintained settings, funding is provided for 10 hours per week for up to 38 weeks of the year, usually over five sessions per week. The local authority provides funding directly to the setting for each child taking up a funded place. Not all local authorities fund non-maintained settings.  

Settings who are funded to deliver nursery education usually receive support from an appointed Early Years Advisory Teacher (EYAT) based within the local authority/education consortia (depending on a setting’s location) The application process to deliver funded nursery education can differ depending on location, so it is best to check with your local authorities Family Information Service (FIS) if you would like further information on this.  

Estyn inspect those non-maintained settings who have been selected to deliver funded nursery education.   


Estyn inspects quality and standards across Wales, including nursery schools and settings that are maintained by, or receive funding from, local authorities. 

Since January 2019, CIW and Estyn have worked jointly to inspect care and education in regulated non-school settings eligible for funding for part-time education. These joint inspections evaluate the care provided for all children up to the age of twelve and the education of three and four-year-old children that do not receive education in a maintained setting. 

The purpose of joint inspection is to: 

  • Provide an evaluation of quality to the users of services and other stakeholders through published reports 
  • Promote improvement in care and education 
  • Inform the development of national policy by the Welsh Government 
  • Test whether the service is still fit to be registered 
  • Provide sufficient assurance that the service is safe and compliant.

Inspectors follow a joint inspection framework that includes six themes, each divided into key areas. Themes 1 and 2 consider children’s outcomes, themes 3 and 4 consider how well practitioners contribute towards these and themes 5 and 6 consider the quality of leadership in ensuring good outcomes for the child. Inspectors will make one judgement for each theme across the setting’s whole provision. 

Joint inspections take place at least once during a seven-year period. The latest seven-year period began 1 September 2023. As the inspection requirements for CIW are more frequent, settings who receive joint inspections will also be inspected solely by CIW according to their inspection schedule. Inspections by CIW can be either ‘full inspections’ or ‘focused inspections’. For further information on CIW only inspections, see information above.  

For further information and to support understanding of the inspection of nursery education in the non-maintained sector, read our FREE NDNA Cymru factsheet: 

Inspection of funded nursery education within the non-maintained sector.  

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