Ofsted’s latest figures on ‘Registered providers and places’ show that there are 840 fewer childminders than there were at the end of March.
The statistics showing movement in the childcare sector show that as of 30 September there were 53,938 childminders, down from 54,778 six months prior on 31 March. The figures show that 3,420 childminders left the profession, while 2,580 joined.
There was also a fall in the number of nurseries during the same period, from 25,688 in March to 25,558 in September, a loss of 130 settings.
According to the figures, there were 1,414 nursery leavers and 1,284 joiners.
Joiners are the number of providers that have been added to Ofsted’s registration database between 31 March to 30 September. Most of these are new registrations, but figures also include providers that have re-activated their registration or changed provide type of register.
Leavers are the number of providers that have been edited in Ofsted’s registration database to ‘inactive’ status between 31 March to 30 September. Most of these are resignations, but figures also include providers that have had registration cancelled or changed provider type or register.
Comparing figures with the end of last September, there were 1,888 fewer childminders and 147 fewer nurseries as of the end of September.
The figures for March to September 2013 also show a decline in the number of childcare places. On 30 September there were 5,815 fewer nursery places and 3,609 fewer childminder places than there were at the end of March.
According to the figures there are now 273,814 childminder places and 1,023,404 nursery places.
Compared to last September, there are 4,703 fewer childminder places and 6,257 fewer nursery places.
According to Ofsted, the number of early years registered providers has generally been in decline since the implementation of the Early years Foundation Stage in 2008.
An Ofsted spokesperson said, 'These early years statistics reflect the decline in the number of providers on the early years register which began when the Early Years Foundation Stage was introduced five years ago.'
Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (right), said, ‘Like other forms of childcare, registered childminders are finding the current economic climate challenging and this, combined with uncertainty about the future, in particular the way childminding will be regulated, are having their impact.
‘We know that the Government is doing much to support childminding sustainability too, including making it far easier for childminders to receive funding to deliver the free early education entitlement and providing start-up grants.
‘But these positive interventions are being outweighed by reducing support from local authorities, who have traditionally recruited new childminders and provided them with support to establish their business. The Government plans to introduce childminder agencies as a registration route, despite significant opposition to the idea from most childminders.
‘PACEY wants Government to do more to encourage local authorities to recognise that childminding is a crucial part of the childcare market. As well as supporting those already in the profession to deliver new initiatives such as the two year old offer, as well as recruit new childminders were they identify gaps in the local childcare market.’
Commenting on the figures, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Aliance, said the figures were 'concerning' and showed a serious reduction in registered childminders.
'This comes as no surprise to many Alliance childminder members who are concerned by recent changes to regulation, funding and inspections,' he said. 'Many tell us it has created an environment of uncertainty across the whole sector with some concerned about remaining independent once childminding agencies are introduced and many believe agencies will become compulsory in time. Other childminders are also concerned that local authorities are preventing them from drawing on funds as there are too many conditions attached.
'The childminder agency trials are unlikely to reassure the sector that agencies are the way forward. Many see the trials as a way to recruit more childminders to compensate for the current decrease however they will not replace the valuable skills and experience of those leaving. It is also interesting to note that the latest statistics do not show data on the number of childminding assistants. Many Alliance childminders are increasingly supported by childminder assistants as they care for more children. If this figure were known, it would likely show a direct correlation between the number of new registrations of childminders and the growth in childminder assistant roles over the past few years.'All of these concerns are making many childcare providers question whether they remain in the sector. This is a worrying trend at time when Government plans to extend the rollout of funding for two year olds.’
A Department for Education spokesperson said, 'We are concerned that childminder numbers have halved in the last fifteen years. For parents, childminders are often an absolutely essential part of childcare, offering a flexible, home-based environment which many prefer. That is why from this September, all good and outstanding childminders will be automatically eligible for fully funded education places for three and four-year-olds, increasing the number eligible for this funding from 4,000 to 32,000.
'We are also introducing childminder agencies which will open up new routes to the profession, attract more high quality childminders and give more choice to parents. We are currently trialling agencies, which will be fully introduced from September 2014.'