Early years providers leave childcare market

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The latest Ofsted statistics reveal that the numbers of both nurseries and childminders have dropped over the five months to 31 August.

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The total number of places offered by early years providers has also fallen by 1 per cent (11,529 places) to 1.29 million since 31 March 2015.

The number of providers delivering childcare on non-domestic premises on the Early Years Register fell from 25,741 to 25,065 - a loss of 676 providers and 12,011 places.

The number of childminders on the Early Years Register fell from 47,558 to 46,044 - a loss of 1,514 childminders overall, although places increased marginally by 55.

Overall, the number of registered early years providers fell from 73,492 to 71,312 (a loss of 2,180 providers), and the number of places fell from 1,299,713 to 1,288,184.

Numbers of home childcarers and providers of childcare on domestic premises rose slightly.

Ofsted said that the decrease in non-domestic providers was partly due to the May 2015 change in legislation meaning that schools no longer have to register separately for two-year-olds.

 Inspection outcomes for providers on the Early Years Register remained stable, with 85 per cent good or outstanding at their most recent inspection.

Childminder agencies, introduced in September 2014, still only total seven and none have yet been inspected.

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Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, 'Early years providers are a vital source of quality, age-appropriate care and education for young children, and so it is deeply concerning to see that the number of providers in the sector has declined, resulting in a loss of more than 11,000 childcare places. At a time when government is looking to maximise capacity ahead of the roll-out of the 30-hour scheme, it's critical that urgent action is taken in order to tackle this problem.'

He added, 'Clearly, previous plans to rely on childminder agencies as a way of attracting and retaining childminders have failed – something that most in the sector predicted from the outset. It's imperative, then, the government now listens to and engages with the childminding sector, and addresses the issues that are impacting negatively on them, the most pressing of which is, unsurprisingly, inadequate funding.
 
'We have already lost around 10,000 childminders in the past three years. We cannot afford for this trend to continue.'

Purnima Tanuku, National Day Nurseries Association’s chief executive, said, 'We are proud that nurseries are maintaining their excellent quality despite all their current difficulties, but these figures bear out the worrying, slow decline in the number of places and settings in the childcare sector.


'Government needs a thriving childcare sector, in which working parents can receive 30 free hours for their three- and four-year-olds from 2017, so this downward trend needs to be reversed if we want to ensure a choice of accessible, high quality childcare to meet parents’ needs.

'The sector is doing well in terms of quality, but it is certainly not thriving from a business perspective, as the decline in numbers shows.

'This reinforces our argument that sufficient funding per child needs to be in place so that nurseries and childminders aren’t forced to go out of business.'

Gill Jones, Ofsted Early Education Deputy Director, said, 'Quality early education really matters. There is a lot of evidence which links it with school-preparedness, particularly for those children from disadvantaged families.
 
'It has been two years since Ofsted raised the bar for the early years sector. So it is pleasing that a greater proportion of nurseries and other forms of early years setting are good or outstanding: a five percentage point rise in one year. Every type of early years provider now has higher levels of good or outstanding provision.
 
'This means that more and more young children are getting the kind of early education they deserve, helping them to be ready to learn when they start primary school.
 
'It is particularly pleasing that regional variations are diminishing as quality is rising, meaning that no area is being left behind.
 
'We will continue to challenge the early years sector as we pursue the common goal of higher standards. We are going back quicker to providers who are judged inadequate.'

The next set of Ofsted statistics to be released will contain results for the first inspections under the new Common Inspection Framework.

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