Ofsted’s latest figures on ‘Childcare providers and inspections’ show that as of 31 December 2016 there were 43,956 childminders, down from 44,686 four months prior on 31 August (including childminders not on the early years register).
This is a fall of nearly a quarter in the number of childminders (23 per cent) since 31 August 2012.
Ofsted said the large decrease in childminder numbers over time was mainly driven by fewer childminders joining the sector. The number leaving the sector has remained broadly constant.
In the last four months, there were 1,449 joiners and 2,179 leavers.
The latest statistics also show there was a slight fall in the number of nurseries between 31 August and 31 December 2016 from 24,483 to 24,456, a loss of 27 settings.
According to the figures, there were 868 nursery leavers and 841 joiners.
Joiners are the number of providers that have been added to Ofsted registration database between 31 August and 31 December. Most of these are new registrations, but figures also include providers that have re-activated their registrations or changed provider type or register.
Leavers are the number of providers that have been edited in Ofsted’s registration database to ‘inactive’ status between 31 August and 31 December. Most of these are resignations, but figures also include providers that have had registration cancelled or changed provider type or register.
In contrast, the statistics show the number of childcare places overall increased.
On 31 December 2016 there were 477 fewer childminder places and 5,653 more nursery places than there were at the end of August.
According to Ofsted, the number of places offered by childminders has increased since 2012. As of 31 August 2012, the average number of places offered by childminders was 5.1, rising to 6.1 places as of 31 December 2016.
The inspectorate says that the interest in the number of places offered in the childcare sector is likely to increase this year as we approach the introduction of the 30 hours of free childcare from September.
Good and outstanding
There was also a marginal increase in the proportion of childcare providers judged to be good or outstanding during the same period. As of 31 December 2016, 93 per cent on the early years register were judged good or outstanding, up from 91 per cent four months prior. This compares to a total of 74 per cent of good and outstanding providers on 31 August 2012.
A DfE spokesperson said, 'Today’s results show that the number of early years providers rated good or outstanding by Ofsted continues to rise. This, together with our record investment in childcare of £6 billion per year by 2020, is supporting parents with the cost of childcare. The status of the profession will be boosted further through our new workforce strategy, making sure all children have access to high-quality early education.
'Childminders are a valuable part of the childcare sector and we want to see them play a full role in providing our 30 hours offer – so we are making it easier for them to work outside of the home and share services with other businesses. We have also set out the expectation that childminders should be paid monthly by councils, and we are making start-up grants available to help new childminders deliver the 30 hours offer.'
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said, ‘It is very positive to see the proportion of good and outstanding early years providers continuing to rise. This is a clear demonstration of practitioners' commitment to providing high-quality care and education despite continued funding pressures, and the sector should be commended for such an achievement.
‘That said, we remain extremely concerned about the ongoing fall in childminder numbers. To be losing such a vital part of the early years workforce at such a rapid rate is clearly unsustainable, and we cannot understand why more isn't being done to tackle this worrying trend.
‘The Department for Education has acknowledged that childminders are pivotal to the flexible delivery of early years provision, and yet, with the 30-hours offer less than six months away, still has taken no action to try and address this problem. Rather than continuing to flog the dead horse that is childminder agencies, the Government should be looking to identify and tackle the reasons for this ongoing decline. Now more than ever, we simply cannot afford to be losing experienced, quality practitioners from the early years workforce.’
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said, ‘It is encouraging that the statistics show a further increase in the number of childcare providers judged as good or outstanding.
‘The fact that providers have managed to keep this high level of quality despite all the pressures the sector is currently facing is exceptional and we must congratulate the sector and its workforce on their dedication and commitment.
'There will be increasing concerns about the downward trend in the number of childminders, which have fallen by almost a quarter in the last five years. In order to deliver the Government’s policy of 30 hours funded childcare from September, England needs to have a buoyant childcare sector with all types of provider participating.'
Liz Bayram, chief executive of PACEY, said, 'It is extremely encouraging to see an increase in the number of good and outstanding settings which demonstrates the commitment of the sector to focus on quality despite the significant erosion of local authority support for training.
'However, it is worrying to see yet again a decline in childminder numbers, and this has to be urgently addressed. Registered childminding will need to play a vital part in delivering 30 hours, yet we know from our recent research that many parents don’t realise they can access funded places from childminders, and that local authorities need to do more to support and promote childminders to encourage parents to use them.
'It is also vitally important that Government does much more to encourage new childminders into the sector. Re-launching the childcare business grants was a welcome first step, but when Childminder Agencies clearly aren’t the solution and there was no specific focus on recruiting and supporting childminders in the Government’s workforce strategy, we need urgent action to take childminding out of the shadows and to recognise the vital role childminders play in early education .'