Childminders continue to exit the early years sector

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The number of childminders registered with Ofsted is continuing to fall, but the number of nurseries increased slightly on the previous period's figures.

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The latest Ofsted statistics on ‘Childcare providers and inspections’ to 31 August 2017 show there are 752 fewer registered childminders than at the end of March 2017.

The statistics, which measure the number of providers that have registered with Ofsted and the number of providers that have left between 31 March and 31 August 2017, show that the number of childminders has fallen by two per cent to 42,743.

However, over the past five years, the total number of childminders has fallen by 14,669 (26 per cent), the data showed.

There were 27,023 childcare providers on non-domestic premises as at 31 August 2017. Similar numbers of providers joined and left the childcare sector between 31 March and 31 August 2017, with the net number of nurseries up 28.

Overall, there were 80,659 childcare providers registered with Ofsted as at 31 August 2017, according to the statistics. This represents a decrease of one per cent since 31 March 2017, and 16 per cent since 31 August 2012, when there were 96,163 providers.

The large decrease in childminders is responsible for the majority of this drop, with non-domestic providers having decreased by just three per cent since in the last five years, and no notable change in the number of home childcarers.

Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY), said, ‘This further reduction in the number of registered childminders is deeply concerning. Childminders provide a high quality, flexible early education service. They are  particularly good at promoting young children’s language development and behavioural self-regulation. Yet children and families are losing out on this unique form of childcare as childminder numbers continue to decline.

‘Government can’t say that 30 hours is a success if it means we are losing more and more childminders from the profession. PACEY is clear what needs to be done to help halt this decline and make childminding sustainable. Childminders need more help with start-up costs and a removal of the key barriers preventing them from delivering funded places. This means a higher hourly rate; an end to delayed payments and burdensome red tape from local authorities; and a removal on the  ban on childminders providing funded places to related children. These are all factors contributing to a decline in childminder morale and sustainability that government could resolve.

‘We also know many childminders would like to deliver funded places, but are not able to simply because no parent has asked them to. So childminding must also be actively championed by national and local government and the health service to parents, so they understand that childminders are Ofsted-registered and deliver the EYFS just like other settings.’

Despite declining numbers of childminders, the number of childcare places has remained broadly stable over the last five years, according to Ofsted’s statistics.

Between March and August 2017, although childminder places decreased, there was a larger rise in the number of places offered by childcare on non-domestic premises, which resulted in an overall increase of around 1,200 places.

As at 31 August 2017, there are currently an estimated 1.3 million childcare places offered by providers on the Early Years Register.

In the report, Ofsted said it was too soon to analyse place numbers in light of the 30 hours scheme, but added that it hoped to provide some insight into the scheme’s impact on the childcare sector in future releases.

The figures also show that 94 per cent of childcare providers were rated 'good' or 'outstanding' as of 31 August 2017, up from 93 per cent at March 2017. This is an increase of 20 percentage points since 31 August 2012.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, ‘The fact that 94 per cent of nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are now rated “good” or “outstanding” is a testament to the hard work and dedication of early years practitioners across the country, especially given that so many providers are struggling to keep their businesses afloat as a result of government underfunding.

‘We know that the pressures of delivering the so-called free entitlement without sufficient funding can have a real detrimental impact on the quality of provision, and so it's absolutely vital that the government funds the early years sector adequately if this positive trend is to continue.’

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