The statistics on Childcare Providers and Inspections, published today, show that between 31 March and 31 August 2018, the total number of childcare providers fell from 64,398 to 63,460 – a loss of 938 providers.
In July, Ofsted moved to a new system, which means that the way it records data on childcare places has changed and it is therefore not possible to compare the latest statistics with previous data accurately.
Therefore, while the statistics show that the number of childcare places increased by 11,686 between 31 March and 31 August, this is not an accurate reflection.
Ofsted states in the latest statistics bulletin, 'In July 2018, Ofsted moved to a new administrative database system for recording information on providers and inspections. Due to this move, the way places data is recorded has been improved. As a result, the number of palces including estimates has risen by 11,700 compared with the last release. Most of this increase is due to the change in systems, rather than a substantive change in the number of places offered by providers.'
Nursery World’s investigation, published 26 November, found that despite an increase in closures in some parts of the country, there hadn’t been much of an impact on places, suggesting that smaller settings are closing and bigger ones are opening.
According to the statistics for childcare on non-domestic premises, (ie. nurseries and pre-schools) between 31 March and 31 August, 982 nurseries closed and 880 nurseries joined – representing a net loss of 102 providers.
Rural local authorities Lancashire and Cumbria were some of the areas that had the greatest (net) nursery losses.
The latest Ofsted statistics show a continuing decline in the number of childminders.
As of 31 March 2018, there were 39,844 childminders, falling to 39,013 five months later - a net loss of 831. There were 1,907 childminders that left and 1,076 that joined.
The publication of the figures follows news that the Childcare Business Grant Scheme - the only funding dedicated to helping childminders start their business - is being axed by the Department for Education. The grant scheme for newly-registered early years childminders and childminder agencies in England will end in March 2019.
The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) has warned that ending the grant is ‘likely to accelerate the decline in childminders’.
Commenting on the statistics, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, ‘Childminders are a vital source of quality, flexible early years care and education, and so for us to have lost nearly a third of the childminding sector over the past six years is nothing short of a scandal.
‘This is not a new trend or sudden drop: successive Ofsted statistical releases have shown a persistent decline for some time, and yet the Department for Education has yet to even acknowledge these shocking figures.
‘With childminder agencies shown to be a complete waste of investment, and the recent scrapping of the Childcare Business Grant Scheme aimed at attracting new childminders into the sector, it remains unclear how, or even if, the Government is planning to tackle this concerning trend.
‘It is vital that ministers look to identify and address the challenges facing childminders, such as consistently inadequate funding rates, and unfair rules around claiming funding for related children, as a matter of urgency. Inaction is simply not an option. The Government has promised parents affordable, flexible, high-quality care – childminders are a vital part of being able to deliver this.’
Liz Bayram, chief executive of PACEY, said, 'PACEY was dismayed to learn that we have lost nearly a thousand childminders since the end of March.
'The fall in childminders has come at a time when more than ever (94 per cent) are graded good or outstanding, and it is far from inevitable.
'PACEY is clear what needs to be done to halt this decline. Childminders need more support with start-up costs and registration, and a removal of the key barriers preventing them from delivering funded places, namely a sustainable hourly rate. However, last week the Department for Education announced that it would no longer be offering start-up grants for new childminders, and that the funding rate in nearly all local authorities will remain the same in 2019-2020 (and actually decrease in 13 places). On top of this, ongoing problems with Ofsted’s IT systems means that it is taking up to six months for prospective childminders to register.
'If the Government does not take immediate action, the decline in childminders is likely to accelerate, and families will lose an invaluable source of high quality and flexible childcare and early education.'
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said, 'We are proud of the private, voluntary and independent nurseries who continue to deliver excellent early years education despite the challenges of underfunding and a crisis in recruitment.
'They deliver the vast majority of the country’s childcare, so play a vital role providing the foundation of children’s learning journeys and supporting the economy. Ministers cannot afford to ignore or underestimate the enormous contribution they make in supporting Government policy.
'It’s time ministers woke up to the size and significance of the sector and treated them with the respect they deserve.'
- The latest Ofsted statistics are available here