Childminder numbers continue to drop, while early years quality remains high

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The number of childminders is continuing to fall and has dropped by 9,000 in less than four years, the latest Ofsted figures show.

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The number of childminders has dropped to 39,000 Source: Ofsted

There has been a net loss of 800 childminders since the end of December 2018, the previous official figures - 1,300 childminders left the sector, after working in childminding on average for nine years. In the same period up to 31 March, 500 joined - there are currently 39,000 childminders.

Childminder numbers have been declining for several years.

There has been a 19 per cent drop since August 2015, however the number of places offered by childminders has decreased by 7 per cent. This means that individual childminders are each offering a higher number of places, which is 6.5 on average.

However, Ofsted said that the number of childcare places has remained broadly stable since August 2015, due to an increase in the number of places offered at nurseries and pre-schools.  On 31 March, there were 1.3 million childcare places offered by providers on the Early Years Register (EYR).

The latest Ofsted statistics, Childcare providers and inspections as of 31 March 2019, also show that quality remains high, with more than nine out of 10 nurseries, pre-schools and childminders judged to be good or outstanding at their last inspection.

KEY FINDINGS:

  • 76,600 childcare providers as of 31 March, down by 1 per cent (600) since 31 December 2018
  • 19 per cent drop in childminders since August 2015, with a net loss of 800 since 31 December 2018
  • 95 per cent of nurseries and childminders graded good or outstanding
  • The South East has the highest proportion of childcare providers judged to be outstanding (23 per cent) and the Midlands has the lowest (15 per cent)

Childcare quality high

As at 31 March 2019, the proportion of childcare providers on the Early Years Register rated good or outstanding was 95 per cent - up from 85 per cent since 31 August 2015.

At their most recent inspection, 24 per cent of nurseries and pre-schools were judged to be outstanding, compared with 17 per cent of childminders. There was also a wide regional variation in the difference between the proportion of outstanding childminders and nurseries and pre-schools.

Since August 2016, Ofsted has prioritised inspections for childminders who had previously been judged requires improvement or inadequate.

On 31 March, 92 per cent of childminders who were previously judged requires improvement or inadequate, improved to good or outstanding at their most recent inspection.

There were 389 inspected state-funded nursery schools, with 98 per cent of them judged good or outstanding.

Early years in schools

Early years provision in schools is given its own judgement as part of the overall inspection of the school.

On 31 March, there were 10,400 state-funded schools with an early years judgement at their most recent inspection. Of these, 80 per cent were judged good or outstanding on the overall effectiveness of the school and 88 per cent were judged good or outstanding for early years provision.

Ofsted said there were several reasons why schools which received an early years judgement may not be representative of all schools with early years provision. For example Ofsted did not provide separate graded judgements on the overall effectiveness of early years between January 2012 and August 2014. Moreover, short inspections will confirm whether the overall effectiveness is good or outstanding, but will not provide or update a previous early years provision judgement.

Dee Coleman, Ofsted early years principal officer, said, 'The quality of childcare in England remains high: 95 per cent of nurseries, childminders and other types of childcare provision were judged by Ofsted to be good or outstanding at their last inspection. In part, that is because we have focused our resources on inspecting providers that are not yet good - giving them the chance to show that they are providing a better service.

'We are changing the way we inspect early education with our new framework, which will take effect in September. There will be less focus on internal data and more discussion about how providers are helping young children develop and learn. Our inspectors will want to find out what it is like to be a young child in a nursery or a childminder's home.'

Sector response

The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) is carrying out research with the University of Plymouth to find out why fewer people are choosing to go into childminding.

Chief executive Liz Bayram said,  ‘We have lost almost another thousand childminders in England at a time when demand for childcare has never been higher, and childminding should be thriving.

‘Recent decisions to end the childcare business grant for new childminders; registration delays at Ofsted, unnecessary bureaucracy and low income levels due to reduced government funding are putting more and more people off.

'We need to work with Government to tackle these issues and for them to work with PACEY to reinvent childminding as the perfect flexible career for 21st century parents, carers and others who want to work with children.

'We have already started this work, both through our research with University of Plymouth and discussions with our members. We are certain there is more we can do to address this continued decline but only with the support of Government, regulators and other stakeholders.’

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said childminders were a vital part of a flexible, high-quality early years sector and that their dramatic fall in numbers was ‘deeply troubling’.

‘This is a long-standing problem not helped by government interventions, such as childminder agencies and the business grant scheme, which have been high on cost and low on impact.

'The Government needs to get a grip, stop playing around the edges of this crisis and start addressing its root causes. Like all providers childminders are struggling with funding but they are also unfairly punished when it comes to looking after for related children.

‘If the Government want childcare at its most convenient and affordable then childminders need to be at the centre of their early years policy.’

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day nurseries Association, said, ‘It is very impressive that 97 per cent of nurseries are now judged to be good or outstanding. This is testament to their dedication, hard work and passion for early years education.

‘We are very proud that the vast majority of nurseries can offer very high quality provision in spite of all the issues of government underfunding in the face of rising business costs.'

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