Figures reveal the number of childminders, preschools nurseries shutting up shop has reached over 500 per month.
Leading early years membership organisation the Early Years Alliance has called all political parties to commit to increasing investment into the childcare sector as a matter of urgency after figures from Ofsted revealed that between April 2018 and March 2019, an average of more than 500 nurseries, pre-schools and childminders closed every month.
The figures were revealed by Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman last week in response to a Parliamentary Question from shadow early years minister Tracy Brabin, which asked: “How many Ofsted registered (a) nurseries and (b) childminders have closed for business in each of the last 12 months.”
Data provided by Spielman confirmed that:
Between April and August 2018, on average, 577 early years providers (196 nurseries and pre-schools, and 381 childminders) left the Early Years Register each month
Between September and December 2018, on average, 554 early years providers (164 nurseries and pre-schools, and 390 childminders) left the Early Years Register each month
Between January and March 2019, on average, 580 early years providers (179 nurseries and pre-schools, and 401 childminders) left the Early Years Register each month
An Ofsted report updated last week shows that the number of childminders has been falling steadily for years while the number of nurseries and other non-domestic providers has remained stable due to more coming onto the market or increasing the number of places they offer.
It shows that there were 39,000 childminders registered with Ofsted on 31 March 2019. Numbers have been falling over an extended period and were down by 800 (2%) since 31 December 2018, and by 9,000 (19%) since 31 August 2015. Despite the decreasing numbers of childminders, however, the number of childcare places has remained fairly stable, due to an increase in the number of places offered at nurseries and other non-domestic providers.
Childcare campaigners have been calling for increased investment in childcare for years, saying that the Government’s free childcare provision for preschool children does not cover the full cost of provision, leading to childcare providers have to charge for ‘extras’ or causing severe financial problems.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: “We have long warned that without adequate funding, many early years providers would be forced to close their doors and these figures sadly confirm that this is exactly what has been happening.
“To lose well over 500 nurseries, pre-schools and childminders every month is simply not sustainable. If more isn’t done to ensure that the sector is adequately funded as a matter of priority, we are going to have a genuine childcare crisis on our hands in this country before too long.
“With a general election now imminent, we know that our sector is likely to once again be used as a political football, as the various political parties fight to out-do each other with their promises of ‘free childcare’ to parents without taking the time to ensure that their sums actually add up.
“These figures show where such an approach leads. As such, in the run-up to 12 December, we urge all political parties not to make outlandish, uncosted and ill-thought-out pledges, but rather, to engage with the sector and commit to ensuring that providers are given the funding they need to remain sustainable in the long-term.”
On Thursday, the Government released figures for early years funding for 2020/21. It shows local councils will receive an additional 8p per hour for two-year-old places and up to 8p more per hour for three- and four-year-old places, although some areas are seeing no increase in three- and four-year-old funding. The Early Years Alliance said the impact of the rise would be “negligible” given due to increases in the annual cost of running a business, including rises in the national living and minimum wages. The Department for Education later released figures that show the cost of delivering childcare places has increased by 20% since 2018. The Alliance says the DfE’s pledge on early years funding to local councils in 2020/21 amounts to a rise of just 2%.
It was also revealed this week that 587 children’s centres have closed since 2010 and that the number of children’s centres has fallen from 3,620 in 2010 to 3,050 in 2019.