The majority of childminders are not in favour of joining childminding agencies and many say they would leave the sector if forced to do so, according to a new survey.
Childminders in England have overwhelmingly rejected one of the government’s flagship early years policies – the introduction of childminder agencies, according to a new survey.
The Early Years Alliance survey of nearly 1,600 childminders found that of those respondents who are currently registered with Ofsted, rather than an agency, nearly four in five (79%) said that it was either somewhat (12%) or very (67%) unlikely that they will join a childminding agency in the future.
In a stark sign of how opposed much of the sector is to agencies, more than three-quarters (77%) of Ofsted-registered childminders warned that they would leave the profession if it became compulsory to join an agency, with 64% stating that they would leave the early years sector entirely.
The government announced in July that it had plans to “encourage the growth of childminder agencies” as part of its upcoming early years reforms.
Survey respondent comments included:
“Why would I spend a percentage of my hard-earned money to an agency to do for me what I have managed to successfully do for myself for years?”
“I pride myself on what I offer and my professional status, and value an Ofsted grading. I do not see why I would need to pay a money subscription or for an agency to take a percentage of my earnings – our earnings aren’t exactly high.”
“I am very happy with the way I work and I would rather shut down my business than be told I have to join an agency. The cost implications alone are a big enough reason not to join them.”
When asked what steps the government could take to tackle the falling number of childminders, only 9% of both Ofsted- and agency-registered respondents cited encouraging of more childminder agencies as a potential solution. In comparison, 87% said the government should do more to recognise childminding as an education profession while 83% called on the government to increase funding rates.
Although childminder agencies were originally introduced by the government in September 2014, there are currently only six registered agencies in operation across the country. During this time the number of childminders has fallen by around 39%, from 51,711 to 31,373.
Neil Leitch, CEO of the Early Years Alliance, said: “Our survey results clearly show that the idea that increasing the number of childminding agencies will be any kind of solution to falling childminder numbers in this country is severely misguided.
“While we recognise that most of the very few childminders currently registered with agencies are happy with the support they receive, the fact that our survey found that any attempt to make agencies compulsory would lead to a mass exodus of childminders from the sector shows just how strongly most childminders feel about remaining independent and Ofsted-registered.
“Rather than focusing all its energy on a policy that will do little, if anything, to address the challenges facing this vital part of our sector, the government should look to tackle the issues that childminders themselves say would actually make a difference: committing to a substantial increase in early years funding and recognising childminders as the education professionals that they are.”