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The number of childminders has fallen by 23% in the last five years, according to the latest figures from Ofsted.
Other childcare has remained more stable. The report shows there were 81,800 childcare providers registered with Ofsted as at 31 December 2016 – a decrease of 1% since August 2016 and of 15% since August 2012. The number of childminders was down 700 since August 2016 to 44,000 providers. This continues a downward trend of 23% since 31 August 2012.
Non-home-based childcare such as nurseries remained stable since August 2016, but was 3% down on August 2012. Home childcarers such as nannies were down by over 100 from 31 August 2016. Numbers are at a similar level to those seen at as at 31 August 2012. There was a rise in numbers in 2013, peaking at 12,100 as at 31 August 2013, followed by a steady year-on-year fall.
The report says the decrease in childminder numbers is mainly driven by fewer childminders joining the sector, while the number leaving the sector remained broadly constant. In the last four months of 2016, 1,400 childminders joined the sector and 2,200 childminders left. In comparison, in the three months between 30 June 2012 and 30 September 2012 2,000 childminders joined the sector and 2,200 childminders left. While there were broadly similar numbers of leavers in these two time periods, there were fewer joiners in 2016 than in 2012.
The fall in childminder numbers varied across the country, for instance, the largest regional decrease was in the West Midlands (27%) and the smallest in Yorkshire and The Humber (20%).
The report added that, despite decreasing numbers of providers, the number of childcare places has remained broadly stable since August 2012. In the last four months, while childminder places have decreased, there has been a slight increase in the number of places overall due to a rise in places offered by childcare on non-domestic premises.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said: “We remain extremely concerned about the ongoing fall in childminder numbers. To be losing such a vital part of the early years workforce at such a rapid rate is clearly unsustainable, and we cannot understand why more isn’t being done to tackle this worrying trend.
“The Department for Education has acknowledged that childminders are pivotal to the flexible delivery of early years provision, and yet, with the 30-hours offer less than six months away, still has taken no action to try and address this problem. Rather than continuing to flog the dead horse that is childminder agencies, the government should be looking to identify and tackle the reasons for this ongoing decline. Now more than ever, we simply cannot afford to be losing experienced, quality practitioners from the early years workforce.”