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A leading early years organisation has warned that parents may struggle to access flexible childcare under the 30-hour offer as new Ofsted statistics revealed a continued sharp decline in childminder numbers.
According to the latest figures released today, there are now less than 43,500 childminders in England, a fall of 500 since December and a fall of 24% compared to August 2012.
The number of childcare providers that are not childminders increased by 100 in the first three months of 2017 to 27,000. However, this is down 3% since 31 August 2012.
Despite decreasing numbers of providers, the government says the number of childcare places offered by providers on the Early Years Register has remained broadly stable since August 2012.
The statistics also confirm that the number of all early years providers rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted has remained at a high of 93% (compared to 74% in August 2012).
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance said: “It is very positive to see the number of ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ early years providers remaining at an all-time high. This is a testament to the hard work and dedication of those working in the sector, despite an ongoing lack of financial support from government.
“That said, it is incredibly concerning to see such a continued decline in the number of childminders. Childminders are a vital source of quality, flexible early years care and education and yet, every time Ofsted releases new statistics, we see yet another fall in numbers. This is simply not sustainable.
“With the implementation of the 30-hour offer imminent, childminders will play a vital role in delivering the flexible childcare that government has promised to parents. The question is, then: why isn’t more being done to address this worrying trend?
“The introduction of childminder agencies, which we long warned was a deeply flawed policy, has done nothing to prevent childminders leaving the sector in droves. The government must now work with the childminding sector to look at what can be done to ensure that such a vital source of quality provision is not wasted.”