The number of available childcare places has dropped since March, according to statistics released by Ofsted.
Its report finds that since 31 March 2015, the number of childminders has decreased by 1,449 (3%), which is part of a continuing trend that has seen numbers decrease for the last three years. The number of providers of nurseries and creches has also decreased by 629 (down 2%) since 31 March 2015.
The report says the number of places offered by providers on the Early Years Register (EYR) – those registered to care for children up to five years old – has decreased by 1% to 1.29 million since 31 March 2015. This reduction in places is a result of the decrease in non-domestic childcare providers such as nurseries.
The proportion of providers on the EYR judged to be good or outstanding has increased from 80% as at 31 August 2014 to 85% as at 31 August 2015. However, there has been no change in the proportion judged to be good or outstanding since 31 March 2015.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said: “Early years providers are a vital source of quality, age-appropriate care and education for young children, and so it is deeply concerning to see that the number of providers in the sector has declined, resulting in a loss of more than 11,000 childcare places. At a time when government is looking to maximise capacity ahead of the roll-out of the 30-hour scheme, it’s critical that urgent action is taken in order to tackle this problem.”
He added: “Clearly, previous plans to rely on childminder agencies as a way of attracting and retaining childminders have failed – something that most in the sector predicted from the outset. It’s imperative, then, the government now listens to and engages with the childminding sector, and addresses the issues that are impacting negatively on them, the most pressing of which is, unsurprisingly, inadequate funding. We have already lost around 10,000 childminders in the past three years. We cannot afford for this trend to continue.”