The number of childminders has fallen by nearly 9,000 since 2009, according to figures released by Ofsted.
A total of 90,972 childcare providers were registered with Ofsted at 31 August 2014, a 1% fall since March, but a much bigger fall since 2008 when 96,201 childcare providers were registered.
The biggest fall has been in childminders, down from 60,915 in 2009 to 51,771 in 2014. Recent figures show numbers fell by 3,522 between September 2013 an August 2014, with 1,373 of the decline taking place between March and August this year. Non-domestic childcare, mainly nurseries, was down from 29,458 in 2009 to 27,906 in 2014, although it has remained fairly stable in the last two years. Childcare provided on domestic premises – mainly nannies, reached a peak of 12,135 in September 2013 and had fallen to 11,108 by August 2014.
Of the total registered childcare providers, 76,131 (84%) are on the Early Years Register. About two thirds of these are childminders and one third are providers of childcare on non-domestic premises. Although fewer in number, childcare on non-domestic premises (such as nurseries and pre-schools) are the larger providers and provide 1,026,061 (79%) of the places available for children.
Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, said: “It is concerning to see a decline in the total number of registered childcare providers, and particularly in the number of registered childminders. A healthy and robust childcare sector must offer a flexible choice of childcare setting for parents, and the decline in childminders threatens this. The data reveals that the number of childcare places however has increased, most likely a result of the government’s extension of free early education to disadvantaged two year olds. It is clear the childcare sector is changing, with some providers expanding their places. One aspect of this is the number of registered childminders employing childminding assistants. Separate Ofsted data shows around 15,000 registered childminders now employ at least one childminding assistant. This means more childminder settings can offer more childcare places overall and offer valuable support for families.”
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said: “We are concerned to see such a sharp decline in the number of childminders in the early years sector. Childminders play a crucial role in the provision of high-quality, flexible early education and care in this country, and yet all too often they are unfairly overlooked and dismissed by both government and Ofsted. Add to this the continued uncertainty over the impact of childminder agencies, the decline in local authority support and guidance, and the ongoing lack of adequate free entitlement funding and it is unsurprising that so many childminders are choosing to leave the sector.
“It’s vital that the government recognises the value of the services that childminders provide to children and families and ensures that they are adequately supported – both financially and practically – to continue providing them.”