11 July 2024

Number of registered childcare providers in England has fallen, says Ofsted

11 July 2024

The number of registered childcare providers in England has fallen over the past year, figures from Ofsted suggest.

The decline is mainly due to a continuing drop in the number of registered childminders, according to the watchdog.

Sector leaders have been calling for more action to ensure there are enough staff and places for the Government’s planned expansion of funded childcare for working parents.

The overall number of childcare providers registered with Ofsted dropped by 1,400 between March 2023 and March 2024 to 61,800 – a fall of 2%, according to the latest statistics.

Less than a week since the new Government came to office, these figures could not be a clearer indication of the scale of the task at hand

The data suggests the number of registered childminders with Ofsted decreased by 1,340 over the same period to 26,500  – a drop of 5%.

The figures also show that 1.27 million childcare places were offered by providers registered on the Early Years Register (EYR) – which is up by 1,370, or less than 1%.

In March 2023, then chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced that eligible families of children as young as nine months in England would be able to claim 30 hours of funded childcare a week by September 2025.

As part of his Budget speech, Mr Hunt said the Government would offer incentive payments of £600 for childminders who sign up to the profession, rising to £1,200 for those who join through an agency.

Working parents of two-year-olds in England have been able to access 15 hours of funded childcare since April as part of a staggered rollout of the Government’s childcare expansion.

This is due to be extended to working parents of all children older than nine months from September this year, before the full rollout of 30 hours a week to all eligible families a year later.

The start-up grant funding became available to childminders in November.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance (EYA), said: “Today’s Ofsted figures once again paint an extremely concerning picture of capacity in the early years sector.

“Despite a marginal increase in the number of overall places nationally, the continued fall in the number of providers, alongside the fact that just under half of individual local authorities have actually seen a decline in places, shows how urgently key sector challenges – namely, staffing and underfunding – need to be addressed ahead of the next phase of the expansion.

“What’s more, given much of this decline is once again down to falling childminder numbers, it’s clear that much more must be done to encourage childminding professionals, who are a vital source of quality, flexible care and education, to join and remain in the sector.

“Less than a week since the new Government came to office, these figures could not be a clearer indication of the scale of the task at hand.”

In her first week as Education Secretary, Bridget Phillipson pledged to deliver a “sea change” in early years provision as she called it her “number one priority”.

On Wednesday, she said the Government would recruit more early years staff through a “re-energised” recruitment campaign.

It’s encouraging that uptake of established offers and availability of places look to be heading in the right direction, but there is clearly much more to do to make the plans work for families across the country

Labour has said it will repurpose empty or under-used classrooms in primary schools to offer more places at 3,000 new school-based nurseries.

The Department for Education (DfE) published separate data on Thursday on the take-up of established childcare offers, but they do not cover the expanded entitlements for families which began in April.

The figures – which cover existing government-funded childcare entitlements for children aged between two and four in England in January – suggest the take-up rate for 15-hour entitlement for three and four-year olds has increased.

The number of disadvantaged two-year-olds eligible and registered for the existing 15-hour entitlement decreased but the take-up rate increased.

Education minister Stephen Morgan said: “I know from personal experience just how hard early educators work, and this Government is determined to make early years our top priority, reset our engagement with the sector and set every child on the journey to improved life chances.

“It’s encouraging that uptake of established offers and availability of places look to be heading in the right direction, but there is clearly much more to do to make the plans work for families across the country.

“From creating tens of thousands of new nursery places to investing in breakfast clubs in every primary school, over the coming weeks we will set out our plan to make sure every child gets the best start in life.”

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