According to latest Ofsted childcare statistics, the number of registered childminders fell by 879 in the three-month period between August and December 2015, from 47,936 to 47,057 - a drop of 1.8 per cent.
The latest fall brings the total number of childminders that have quit or retired since 2012 to 10,000. But despite the fall numbers of childminder places rose slightly. As of December 2015, there were 260,335 childminder places being provided, an increase of 581 (0.2 per cent) on August 2015.
In December 2015 there were 70,081 childcare providers overall, 1,116 down on August’s figures. The bulk (879) of those leaving the sector were childminders. Between August and December, the number of places on offer overall fell by 1,093 to 1,287,091.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, says the dramatic fall in childminder numbers “demonstrates a complete failure of policy”.
He said: “The government must now engage properly with the childminding sector and look at what can be done to ensure that this vital source of quality provision is not wasted.”
He added that “the flexible care and education that childminders deliver is more important than ever” due to the imminent rollout of 30-hour free childcare entitlement.
He was particularly critical of childminder agencies, which were introduced in September 2014 under the Children and Families Act to encourage more people to take up childminding and make it easier for parents to access home-based childcare.
“It's clear that continuing to champion childminder agencies, when the sector has shown no interest in the initiative, is a waste of time," he said.
Meanwhile, the latest figures also show that the number of providers on the Early Years Register judged to be "good" or "outstanding" by Ofsted has remained at the August 2015 rate of 85 per cent.
The south-east had the highest proportion (87 per cent) of childminders judged to be good or outstanding, while the East Midlands rate of 80 per cent was the lowest.
Leitch said: “Despite the continued dual pressures of insufficient funding and ever‑changing legislation, practitioners continue to deliver high‑quality early learning opportunities to the children in their care, and the sector should be commended for this continued positive trend.”
The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.