Concerns raised over dramatic fall in nursery providers and places

Joe Lepper
Thursday, April 28, 2011

An "alarming" cut in the number of nursery providers and places has been revealed in latest Ofsted figures.

Number of childminders has also fallen over the year. Image: Martin Figura
Number of childminders has also fallen over the year. Image: Martin Figura

The figures for nurseries show that in March there were 1,715 fewer providers and 53,666 fewer places than in March 2010.

Anand Shukla, acting chief executive of the Daycare Trust, said many providers were struggling financially and urged councils to step in to support those facing closure.

He said: "This emerging trend of childcare places being lost is alarming, particularly given the rising birth rate. We are concerned about business sustainability for childcare providers and it is important that local authorities do all they can to support their local providers, particularly during tough economic periods.  

"Under the Childcare Act, local authorities have a legal duty to ensure there are sufficient childcare places available."

The number of childminders has also fallen over the year. In March 2010, there were 54,025 childminders providing 267,962 places, but by March this year, the number of providers had fallen by 848 and the number of places by 6,697.

A National Childminding Association spokeswoman anticipates a reverse in the figures for childminding as the squeeze on family budgets continues.

She points out that, compared to figures released in December last year, the number of childminders and places rose in March this year.

She said: "We expect the recent trend of an increase in the number of providers to continue. What you tend to find over time when economic conditions are tough is that parents find themselves out of work and turn to childminding as a source of income."

She added that the dramatic fall in nursery places is likely to increase demand for childminding services as tough financial conditions for families continues.

Catherine Farrell, Joint Chief Executive at NCMA, said:

"The rise in the number of registered childminders, nannies and childcare on domestic premises is very encouraging and shows a slow but steady rise.

"There is also a continued increase in the number of registered childminders achieving good or outstanding. NCMA is encouraged by this and continues to be committed to improving professional development opportunities for individual childminders. This will ensure that all children and families have access to high-quality home-based childcare".

Meanwhile, Ofsted has also published the latest figures from its inspection of childcare providers. Between September 2008 and March this year, 10 per cent of providers were labelled outstanding for their overall effectiveness. Just one per cent were found to be inadequate.

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