Last reviewed 4 July 2022

New data published by Ofsted has revealed a decrease of around 4000 early years providers in England between April 2021 and March 2022, which is the largest annual fall since 2015/16.

Ofsted’s figures show that since 31 August 2015, the number of early years providers has fallen by 19,100, which represents a 22% drop. The findings also show a continued downward trend in the number of childminders, with 16,600 (35%) fewer than on 31 August 2015.

Although Ofsted said that the number of childcare places in England has remained broadly stable, childcare providers were not evenly distributed across areas that have different levels of deprivation. Of the 68,000 childcare providers registered with Ofsted on 31 March 2022, 10,900 (16%) were located in the most deprived areas, compared with 14,800 (22%) of providers that were in the least deprived areas.

The report also shows that 96% of all childcare providers on the early years register were judged either good or outstanding, down by 1 percentage point since 31 August 2021. However, this represents a substantial increase from 31 August 2015, when the proportion of childcare providers judged as either good or outstanding was 85%.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said:

‘‘It is incredibly concerning that the early years sector lost 4000 providers over the course of a year, the largest decline in settings since 2015/16.

“While the Government continues to argue that the overall number of early years places in England remains stable, the decision to focus only on the national picture masks enormous regional disparities. Our analysis of today’s figures reveals that nearly half of all local authorities have seen a fall in early years places over the last five years, with one in eight seeing declines of more than 10 per cent.”