Page last updated at 16:53 GMT, Wednesday, 20 August 2008 17:53 UK

Decline in number of childminders

By Hannah Richardson
BBC News education reporter

Child drawing
Childminders would have to plan daily activities a year ahead

There has been a fall in the number of registered childminders in England as they have faced increasing regulation.

The latest figures - from Ofsted - show there were 11.5% or 8,400 fewer registered childminders in June this year than at a peak in June 2004.

Many childminders blame an increasing amount of regulation linked to Ofsted and statutory guidelines on caring for children coming into force next month.

The government said its guidelines did not place a burden on childminders.

Pat Adams, a childminder with 21 years experience, says all the childminders that she used to attend a playgroup with have given up in recent years.

I am now 99.9% certain that I will be joining the ranks of those giving up child minding - I've had that many sleepless nights and worries about it
Pat Adams, childminder

Mrs Adams, of Warrington, Cheshire, says she is very concerned that the new statutory guidelines, contained in the "Early Years Foundation Stage" and due to come into force in September, will mean she has to give up a job she loves.

She says over the past seven years or more since regulation by Ofsted began, all her childminding colleagues in the neighbourhood have given up.

"Childminders are in short supply. I've never, ever had to advertise my services as a childminder.

"I do appreciate there has to be regulation of some sort but they are expecting us to do what nurseries do.

"There is a place for nurseries, but they have extra staff who they employ to do all that paperwork.

"I am now 99.9% certain that I will be joining the ranks of those giving up child minding - I've had that many sleepless nights and worries about it."

Ofsted say although there has been a drop in the number of registered childminders, there has been no reduction in the overall number of child-care places.

A statement from England's inspectorate said: "Ofsted has no evidence to suggest that the EYFS is the reason for the drop in registered childminders.

"Not all childminders tell Ofsted why they have resigned. But those childminders who do share their reasons cite lack of demand for places, pregnancy, and making a career move, sometimes to work in other forms of childcare or in schools, for example as teaching assistants.

"Often, childminders maintain their registration for a period in case their circumstances change, even if they are not actually caring for any children."

The EYFS provides a statutory framework that all child care providers have to follow.

The government launched it in March 2007 to ensure that all children in childcare settings were looked after to a high standard.

It sets out a series of learning and development requirements, as well as legal requirements for safeguarding children.

And steps towards certain learning and development goals have to be recorded.

'Vital role'

Childminders as well as nurseries have to have regard to the guidelines and would have to explain why they had departed from them, if that was the case, when inspected by Ofsted.

Mrs Adams - who looks after three children aged 10 months, two and three - says the guidelines mean that she would have to plan a year ahead what they would do on a daily basis.

She would also have to make a note of when each child reached a developmental stage such as crawling, taking their first steps or holding a pencil correctly.

In the past, she says, the reaching of such milestones was communicated informally to parents.

She gave the example of how she called the doctor mother of a little boy she cared for, when he took his first steps, and asked her if she could get down at all that afternoon to witness his progress.

Children's Minister Beverley Hughes insisted the new guidelines were not a burden on childminders because most of them would be doing it already - helping children learn and develop through play.

"Childminders have a vital role to play, and we know they are valued by many parents for the unique type of childcare they provide.

"The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is based on the advice of qualified early years professionals and we consulted widely on it - and it's supported by the National Childminding Association who say the EYFS is a positive development.

"The number of registered childminders has always varied over time, for a number of reasons.

"For example, Ofsted has recently undertaken an exercise to prune the register by removing childminders who are no longer actively looking after children. This will have resulted in fewer people on the childminding register."

Send us your comments on this story, using the form below.

The amount of rules & regulations that childminders are expected to comply with is ridiculous. I use a childminder rather than a Nursery as I want my child to be in a 'home' style environment. My childminder does a fantastic job & all the children are very happy. Recently due to regulations she stopped proving dinner for the children, my son really misses the social interaction that he got from sitting down to eat with his peers. It is difficult & expensive enough to find good childcare without the government forcing many childminders out of business. Working Tax Credit is a joke, I earn an average wage & get no help with childcare, nurseries are too expensive & do not cater for older children in any event & although the school have an afterschool club it is permenantly oversubscibed & most people can't get a space. Please don't put our childminders out of work!
Sophie, Bristol

Childminders are not teachers - they are there to keep your child safe and happy while you work. Maybe the best childminders will be using teaching strategies to stretch the children in their care, but this is not their role. Children learn through play and - at under 5! - their progress does not need to be formalised and documented. Personally, I think "fun" should be a greater guide! All this bureaucracy is putting off some great childminders - and I can't blame them.
Emma, London

This is dreadful. The whole scheme is just to give someone a job to do in government. It aids nothing in terms of child development to have central measures of child-minding quality and this pervasive control of the minutiae of our lives is typical of a government that can't stand being out of touch with its people so it forces them to come back into touch with it. No matter what the consequences. Child-minding is not nursery and does not need this overly beauracratic scheme surrounding it. Bad child-minders soon lose business as parents all talk to each other about the skills or failings of any child-minder. It makes me sad that new parents now may find it increasingly difficult to get their children looked after so they can return to work (for instance). This will only result in one thing and that is more and more unemployed (both not counted) people making the government look better in their own eyes. It makes me so angry I can barely string this line of thought together.
Robert McGregor, Reading, UK

I have only been a childminder since June 2007 and, although I can see Mrs Adams point of view,I really can't understand what all the fuss is about. I have kept a diary on each child since the beginning. My diaries include most of the information required by Ofsted. The only thing that I will have problems with is 'planning the day'. In a nursery environment it is realatively easy to say what you are going to do each day because you can more or less guarantee that at least some of the children will take part and the others will still have things (and people) to occupy them! In my setting we do things very much on impulse depending on how the children are feeling. I have tried 'planning' an activity/activities but we always seem to do something else instead i.e. It will be pouring with rain - I will plan a 'crafting' day but the children just want to go out and splash in the puddles with the dog! It is interesting that it is mainly long-standing childminders that are giving up!
Mrs Lucia Wakefield, Camberley, Surrey

Are you surprised there is a drop in the number of child minders when people are willing to pay more to have their iorning and cleaning done than to have someone look after their children!
Steve Perfect, Surrey

I understand that childminders need to be registered and monitored but if I wanted my child to be 'schooled' I would send her to Nursery more often. Where does it end. Do parents who stay at home to look after their children have to complete such paperwork, or are they made to provide educational and play activities every day. No, so why should it be so strict for childminders. The clue is in the title 'childminder' not 'childteacher'!!!
Juliet Bondzio, Folkestone, KENT

It's a shame that so many of my colleagues are giving up childminding because of the new EYFS paperwork. As a childminder I have had to put my daughter in a creche for several hours over the last few months just so that I can sit down and read through the hundreds of pages of EYFS and make notes on what I have to do. I haven't finished yet and it's supposed to be in place in September. The system worked fine for childminders beforehand, why the need for change?
Miriam Berry, St Albans, Herts

I think it's great to bring in the formal requirements and bring childminders into line. Few jobs are in my opinion, more important that bringing up the next generation properly - childhoods full of happiness and learning and development by an informed and eduacated carer if the parents are absent. I applaud this scheme and hope it raises the standards. Perhaps a flipside to this fall in childminding numbers is that more people may do the proper training for the job and it may be seen as a higher status career choice - resulting in a win win situation for the children who need 100% dedication.
Susan Lake, Surrey

I am a Childminder who has been doing the job for 3 years,and I am thinking of giving up,the paperwork side of it it ridiculous. We now have to do risk assessments,observations,planning and we have to now be registered as a food premises because we give snacks or a meal.I have a 5 year old son but because I need to do this extra paperwork he is missing out on my time and this is the reason I did it in the first place to be at home with him.People say this will weed out the bad Childminders from the good when in fact it will get rid of the excellent Childminders because even though they love the job their time is not their own and can cause problems in their own home life,like not spending time with family,because there is too much paperwork.
Alyson Garland, Calne,Wiltshire

How long before "granny" has to do the same?
marion, Norfolk

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