By Hannah Richardson
BBC News education reporter
Childminders are required to monitor children's development
A smaller proportion of childminders in England are offering childcare rated "good", say Ofsted inspectors.
The share of childminders rated good or outstanding fell from 62% to 54% in the past three years, with poorer areas generally having the lowest standards.
The Ofsted report also showed the proportion of inadequate childminders rose from 3 to 6% over the last year.
But overall, childcare settings including nurseries and childminders had improved, said Ofsted.
The Ofsted report comes shortly after the BBC News wesbite reported that more and more childminders were quitting because of the burden of increasing regulation.
Ofsted said some may not have grasped the demands of its inspection regime.
Childminders account for about one fifth of the registered childcare places in England.
Figures for March this year from Ofsted put the number of registered places with childminders at 299,000. This compares to 1.25 million places for under eights in other types of day care.
The key issues identified by Ofsted among struggling childminders included being unable to identify or respond to child protection concerns and a lack of training in, and understanding of, first aid.
Ofsted's director for children, Michael Hart, said: "We are always concerned about any provision that comes out as inadequate - that extra 3% does concern us.
"But the encouraging thing is that when we do go back and reinspect, 95% of those provisions inspected for the second time will come out as satisfactory or better."
Mr Hart said the small percentage of inadequate childminders needed to be viewed against a background of much higher rates of inadequacy in previous years.
He also highlighted concerns about the disparity in the quality of childcare in deprived areas and affluent areas.
The report said overall, quality was generally poorer where there was most poverty and social deprivation.
"In the 30 most deprived areas, 53% of childminders provide good or better childcare compared with 60% in the rest of the country," it said.
It found that in Hackney, east London, 29% of childminders were judged to be good or better, compared to Wokingham in Berkshire where the proportion was 81%.
Mr Hart said: "For the first time in the report we have looked in some detail at different local authorities.
"We are concerned that there's a variation and it doesn't seem fair that children in deprived areas seem to get a worse deal than those in more affluent areas."
The report, Early Years Leading to Excellence, was based on evidence from 90,000 inspections of 84,000 early years and childcare settings, over three years.
In childcare settings overall, it found notable signs of improvement.
However, fewer than half of the 10,000 registered out-of-school schemes for children aged three to seven were judged to be good or outstanding.
And 11% of clubs were said to be inadequate last year - up from 7% the year before.
Inspectors pointed to low ratios of staff to children and a shortage of qualified leaders.
Last week, it emerged there had been an 11.5% drop, or a fall of 8,400 registered childminders, between June this year and a peak in June 2004.
More than 100 childminders and parents contacted the BBC News website about the issue.
Many childminders said they were considering quitting because of the extra pressures of Ofsted inspections and statutory guidelines, the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), that come into force in September.
One, Alyson Garland, from Calne in Wiltshire, said: "I am a childminder who has been doing the job for three years, and I am thinking of giving up, the paperwork side of it is 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."
Another, Molly Harris from London, said: "I'm a childminder and have spoken to the parents about the EYFS and they agree with me.
"If they wanted a school environment with countless regulations they would have sent their children to a nursery. They wanted a homely relaxed environment."
Childminder Pat Adams said she had always been rated "good" by inspectors, but this year was down-graded to "satisfactory". She says that was because her paper work was not up to scratch.
She is considering giving up because of the increasing regulation.
"There will be a lot of pressure plus all the paperwork that will be involved, daily diaries and profiles. It's all added to the cost and we don't earn a lot," she said.
A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "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 EYFS is based on the advice of qualified early years professionals and we consulted widely on it - and itís supported by the National Childminding Association who say the EYFS is a positive development."
A Welsh Assembly Government spokesperson said the overall number of registered childminders had increased every year since 2004.
In Scotland, childminding is looked after by the Scottish Commission on Care. They say there has been an increase in childminders in recent years.
Read a selection of your comments on this story:
I have recently given up childminding after 11 years. Childminders are now graded on the quality of their paperwork and not their care. Childminders work long hours and are expected to complete paperwork and training on top of the hours spent with children. In order to be graded outstanding childminders must have outstanding plans, observations, records, etc. This means either less time doing things with the children and therefore, most outstanding childminders are those who only work part-time and can spend the rest of the week on their paperwork. Childminders who may be absolutely fantastic with children will not be graded higher than satisfactory if they do not have outstanding paperwork.
Nicki Richards, Sutton, Surrey
I too am a chilminder on the brink of quitting the job I love!! If I had wanted to be a teacher, I would have trained as one and earnt the money that goes with the job... I earn less than £3 per hour and I will now be spending more time on paperwork than with the children themselves and it's not what the parents of my children want - but they have absolutely no say in the matter!!
Terry Downing, East London
I am a registered childminder and have been for 12 years. The more difficult ofsted make it, the more childminders will de register and do the job behind closed doors, then ofsted will not have any idea what is happeing to childen, have parents been asked if they want the home setting that they have chosen because a childminder should be offering a home form home environment, to be turned in to a nursery setting, and for their children to be watching the childminder probe their lunch! Bring back some normaility.
Shelley Wallace, Southampton
i am also a childminder. i didn't get in to this profession to sit all day writing observations, assessments or planning. having listened to the lady from the ncma on breakfast this morning i do not agree that the eyfs is a change for the better. i know my minded children very well i don't need to write their every move down to know if they aren't reaching a development milestone or area of learning. the parents of the children have also told me that is not what they want from their childcare, if it was they would have chosen a nursery.
firstname.lastname@example.org, Feering, essex
We have a 1 year old and are really struggling with childcare. We wanted to find a childminder but the 1st one we had chosen gave up after 1 week 1/2 of settling-in. We found a place in a nursery but she is unhappy and so are we, as nothing is done to meet her own needs, personnel changes all the time and information is not passed on reliably. We are still trying to find a childminder (it's now been 5 months) but they are all full...
Isabelle louis, Forest Hill, London se23
I was a childminder for a short time, just after OFSTED took over so don't have any experience of the EYFS but I also used a childminder when my middle child was younger and the reason I went there? Because I DIDN'T want an environment where everything in terms of her was monitored and targets set. I wanted a home from home where she would learn from helping round the house. If I wanted her to be in a proper regime, I would have put her in a nursery. You don't get all these targets at home so you shouldn't have them in childminded settings. The safety aspect I agree with, but that has always been there. It should be up to parents to decide what is best for their children, not the Government.
Kelloggs36, Chatham, Kent
My Childminder informed me 3 months ago that when her registration ends next year she will not be renewing it, simply because of all the pressure that is being put on her by Ofsted, all the courses and extra paperwork. She provides a homely loving environment for my 18 month old, the cost of a nursery is too expensive and my older son attended a nursery, this time I wanted a home carer, not a teacher. If more and more childminders stop working because of this, then it is going to force women like me out of the work place and back into the home.
THERE ARE SIMILAR PROBLEMS IN SCOTLAND - WHAT HAPPENED TO FAMILY ENVIRONMENT - FEWER AND FEWER PEOPLE TEMPTED TO BECOME A CHILDMINDER.
FIONA WHITE, DUMFRIES & GALLOWAY SCOTLAND
I am qualified teacher, currently a learning mentor within a primary school. I have 2 children and a loving,caring,providing mum. Watch out parents We will be next! Have you planned your day following the guidelines. There are far too many highly paid pen pushers in education, sort it out.You do not have first hand experience of child minding and if you did have you forgotten. Paper work doesn't prove anything. As parents we know when the children are learning and very importantly happy.
mary , England
I was a childminder for several years until 1997 when I stopped to have 2 children with plans to return to a job that I had loved. However I chose not to return to minding once the Government began to make more demands and regulations which would have turned my 'home from home' environment into a nursery. I loved the freedom of the job and would oftenembark on a day trip to local parks and playgrounds if the sun chose to appear,now I would have to plan a weeks activities with risk assessments in advance.These rules would have stopped many activities.I can understand the government wanting to protect the children but in the process they have forced thousands of minders to quit the job that they loved and I now have to pay a carer for my children. Can we have some common sense back into the profession please.
Trish Packham, Leeds, Yorkshire, England
I have been a childminder for 5 years and am lost for words on the new regulations that have been set up for us now!!! I used to be able to enjoy spending time with the children in my care, going out and having impromptu days, however, now I will spend most of my days writing down on post it notes exactly what each child is doing, ie "Jonny just picked up a pen" what part of the new forms must this piece of information go? It wouldn't be so bad if the parents appreciated or even wanted this information, they seem to look at me as if Im mad. They like myself want someone who can love and care for their children in a HOME environment, each child is different and has different needs and wants, I no longer feel I am working in the best interests of the children, merely covering OFSTED and the Government from any legal action regarding childcare issues. Im fed up, hard up tired and thinking of a new career!!!!
Rosalind Sargison, Romsey, Southampton
What is overlooked is the fultility of the required recording. The recording is not for the benefit of children or parents but for ofsted as our training made clear in fact parents were excluded from the equation . In effect if you make daily recordings for each child by the time they reach school age a file of over 1000 pieces of paper will be achieved and the file is to be passed onto schools who with the bureaucratic problems they have will promptly bin it! The requirements are not quidelines but statutory requirements and if as a parent you wish to exempt your child from any part of the EYFS then the hurdles faced are so difficult that it is unlikely you will succeed. Finally Susan Clark must take a reality check and take on board that childminders are paid,before tax,between £3 and £4 an hour.What other job pays so little and yet demands so much.