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DfE publishes new stats on childcare and early years providers in England

The Department for Education has published its 2018 survey of childcare and early years providers, which includes a separate fees survey for the first time.

A summary of the key findings are outlined below.

Main survey


  • There were 430,500 staff working in the childcare and early years sector in Spring 2018 (down from 452,100 in 2016).
  • 12% of childminders reported having at least one assistant (down from 14% in 2016).


  • Survey estimates suggest that the overall number of providers fell from 90,300 in 2016 to 81,500 in 2018.
  • The number of group-based providers fell from 25,700 to 23,600; the number of school-based providers fell from 17,900 to 16,900; and the number of childminders fell from 46,600 to 40,900.


  • The overall number of childcare places in England fell between 2016 and 2018. There were estimated to be 2,841,300 childcare places across all provider types in 2018, compared to 3,093,000 in 2016.
  • 54% of all registered childcare and early years places were in schools (including maintained nursery schools); 37% were in group-based settings; and 9% were with childminders.

Spare capacity

  • The majority of providers had at least some spare capacity.
  • Around two-thirds (68%) of childminders reported having spare capacity, and, on average, 42% of their spaces were spare.
  • School-based nurseries were less likely to have spare capacity than group-based providers and childminders.


  • The majority of early years staff are qualified to at least level 3.
  • Staff in school-based nurseries (40%) and reception classes (54%) were more likely to be qualified to degree level (level 6) than staff in group-based settings (13%) and childminders (9%).
  • Childminder assistants were included in the survey for the first time – 31% have a level 3 and 3% have a level 6 degree.


  • Just over one-tenth (11%) of group-based staff aged 25 and over received hourly pay below the National Living Wage at the time of survey.


  • Almost three-quarters (73%) of reported costs incurred by group-based providers and 84% of those incurred by school-based nurseries comprised of staff costs including wages, National Insurance payments and pension contributions.
  • The biggest source of recorded costs for childminders was paying for meals, snacks and refreshments for the children they looked after. On average, these food costs comprised a third (35%) of the costs incurred by childminders.

30 hours

  • 90% of group-based providers, 67% of school-based nurseries and 77% of childminders were offering 30 hours.

Tax-Free Childcare

  • 82% of group-based providers, 43% of school-based nurseries and 62% of childminders had signed up to receive Tax-Free Childcare payments.


  • School-based nurseries were most likely to have children with SEND in their provision (77%) relative to group-based providers (72%) and childminders (19%).

Fees survey

Mean hourly fee

  • The overall mean hourly fee charged by providers in England in Spring 2018 was estimated to be £5.02 for children under age two; £5.01 for children aged two; and £4.92 for three and four year old preschool children.
  • However, the average hourly fee is:
    • highest for school nurseries and lowest for childminders
    • higher in London and the South East than in other regions
    • slightly lower for older groups of preschool children.

Find out what the average hourly fee is in your local authority here.

Increasing fees

  • Group providers (e.g. PVI nurseries and pre-schools) were more likely than school nursery providers and childminders to have increased their fees over the previous 12 months.
  • 53% of group providers had increased fees for at least one of the age groups compared to 28%of school nursery providers and 25% of childminders.