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Written Statement - Publication of the Early Years and Childcare Plan

Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills and Jeff Cuthbert Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty

Today we are publishing the Welsh Government’s first Early Years and Childcare Plan – Building a Brighter Future.

The early years, which we are defining as the period from pre-birth to the end of the Foundation Phase (0 – 7 years of age) are critical to a child’s development. They are a crucial time for children’s physical, cognitive, language, social and emotional development and research shows that the most important mental and behavioural patterns, once established, are difficult to change once children enter school. However, no one factor is key to improving a child’s outcomes and later life chances: it is experiences over time that matter. We do know though that there are three important elements: a good early years home learning environment; a good quality pre-school; and an effective primary school. A child who has all three of these experiences is more likely to show improved cognitive and social outcomes compared with children that have only some of these experiences.

Getting it right in the early years is essential to a child’s achievements and future life chances. That is why we are publishing Building a Brighter Future our first Early Years and Childcare Plan. Much of what we have set out in this plan will help deliver a number of our Tackling Poverty targets and Programme for Government aims.

Our ambition is for all children in Wales to have a bright future.

We want all of our children to have a flying start in life; be well-educated; enjoy the best possible health; live in a decent home; have access to an enriched environment including play, leisure, sporting and cultural activities; be listened to, treated with respect and feel safe.

Our vision is to create a Wales of the future which is a fairer society and where every person is able to make the most of their abilities, reach their potential and contribute positively to the community that they live in. We do not want any of our children to be disadvantaged by poverty and inequality.

Families and parents are best placed to raise their children. All families are different and their needs change over time. Our commitment is to help families and particularly parents, to do the best they can for their children; and, if they need support that it is timely, integrated, relevant to their needs and delivered in a way that respects the culture and language of the home.

The aim is for parents/carers and all those that help to care for young children, to be well-informed, get support when they need it and have the right level of skill to help all our children stay healthy, develop well and fulfil their potential. Support in the early years can be vital to children’s language development whatever the first language is within the home. We want our children to arrive at school ready and able to learn, and for everyone involved in a child’s life and development to have high aspirations for them.

There are many people outside the family who may work with, care for, or support a child and their family – including midwives, health visitors, school nurses, therapists, childcare workers, teachers, teaching assistants, social workers, mental health workers, doctors and dentists. It is essential that this Team Around the Family operates in a coordinated way and that people supporting children and families are a well-trained and supported workforce.

In this first Early Years and Childcare Plan we set out the direction of travel for the next 10 years. We bring programmes and policies together in a more joined-up and coordinated way to support children and their families across the early years. We describe the key actions we will take over the short- and medium-term as we progress towards a fairer society. We intend to assess progress against this plan annually and complete a full review in three years time.

Delivering this plan will require all of us to work more closely together, with continued passion, dedication and a common purpose to help our children thrive.

Building a Brighter Future: Early Years and Childcare Plan will be available on the Welsh Government website following the launch. A PDF version of the plan is attached for information.