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Written Statement - Flying Start

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Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty

Flying Start is the Welsh Government’s flagship early years programme which plays a crucial role as part of our anti-poverty agenda. When we published our Programme for Government, we made it a top priority, one of our ‘Five for a Fairer Future’ commitments.

Our commitment, made in 2010 was to double the size of the programme so that 36,000 children would benefit from Flying Start by 2016.

I am pleased to announce our latest data informs us we have achieved our target a year early.

This morning, the Welsh Government published its annual Flying Start statistical bulletin which shows over 37,000 children benefited from the programme in 2014-15.This is an increase of a fifth from last year.

The health visiting element of the programme continues to deliver a more intensive service to children and their families. The data tells us children on Flying Start health visitor caseloads were seen more often in 2014-15 than in the previous year.

We can also see signs the impact of Flying Start may not be restricted to those who benefit directly from the programme. The latest data informs us if you live in a Flying Start area you are more likely to be on school rolls at age 3. In 2014-15, in Flying Start areas, more than 90% of 3 year olds were registered on school rolls. Again, this is a slight increase on last year’s figure. More importantly, it is five percentage points higher than the rate of enrolment for children who live outside of Flying Start areas.

I am also encouraged to see we are having impacts on the health of children living in disadvantaged areas. Over 80% of children living in Flying Start areas in 2013/14 were fully immunised by their 4th birthday, again an improvement on last year’s figure.

We have to be confident the programme is making a difference and the evaluations of Flying Start tell us it is.

Teachers and head teachers at primary schools have been telling us for some years they can identify which children have received Flying Start. They are ready for school in ways children from similar backgrounds often were not in the past.

As the programme matures, and the first children to benefit from Flying Start begin to attend  secondary school, we are hearing the same message - these children are ready for the challenges they are facing.

Flying Start is about giving children a better start, and a  fairer chance in life than they would have had otherwise. It is creating opportunities for children and their families. Which, in these challenging times, it’s more important than ever.

An ever increasing number of children now have better opportunities than they would have had without the programme. As the children and their families take up those opportunities so their life chances improve.