Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills and Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty
In Building a Brighter Future: Early Years and Childcare Plan (2013) , the Welsh Government committed to consult on the right approach for the early years, childcare and play workforce in Wales.
To help inform future development for the sector, we prepared and published a draft 10 year workforce plan and a consultation was undertaken in the latter part of 2014. The draft plan set out our goals for the early years, childcare and play workforce and how we intended to support the delivery of our ambition.
Our ambition is to develop a highly skilled and bilingual early education, childcare and play workforce, which is highly regarded as a career of choice.
Our consultation process covered the key principles of the draft 10 year workforce plan for the early years, childcare and play workforce and set out these principles in more detail under three themes:
- Attracting high-quality new entrants; and
- Raising skills and standards in the existing workforce.
The draft 10 year plan was circulated widely through a number of networks to the key sectors and covered a range of organisations and individuals, including practitioners, local authorities, higher education institutions and schools. The aspirations of the draft 10 year plan were supported by the majority of those consulted.
A number of new policies have arisen in recent months and it is vitally important these policies are fully considered and aligned, where necessary, in developing and delivering the aspirations of the final 10 year plan. Some of the key areas under consideration are outlined below.
A Foundation Phase Expert Group has been set up to develop and enhance Foundation Phase practice and to improve the consistency of curriculum delivery for all schools and settings across Wales. In March, we will be publishing the Expert Groups’ Foundation Phase Action Plan. This plan will set high level actions to support and share learning on effective practice and ongoing staff development and will be considered fully in developing the final Early Years, Childcare and Play workforce plan.
Childcare and Play
Providing high quality, affordable and accessible childcare for all families in Wales who require it, remains a key priority for Welsh Ministers. Childcare is an important factor in tackling poverty as it enables parents to undertake training and enter or remain in employment.
We already have a range of initiatives in place to provide additional childcare. For example, all 3-4 year olds are entitled to a minimum of 10 hours free Foundation Phase early education and in Flying Start areas, all 2-3 year olds are eligible for 12 ½ hours of free childcare per week (39 weeks) and at least 15 sessions during school holidays. We have also provided £2.7 million of grant funding to local authorities in 2014/15 and an additional £2.3 million this financial year to provide quality, affordable childcare to help families before and after the school day. On top of this we are providing £4.3 million over a three year period to third sector organisations to help us develop innovative flexible childcare solutions to meet the needs of families.
Progress for Success
Increasing the skills of the early years and childcare workforce is a key ambition of the workforce plan. In response to this, we are developing, with the support of the European Social Fund, the Progress for Success (PfS) programme. The programme will provide support to existing practitioners to up-skill in recognised sector qualifications at Levels 2 to 6, and we have recently secured £4.1 million European Funding, and provided an additional £2.2 million for West Wales and the Valleys. We fully anticipate that similar support will be made available for practitioners in East Wales.
Progress for Success will also support the aim of the Welsh Language Strategy to achieve the ambition for Wales to become a country where Welsh medium education and training are integral parts of the education infrastructure.
The recommendations of the Independent Review of Childcare and Early Education Registration, Regulation and Inspection (the Graham Review), undertaken by Professor Karen Graham were considered in the development of the draft 10 year plan. These will also be a major consideration as we develop the final plan, alongside the policy developments referred to above.
In finalising the 10 year plan, we recognise our proposals are ambitious, but essential if we want to improve the quality of care we offer our children. As we look to fulfil our long-term aspirations for the early years, childcare and play workforce in Wales, it is important we recognise the challenging financial climate and, vitally important, we make informed decisions about how we can best invest our limited resources to ensure we take forward and deliver on the aspirations of the 10 year plan. Our officials will, over the coming months, continue to engage with interested stakeholders as we work to develop a final 10 year plan for the Early Years, Childcare and Play workforce in Wales.