Kirsty Williams AM, Minister for Education and Julie Morgan AM AM, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services
Taking Wales Forward commits the Welsh Government to delivering our Childcare Offer. The offer will provide 30 hours of government-funded early education and childcare for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds for up to 48 weeks of the year. Early implementation of the Childcare Offer began in September 2017, with the 30 hours made up of the existing universal Foundation Phase education for 3 and 4 year olds, and additional hours of Welsh Government funded childcare.
Wales is rightly proud of the Foundation Phase and its approach to teaching and learning which has been identified as a significant strength of educational practice in Wales. Evidence demonstrates that where the Foundation Phase curriculum is being delivered well it is raising the attainment of all children, with improvements in overall school attendance, literacy, numeracy and learner well-being. It is critical that we continue to safeguard the place of the Foundation Phase within education to ensure that our young learners get the very best start in life.
Early implementation of the Childcare Offer has highlighted differences between the funding rate paid by local authorities to providers for early years Foundation Phase education and Welsh Government funded childcare. The Arad evaluation of the first year of early implementation published in November recognised that ‘the rate at which some of these providers are paid to deliver Foundation Phase Nursery is often lower than the rate paid to deliver childcare funded by the Offer.’ This reinforced the findings of the National Day Nursery Association’s Annual Survey which listed ‘Delivering a sustainable Foundation Phase Offer’ as a significant concern for the sector.
We have listened to the concerns. It is important that we understand the potential impact that a differential funding rate will have on the future of Foundation Phase education, and also on the implementation of the Childcare Offer.
We therefore intend to run a pilot project, in partnership with Flintshire County Council, to test the impact of a consistent funding rate for early education and childcare. The pilot will run for the Foundation Phase for 3 year olds in the spring and summer term 2019. An evaluation will be undertaken whilst the pilot is underway and we expect a report on the findings in winter 2019.
We will ensure that members are aware of the results of the pilot.