Early Years Education

2. Questions to the Minister for Education and the Welsh Language – in the Senedd at on 21 February 2024.

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Photo of John Griffiths John Griffiths Labour

(Translated)

7. What assessment has the Welsh Government made of the impact of its policies on early years education? OQ60704

Photo of Jeremy Miles Jeremy Miles Labour 3:06, 21 February 2024

We regularly engage with early years education practitioners, childcare providers and our partners, including Estyn, local authorities, and umbrella organisations like Mudiad Meithrin, to best understand our successes and challenges in the early years, and remain responsive to the needs of the sector.

Photo of John Griffiths John Griffiths Labour 3:07, 21 February 2024

Thanks for that, Minister. I think it’s clear from an abundance of evidence just how important the early years are, and I know that it’s one of the Welsh Government’s cross-cutting priorities, and I think nought to seven years is defined as those early years. And we know that within that, the first three years are particularly important, given the rapid neurological growth during those ages. It’s clear, isn’t it, Minister, as I say, with an abundance of evidence, that investing in the early years produces benefits throughout the life course. It really is an investment that brings those long-term lifelong benefits. Given that, could you give us a flavour of Welsh Government thinking and your thinking, Minister, in terms of how we build on the investment we’ve already made to really prioritise these years that are so absolutely crucial?

Photo of Jeremy Miles Jeremy Miles Labour 3:08, 21 February 2024

I do agree with what John Griffiths says about the centrality of very early years provision in giving each of our young people the very best start in life. I think what’s important is a joined-up approach to early childhood play, to learning and to care, the kind of approach that we advocate as a Government, and I hope we’ll continue to advocate. That’s the best way, I think, of supporting the nurturing, the learning, the development of all nought to five-year-olds, actually, in Wales.

I’m very pleased that we’ve expanded Flying Start provision, and we are well on track to making sure that we provide access to another 9,500 two-year-olds. And I think that’s fantastic, and to be able to do that outside the geographic limitations that have been the case for obvious reasons to date, I do think is very, very positive. And this year and next year we’re investing £46 million in the expansion, and I think the offer that Flying Start provides of that additional package of support, we know is very well evidenced and very, very effective in supporting both young children and their parents.

On the other hand, we have a childcare offer that provides, as you will know, up to 30 hours of Government-funded early education and childcare. And I think the key is to strengthen now and build on the universal provision of early education and to make sure that we focus, I think initially at least, in expanding that offer to our two-year-olds, and then building up from that.