In December 2021 Welsh Government signed a cooperation agreement with Plaid Cymru which included a commitment to extend Flying Start free childcare to all two-year-olds.
This expansion of funded childcare is to be achieved through an expansion of the Flying Start programme that is already supporting two-year-olds from disadvantaged areas. It is essential that all providers who work with two-year-olds currently consider how this expansion will affect them and whether they should apply to be a registered Flying Start provider.
Phase 1 of this expansion began in September 2022 and included all 4 parts of the Flying Start programme – childcare, parental support, extended health visitor support and speech and language support.
Local Authorities were required to submit their plans based on the most deprived areas using the LSOA’s (Lower Layer Super Output Areas).
The Local Authorities were given a lot of leeway with the first phase enabling them to miss out various LSOA’s if there was not sufficient childcare available there to meet the no of places required.
Welsh Government have made made further funds available, meaning LA’s have to submit further plans. So we are now working with a Phase2 A and B.
These second phases relate to childcare alone and not include the other 3 areas of support (parental support, health visiting services and speech and language support) associated with traditional Flying Start. However, these will continue in traditional Flying Start areas.
How to get involved?
Most Local Authorities are looking for more settings to fill the required childcare places. Some are further ahead with this than others. But the majority are using the tendering process which can be seen on Sell2 Wales or etenderwales. For more information on the tendering process contact your Local Authority or Business Wales.
By September 2023 most Local Authorities will have contacted the settings that are to deliver phase 2 of the expansion and should be working with them to provide high-quality provision as well as promoting the service to eligible parents. However, there will be future opportunities to register for Flying Start as the Welsh Government aims to offer funding to all two-year-olds across Wales. So providers should keep up to date with their Local Authority and contact them if they wish to be involved in the expansion.
How do settings meet Flying Start criteria?
Welsh Government have published full and detailed guidance for practitioners wishing to deliver Flying Start and Local Authorities will offer full support to settings that sign up or wish to in the future. It is essential that settings work together with their Local Authorities as they have developed their own delivery plans and will know the settings they seek. Flying Start will look slightly different in each of the 22 Local Authorities across Wales.
There are 3 main areas:
1.`Effective Environments – There must be sufficient space both indoors and outdoors for large and small play areas. There should be opportunity for role play and experimenting as well as areas for staff to work with individual children. There should also be quiet areas for reflection.
The environment should also promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and settings should be implementing the guidance in the Food and Nutrition for Childcare Settings. Local Authorities will be using a form of quality assurance that settings must meet. A lot are using ITERS to gauge quality but some have developed their own. There may be grant funding available to support settings to improve resources and environment – check with your Local Authority for more information on grants available.
2. Enabling Adults – All staff should be suitably qualified according to The Qualification Framework . This currently says you need to have a level 5 to lead sessions and all other staff must have a level 3. All childcare staff working in Flying Start must also access at least 5 days Continual Professional Development or learning. The Local Authority Flying Start advisory team will be able to advise on what training they are providing and whether there will be financial support for backfill.
3. Engaging Experiences – Staff will need to be able engage children in high quality play and have a full understanding of how children develop and learn. There will be a need for continuous assessment of the children and a support for the transition process into early education or foundation learning. Welsh Government have now published the Early Childhood Play Learning and Care Quality Framework with the 0-3 developmental pathways and reflective practice tool. This will support settings to achieve the high quality provision required for Flying Start settings.
4. Welsh Language – Welsh Government plans for expansion have put a huge emphasis on the Welsh language and increasing the number of Welsh medium places. Cwlwm partners have all been working towards this. However, it may be the case that that there are not going to be sufficient Welsh medium settings, particularly with the recruitment crises. So it is important that all settings are working towards their Active Offer and increasing the amount of Welsh Language available in their setting. Signing up for Camau training courses and the Welsh Promise will support this. For further information contact [email protected].
NDNA Cymru is aware that the Flying Start expansion has caused concern and raised issues for some providers. As part of Cwlwm we have written a report highlighting these issues that has been shared with Welsh Government which is currently considering it. Further updates will be in the regular bulletins from NDNA.