‘Bewildering’ delays in revealing the Labour government’s childcare workforce strategy for Wales have prompted concerns about delivering expanded services in the future.
Llyr Gruffydd AM, Plaid Cymru’s shadow secretary for education and skills, said, “Any plans to enhance childcare services in Wales must be underpinned by a strong workforce plan. This is essential to ensure sufficient numbers of staff for an expanded service and a workforce that’s suitably qualified to deliver the highest quality early years provision.
“It’s now three years since the Welsh Government published its Draft Early Years, Childcare and Play Workforce Plan in 2014. I was told back in September it would be published in the spring. Now the Cabinet Secretary says it’s being incorporated into the Government’s new Employability Programme. That programme doesn’t go live until 2019 – five years after the Government first published its proposals.
“It’s totally unacceptable and quite bewildering as to why it’s still not seen light of day. This is a key component of the proposed enhanced childcare offer and just kicking it into the long grass isn’t good enough.”
Mr Gruffydd added, “Developing a sufficient workforce with the right skills in place is crucial for childcare in Wales – particularly in light of the proposals to provide 30 hours of free childcare to the working parents of three- and four-year-olds across Wales. The Government’s Welsh language strategy also states it will expand Welsh-medium early years provision by 150 nursery groups over the next decade.
“Without a robust workforce plan there’s a real risk of insufficient numbers of staff to deliver these proposals. It also means that the aspirations for a well-qualified workforce and the best possible outcomes for children are undermined.
“The government is clearly not providing the leadership needed on this and the delays in announcing the strategy are undermining the goal of achieving the highest quality early years provision for the children of Wales.”
Evidence shows that high-quality Early Childhood Education and Care has lasting benefits for children’s learning and development, particularly for the poorest children. International and UK evidence has shown that those professionals with higher levels of qualifications are better able to create a high-quality pedagogic environment which makes the biggest difference for children.
The benefits of attending good quality early education are particularly strong for boys and for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, both of whom are more at risk of experiencing problems in early language development.