Plaid Cymru outlines a radical vision to give every child equal life chances
A Plaid Cymru government could make a huge £300m investment into early years education in order to give each child an equal start in life. This is one option outlined in a consultation paper on the future of childcare launched by the party today.
The paper argues that investing in childcare is the best means of equalising children’s life chances by giving them the best start in life as well as improving parents’ economic prospects by enabling them to go back to work without the prospect of childcare bills.
You can download the consultation paper here.
One of the options outlined in the paper is to offer free full-time Foundation Phase places to all children aged 3-4 years.
The other options outlined are to top up the existing ten hours Foundation Phase place offered to three and four year olds with twenty hours of free childcare, and to offer ten hours free childcare for three year olds on top of the existing ten hour Foundation Phase place and twenty hours free childcare for two year olds.
The party will consult on various funding models, including potential EU funding, and reprioritising existing spending.
The Party of Wales Shadow Education Minister Simon Thomas said:
"Investing in good quality early years education is the best way to improve Wales’ economic fortunes. If we can get it right, we can equalise a child’s life chances, so that nothing stands in the way of a child reaching his or her potential. Research shows that this could raise the Welsh GDP by 4%, which is a massive increase.
"As well as being good for children, this is also good for parents. Childcare is often cited as one of the main reasons that parents feel they can’t go back to work. But free access to early years education will enable parents to work without making tough decisions on childcare.
"Good childcare is expensive, but this could be the most important step we take to strengthening the economy."
The Party of Wales leader Leanne Wood said:
"Parents in Wales currently pay among the highest costs for childcare in the developed world. Only this week we heard that even the cost of sending a child to part-time nursery now outstrips an average mortgage bill.
"Despite legislation to provide sufficient childcare to meet demand in Wales and England, many Welsh parents cannot access childcare to meet their needs with access to childcare being a particular problem for parents of disabled children, parents who want Welsh-medium provision and parents who work unusual hours.
"Plaid Cymru is working now to ensure that a Plaid Cymru government can work briskly to improve this situation when we come to power in 2016."