The Flying Start programme is part of a phased expansion of early years provision to all two-year-olds in Wales.
Flying Start helps families with children under 4 years old in disadvantaged areas of Wales.
Help available includes:
- Funded high quality, part-time (12.5 hours a week) childcare for 2–3-year-olds
- An enhanced health visiting service
- Access to parenting support
- Support for Speech, Language and Communication development.
Contact your local Family Information Service to find out if you live in a Flying Start area and what help may be available.
Eligibility to access all four core elements of Flying Start programme is often shared with parents during their antenatal care. Health Visitors and local Flying Start teams also contact families to inform them.
Each Local Authority approach to the communication of the phased expansion of Flying Start childcare differs, so please contact your Local Authority who will be able to help.
Families who become eligible for the Flying Start childcare element during the expansion will need to follow their Local Authority registration procedure.
Contact details for you to check eligibility for both the Flying Start programme and Flying Start childcare, with your Local Authority team can be found here: Family Information Service
Why families should take up the Flying Start Service
The provision of high quality, part-time childcare for 2–3-year-olds is integral to the Flying Start programme. Quality childcare contributes to the acquisition of skills and abilities, socialisation and the ability to play and concentrate. These are crucial, not only to a child’s subsequent ability to learn, but also to participate effectively in groups.
Research suggests that quality Early Childhood Play, Learning and Care (ECPLC) leads to improvements in children’s development in later years, such as enhanced language skills; better educational performance in mathematics and reading; and an increase in positive behaviour/outcomes. Children who attend quality early years settings are more independent, concentrate on their play for longer and, on entry to school, are more co-operative and better prepared for the challenges they meet.
Those eligible will receive 12.5 hours of funded, high-quality childcare per week for 39 weeks of the year. The Flying Start childcare workforce is qualified to support children’s development and supplement the nurturing traditionally provided by parents / carers.
Parents / carers will also be able to take advantage of support packages to enhance their parenting skills in supporting their child’s development, care and wellbeing.
Why Flying Start childcare sessions are two and half hours each day
Flying Start childcare sessions are 2.5 hours per day, 5 days a week because the evidence shows that shorter, more frequent higher quality childcare sessions lead to the best outcomes for the child and place a significant emphasis on ensuring that robust transitional arrangements are in place to support children between the home and the childcare setting and from childcare into early education.
Local Authority Flying Start teams have some flexibility in how the 5 sessions are utilised across the week, if it is considered to be in the child’s best interests. This may include when a parent/carer requests a different arrangement because they attend a training course or go to work.
Parents are able to supplement these hours if they need additional childcare provision.
The provision of funded childcare places for two-year-olds may also enable parents to work or access training and education opportunities that may not have otherwise been possible.
How your child can benefit from attending a Welsh medium childcare setting
There are a number of benefits to accessing Welsh Medium provision including when it is not the first language in your home.
In Welsh-medium early years settings, children have access to the added benefits that often come from being bilingual, such as an increased ability to focus, higher cognitive function and improved social and cultural relations. Children who are able to switch between languages, can often develop more flexible approaches to thinking through problems.
Your Local Authority will share with you the benefits of choosing Welsh medium childcare and you will be able to access Ti a Fi sessions.
The Flying Start speech, language and communication guidance contains additional information on the benefits of bilingualism and multilingualism, including the evidence base for identifying and supporting bilingual and multilingual children with Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN).
Why you may need to move your child (to receive funded Flying Start Childcare) if they are currently settled in a childcare setting
If you live in an area that becomes included in the eligibility through the expansion of Flying Start childcare and use a childcare setting that is not yet registered to deliver Flying Start childcare, you may need to change provider to access funded childcare through a Flying Start setting or your current provider may wish to apply to provide Flying Start childcare.
Support for your child when they turn 3 years old
A child who is accessing Flying Start childcare will be able to transition (by way of an application) into the early education element of the Childcare Offer when they reach the relevant age. This is usually the term after their third birthday. However, the exact timing differs between different local authorities.
Children of eligible working parents, and of some parents in education and training, will also be able to access the childcare element of the Childcare Offer from this point. More information can be found on the Childcare offer for Wales campaign page.
Families who receive only the Flying Start childcare element can access other support services if needed
Each Local Authority is responsible for deciding how they will ensure that families have access to the support services that they need. If a family are accessing Flying Start childcare and require further Flying Start Support, Local Authorities have a degree of flexibility to utilise the Outreach policy to support families to access Flying Start outside of the designated Flying Start areas. Local Authorities may also be able to offer further assistance through other support programmes like Families First.
Families who are eligible to access all four elements of the Flying Start programme will be offered parenting support, where appropriate. This may be through formal or informal parenting support.
Parenting support services are available for all families who need them through the Local Authority. Contact your local Family Information Service for further information on what support is available.
Further resources can also be found here:
Parenting give it time offers free practical tips and expert advice for all your parenting challenges
The objective of Flying Start
The objective is for all 2-year-olds to be offered funded childcare
We expect to support more than 9,500 more two-year-olds across Wales to access funded quality Flying Start childcare during 2023-24 and 2024-25.
Each Local Authority is starting from a different position and will be facing different challenges. The geography and demographics across each Local Authority as well as the capacity of the childcare sector to deliver Flying Start childcare will mean that the rollout of the programme will take place at varying timescales across Wales.
Delivery of the expansion of Flying Start childcare began in April 2023 but it will take time to build capacity within the sector.
Why all Local Authorities have received additional funding to expand Flying Start
We want every local authority to receive financial support to start to expand Flying Start childcare provision as we work towards universal offer. That way there is a fair and systematic expansion across Wales.
Why the full/core Flying Start programme is only available in some areas
Flying Start is a geographically targeted programme aimed at providing enhanced services to some of the most disadvantaged communities in Wales. The programme uses income benefit data, a proxy indicator for poverty, to target areas with the highest proportions of children aged 0-3 living in income benefit households. These areas have been identified using the Wales Index of Multiple Deprivation, data from the Department of Work and Pensions and HM Revenue and Customs and are broken down by Lower Super Output Areas.
Local knowledge, combined with other sources of information, can also be used by local authorities to ensure the Flying Start childcare expansion reaches those families in need.
Phasing of Flying Start Childcare expansion
The expansion plans focus on reaching the most deprived areas in each local authority first. Local authorities use income benefit data, a proxy indicator for poverty, to target areas with the highest proportions of children aged 0-3 living in income benefit households. These areas have been identified using the Wales Index of Multiple Deprivation, data from the Department of Work and Pensions and HM Revenue and Customs and are broken down by Lower Super Output Areas.
This high-level approach to targeting remains fit for purpose, is transparent and is based on a robust evidence base which shows why a particular area should be in scope of a Local Authority’s Flying Start childcare expansion plans and, conversely, why others are not.
Local authorities are best placed to advise on when Flying Start childcare will be available in their areas. Each Local Authority is able to apply a degree of flexibility within the Flying Start programme by offering support through Outreach. Outreach enables high need families living outside Flying Start areas to access the support they need.
Your Local Authority team can be found here: Family Information Service
Why Wales has taken a different approach to England
In Wales, our Programme for Government has committed to continue our support for the Flying Start programme. And, in line with the Co-operation Agreement with Plaid Cymru, we have extended this commitment to deliver a phased expansion of early years provision to include all two-year-olds, with a particular emphasis on strengthening Welsh-medium provision.
This approach is part of and supports the Welsh Government’s wider vision for Early Childhood Play, Learning and Care (ECPLC). We are committed to developing and delivering a consistent approach to learning and development, through the provision of high-quality play-based childcare and education opportunities; to support the development of babies and young children’s social, emotional, cognitive, physical needs as well as their wellbeing and ability to thrive.
For more information, please refer to Flying Start Guidance.
Our commitment to provide Childcare to all two-year-olds
As one of the overarching aims of this early year’s expansion programme is to tackle poverty and deprivation, Flying Start is the most appropriate vehicle for delivery. Research tells us that high-quality childcare produces greater longer-term benefits for our children and strongly influences their future life chances. The right childcare can help tackle some of the more entrenched issues that result from living in deprivation, including low skills and poor health that will take time to overcome.
Flying Start settings place a significant emphasis on ensuring that robust transitional arrangements are in place to support children between the home and the childcare setting and from childcare into early education.
Why the expansion is being called Flying Start even though it focusses on the childcare element of the programme
As one of the overarching aims of this early year’s expansion programme is to tackle poverty and deprivation, the Flying Start programme is the most appropriate vehicle for delivery. Research tells us that high-quality childcare produces greater longer-term benefits for our children and strongly influences their future life chances. The right childcare can help tackle some of the more entrenched issues that result from living in deprivation, including low skills and poor health that will take time to overcome. This is why funded childcare to 2 years olds is being expanded through Flying Start settings.