Y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg - Y Bumed Senedd

Children, Young People and Education Committee - Fifth Senedd


Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Darren Millar
Hefin David
John Griffiths
Julie Morgan
Llyr Gruffydd
Lynne Neagle Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Mark Reckless
Michelle Brown

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Catherine Davies Swyddog Polisi Dysgu Gydol Oes—Plant, Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru
Lifelong Learning Policy Officer—Children, Welsh Local Government Association
Catrin Edwards Pennaeth Trawsnewid Gwasanaeth, Cyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol Rhondda Cynon Taf—Cymdeithas Cyfarwyddwyr Addysg Cymru
Head of Service Transformation, Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council—Association of Directors of Education in Wales
Claire Morgan Cyfarwyddwr Strategol, Estyn
Strategic Director, Estyn
Esther Thomas Cyfarwyddwr Addysg a Dysgu Gydol Oes, Cyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol Rhondda Cynon Taf—Cymdeithas Cyfarwyddwyr Addysg Cymru
Director of Education and Lifelong Learning, Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council—Association of Directors of Education in Wales
Gemma Halliday Rheolwr Datblygu'r Gweithlu, Gofal Cymdeithasol Cymru
Workforce Development Manager, Social Care Wales
Gill Huws-John Uwch-reolwr—Arolygu Gofal Plant a Chwarae, Arolygiaeth Gofal Cymru
Senior Manager—Childcare and Play Inspection, Care Inspectorate Wales
Jane Rees Arolygydd EM, Estyn
HM Inspector, Estyn
Kevin Barker Pennaeth Arolygu Gofal Plant a Chwarae, Arolygiaeth Gofal Cymru
Head of Childcare and Play Inspection, Care Inspectorate Wales
Mererid Wyn Williams Cyfarwyddwr Cynorthwyol, Estyn
Assistant Director, Estyn
Sarah Mutch Arweinydd Addysg ar gyfer y Blynyddoedd Cynnar a Phartneriaethau, Cyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol Caerffili
Education Lead for Early Years and Partnerships, Caerphilly County Borough Council

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Lisa Salkeld Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Llinos Madeley Clerc
Sarah Bartlett Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Sian Thomas Ymchwilydd

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:30.

The meeting began at 09:30.

1. Cyflwyniad, Ymddiheuriadau, Dirprwyon a Datgan Buddiannau
1. Introductions, Apologies, Substitutions and Declarations of Interest

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Children, Young People and Education Committee. We've received no apologies for absence. Can I ask whether there are any declarations of interest, please? No. Okay, thank you.

2. Bil Cyllido Gofal Plant (Cymru): Sesiwn Dystiolaeth 6
2. Childcare Funding (Wales) Bill: Evidence Session 6

Item 2 this morning is an evidence session with Estyn on the Childcare Funding (Wales) Bill. I'm very pleased to welcome Claire Morgan, strategic director, Mererid Wyn Williams, who is assistant director, and Jane Rees, HM inspector. Thank you all very much for your attendance this morning and for the paper Estyn provided in advance. If you're happy, we'll go straight into questions, and the first ones are from Mark Reckless.

The Bill will lead to a two-strand system with parents applying to the local authority for the 10-hour education offer and then, through an entirely separate process, eligible parents to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs for their 20 hours' childcare. What does Estyn think about that dual-strand structure and whether that's likely to cause confusion or difficulty for parents? 

Well, I think that, with any new system that you introduce, there is potential for confusion. And I think that points to the importance of making sure that parents have all the information they need to make an informed decision about how they apply and how they access that offer. Of course, already, children have an entitlement to the 10 hours of nursery education, and they apply currently to the local authority for that, but we know that the provision is quite complex—that that's provided in a number of different ways.

We know that, in any one year, there are around 35,000 children in a cohort for nursery education, and 31,000 of those access provision in schools and the other 4,000 access provision in a non-maintained setting. But even in that non-maintained setting, there's quite a variation. I don't know whether one of my colleagues would like to give an overview of what it looks like currently.

I'm sure that you know already but, just in case, let me expand. For a child born in the autumn term, they'd be entitled to five terms of nursery education, whilst a child born in the summer term will be entitled to three terms. And different local authorities have different arrangements for managing that process. In some local authorities, children will access the entire nursery provision through the non-maintained sector, or they will attend through the maintained sector within schools. But there's also a mixed economy where, for part of that time—maybe for the earlier two terms—they would attend that provision in a non-maintained setting and then follow on to a school for the remainder of that period, the last three terms of nursery education. So, there's quite a variation. There's no consistent arrangement in place across all the 22 local authorities. So, at the moment, local authorities need to be very clear about the offer available to parents.

Do you think it's appropriate to have those five terms for autumn-born children compared to three terms for summer-born children when there's already evidence that the younger children within the cohort start behind and never quite on average catch up? Doesn't that actually accentuate inequality?

I think the foundation phase is about the child's stage of learning rather than their age, and the curriculum is designed as such then to ensure that children, whatever their starting point, develop at an appropriate pace, which is appropriate to them as individuals.

Can I clarify—? There are 31,000 in the maintained sector, 4,000 in the non-maintained sector within the cohort: when you say the 'cohort', how does that work relative to the kids who have got three terms rather than five terms?

I think the calculation is generally across all the children who are actually engaged in—

In an academic year in school. If you considered an academic year in school, which would transfer then as they move through school into, say, the reception class, that's roughly the number in one cohort of children in that academic year.


So, with one cohort of children, is that the cohort of which all will be eligible for the nursery education, or is it the cohort below that, where only autumn-born children will be initially, and then it goes up through the year? Or are you describing both those cohorts when you refer to those numbers?

I think we're describing both, but we could check on that, if that would help.

Thank you. Could I also ask you to clarify the relative number of children who are not participating in the offer relative to those numbers, and also the 4,000 non-maintained? Is that benefiting from the offer outside schools? Can we get a comparison figure, perhaps, for those who are paying separately and aren't taking up the offer but are in nursery education of some other sort?

I don't think we would have that information in Estyn—certainly this. When we talk about the number in non-maintained settings, we're talking about those who access the 10 hours of education.

But if you were able to give us a number for the overall cohort you're describing to allow us to have that comparison of how large the figure you've got data on is, that would be helpful.

Yes, we could do that. We could do what we have for education.

Thank you very much. You say that Estyn is concerned that schools have not had an opportunity to engage in dialogue around the offer, and I think you rightly highlight that the explanatory memorandum doesn't refer to engagement with the schools. You've considered that schools will be a vital part of the offer. Do you think that the vital potential there, at least, is being handicapped in any way by the lack of engagement to which you refer?

I think that schools, as you rightly say, will be a vital part of the offer. I think we've seen some excellent practice where schools and non-maintained provision co-locate on school sites, and there's a huge benefit to the learners from the exchange of ideas, the exchange of pedagogy and, actually, access to facilities. We think that schools have an important part to play in the 30-hour offer, and therefore—. We're certainly coming across groups of schools that don't have that much information about it, or have not found out about the offer. We certainly think they need to be more involved, and therefore it points to communication, but it also points to making sure that they have opportunities to participate and contribute to the debate.

Do you think that has any implications to the quality of the Bill or how that is drafted?

I'm not quite sure that there are any implications for the Bill, but I think there are implications for the quality of the provision that we will have when we move towards roll-out.

Looking at that quality of the legislation and the timing of this, what do you think of the legislation being brought forward prior to the evaluation? The explanatory memorandum refers to an independent evaluation and monitoring contract being in place and that will provide feedback and valuable learning, including in the alignment of the two strands of the offer.

Our understanding is that the interim evaluation is feeding directly into the work. So, obviously, there is a final evaluation, but that information is being fed in so it can be used to monitor as they're going along. That's our impression.

To come back to an earlier point about the schools' involvement in this project, I think that they are a key partner. Eighty-three per cent of primary schools have nursery provision. So, clearly, they will have an interest in not necessarily delivering the childcare offer—the 20-hour offer—but they certainly will be a key partner in delivering. I think that there's a real opportunity for schools and for local authorities to work with the non-maintained sector to provide a cohesive opportunity for children and their parents. Of course, the foundation phase is part of the new curriculum for Wales as well. So, schools have already been heavily involved in developing the new curriculum. The new curriculum is for the three to 16 age range. The non-maintained sector, so far, haven't been as involved in developing that. So, I think that there's scope for schools and settings to work together to improve and develop the curriculum offer.


And if the offer is to be cohesive, would it be better to do it in one place for each child, whether that's a maintained or a non-maintained setting, rather than seeing the child transported from one place to the other throughout the week because they're on different sites?

I think quality is absolutely key, and you can have high-quality provision within a setting or within a school. I take your point that, for a young child, being bussed around is probably not a productive use of time and not necessarily good for their well-being, but there are opportunities for co-location, for partnership working that can overcome some of these boundaries, which is why, really, I'm stressing the importance of partnership working in this respect.

It can certainly be a challenge for young children to be moved between settings and schools, particularly those children with possibly additional learning needs or some specific need. So, there is a challenge around that.

Sometimes, it's children's first experience of moving away from the home, and, for them, it can be quite a stressful experience, and then to be moving during the day in addition to that could put added stress on that.

So, on that basis, do you think the Welsh Government is doing enough in promoting this offer, then, to actually push the benefits of things like co-location?

I think there's always more that we can all do to promote how the offer can be delivered, and I think the engagement with a wide range of stakeholders, including schools, would be beneficial.

Diolch. Rydw i eisiau mynd yn ôl, os caf i, i'r cwestiwn cyntaf yn deg, jest i fod yn glir. Ymddiheuriadau os na ddeallais i yn iawn, ond nid wyf yn credu fy mod i wedi clywed ateb pendant ynglŷn ag a ydych chi'n credu bod yna risg o ddryswch o'r ffaith bod yna ddwy strand yn mynd i fodoli. Hynny yw, bod yna ddarpariaeth trwy'r awdurdod lleol lle yr ydych chi'n mynd at yr awdurdod lleol ac mae yna un system i gofrestru yn fanna, ac wedyn eich bod chi'n mynd at HMRC ar gyfer cael mynediad i'r 20 awr a bod yna system gwbl ar wahân. Mae'n bosibl bod yna botensial fanna am ddryswch, oes e?

Thank you, I want to return, if I may, to the very first question, because I just want to be clear. Apologies if I didn't fully understand it, but I don't think I heard a definite answer as to whether you believe that there is a risk of confusion in terms of the issue that there is a dual strand that is going to exist. That is, there will be local authority provision, where you will go to the local authority and there is a single system for registering there, and then you would go to the HMRC system to have access to the separate 20-hour system. So, there might be potential for confusion there, might there?

I think we're saying there's the potential for confusion, but there is potential for confusion whenever you change a system. I think it is important that parents have all the information that we use, the variety of ways, to communicate with parents, to explain the new system to them.

As Mererid said earlier, there are different arrangements already to do with the education provision between local authorities, how they provide that, so I think it is important to get the communication right.

Ocê, iawn. Diolch. Jest o ran eglurder yr oedd hynny yn fwy na dim byd arall. 

Rydw i eisiau holi ynglŷn â'r ffaith bod yna gyn lleied o fanylion ynglŷn â'r cynnig gofal plant ar wyneb y Bil. Mae e'n rhywbeth sydd wedi codi yn gyson yn y dystiolaeth yr ŷm ni wedi ei derbyn. Hynny yw, heblaw am y ffaith mai darpariaeth ar gyfer rhieni sy'n gweithio yw e, nid oes dim byd; nid oes dim diffiniad o beth yw 'rheini sy'n gweithio', nid oes yna hyd yn oed gyfeiriad at oedran penodol ar wyneb y Bil o safbwynt pwy sy'n gymwys i'w derbyn. A ydych chi'n meddwl bod—? Neu a oes gennych chi farn ynglŷn â'r ffaith bod cyn lleied o fanylion ar wyneb y Bil?

Okay, fine. Thank you. I just wanted clarity on that point more than anything else.

 I want to ask about the fact that there's so little detail about the childcare offer on the face of the Bill. It's something that has been raised consistently in the evidence that we've received. That is, apart from the fact that it is provision for working parents, there is nothing; there is no definition of what that means, and no reference to a specific age in terms of who is eligible to receive this offer on the face of the Bill. Do you think that—? Or do you have a view about the fact that there's so little detail on the face of the Bill?

I think this doesn't have any particular implications for how we carry out our work, because we are an inspectorate rather than a provider. When we looked at it as far as the implications for Estyn, the only impact could be that there would be a dramatic increase or decrease in the amount of provision and, therefore, the number we inspect. And, obviously, there would be funding implications on it. But as far as implications for Estyn go, we can't see that there are any other—.

A ydych chi wedi gwneud rhyw fath o asesiad o faint yn ychwanegol o adnoddau a fyddai eu hangen arnoch chi i ddelio â'r gwaith ychwanegol?

Have you carried out any type of assessment as to how much additional capacity or resources you would need to deal with this extra work?

I don't know whether you want to answer.

Shall I go?

Ar hyn o bryd, nid ydym ni'n gwybod a fydd yna gynnydd yn nifer y darparwyr sydd yn cynnig y gofal plant. Lle rydym ni'n arolygu, wrth gwrs, ar hyn o bryd, nid ydym ni ond yn arolygu darpariaeth lle mae plant yn cael eu cyllido ar gyfer y cyfnod sylfaen. Ar hyn o bryd, nid ydym ni'n siŵr pa effaith fydd y cynnig gofal ehangach yma yn ei gael ar y niferoedd sydd yn cymryd y cyfle yna i dderbyn eu haddysg meithrin.

At present, we don't know whether there will be any increase in the number of providers that offer the childcare. Where we inspect, of course, at present, we don't inspect provision where children are funded for the foundation phase only. At present, we're not sure what impact this broader childcare offer will have on the numbers who take up this offer to receive their nursery education.


A ydych chi felly yn ymwybodol o unrhyw fodelu mae'r Llywodraeth wedi'i wneud o safbwynt y niferoedd posib?

Are you therefore aware of any modelling the Government has undertaken in terms of possible numbers?

Nid wyf yn siŵr ein bod ni'n hollol ymwybodol. Mae trafodaethau wedi bod y gellid cynyddu nifer y darparwyr. Ond, ar hyn o bryd, nid oes sicrwydd beth fydd y goblygiadau.

I'm not sure that we're totally aware. There have been discussions that there could be an increase in the number of providers. But, at present, there's no certainty as to what the implications will be.

Lle fyddai hynny yn eich gadael chi wedyn? Mi fyddech chi'n dweud, os oes yna gynnydd arwyddocaol, yna byddai'n rhaid i hynny gael ei adlewyrchu yn yr adnoddau sydd ar gael i chi gan y Llywodraeth.

As to where this would then leave you, you say that if there's going to be a significant increase then that would have to be reflected in the resources made available to you by the Government.

In your evidence, you say—I'll just quote from your evidence—that

'In simple terms, the Offer could be taken up by parents as 10 hours of foundation phase with a top up of 20 hours of childcare',

which is what we understand it to be. You then say that

'If parents decide not to take up the foundation phase education provision they will only be entitled to 20 hours of childcare'.

That word, 'entitled'—can you just expand on why you say 'entitled to'?

The childcare offer is for 30 hours a week over 48 weeks. My understanding is that the 30 hours is made up of the offer of a foundation phase place, be that for 10, 12.5 or 15 hours, whatever the local authority provides, and then the rest is made up of childcare. So, if a parent decides not to place their child in a foundation phase setting, their entitlement will be to the top-up element, not for the full 30 hours. So, 30 hours is made up of the childcare and the early education.

Okay, but isn't that what we understand the offer to be anyway?

So, parents would be entitled to 30 hours if they take up the foundation phase.

If they take up the foundation phase.

Our concern is that they might not take up the foundation phase part of the offer, especially if it's on two different sites.

So, that then would reduce—. So, that's the wraparound element of it.

Okay. But to what extent would you say parents are not taking up the foundation phase? There's a good take-up of the foundation phase.

At present, there's a good take-up of the foundation phase because, for parents who are thinking about returning to work, they've got at least 10 hours of funded education for their children. But, if that's combined with 20 hours of childcare, it may be that parents, if it's logistically difficult for them to access both the childcare provision and the education provision, might make some choices about it, and one of the choices potentially could be that they'll take the funded childcare element of it but won't take up the funded education bit.

So, an unintended consequence could be a reduction in take-up of the foundation phase. We could see a reduction in that over time. 

Yes, potentially. Also, parents apply to the local authority for a foundation phase place, so there's an element of the local authority then deciding where that child can take up the foundation phase element of the offer, whereas for the childcare offer there's a greater choice for the parent in being able to take up that care provision.

Not all care providers offer the foundation phase. Only 600 care providers also offer the foundation phase.

Yes, we understand that to be the case. So, it's the whole wraparound issue that could cause that problem, and also where the local authorities place children as well has an impact.

Which comes back to my earlier point, really, about the need for partnership working maybe for that longer-term strategy that covers both education and childcare. 

Okay. One of the things you say as well is that the fees for the 20 hours are set, but the fees for the foundation phase depend on local authority decisions. So, you say that

'Estyn encounters an increasing number of settings funded for education that request some form of additional fee from parents to ensure that their provision is sustainable', 

whereas with the 20 hours, that is only for very specific things. It's different in foundation phase, then. So, how significant would that issue be, and what impact will it have on the ability for the childcare offer to be universal?


The sector's quite a volatile sector and settings register and deregister, often because of funding issues where they find it difficult to maintain their service, because paying their staff can be challenging, especially if they receive the funding for foundation phase in retrospect rather than upfront. And we've got examples of settings that find it difficult to pay staff, or that staff are waiting for wages. 

So, could a further unintended consequence be that people currently offering the foundation phase will stop offering the foundation phase and offer the childcare offer only?

So, are we able to quantify this? Are we able to consider the extent to which it might happen?

I think it's quite difficult to do that.

There may be some information from pilots. We only have hearsay evidence of a very small number of settings that may be considering not offering the foundation phase going forward. 

So, there's not a great deal of evidence of it yet, but it's a possibility that you're considering based on your extrapolations of scenarios. Okay. Thank you.

Can we just go back to this issue of the fee before I bring Julie Morgan in? You have highlighted that in your evidence. How significant is that? Because I think the committee feels that it's not an insignificant sum of money that is possibly going to be added to this. What is your assessment of the likely impact of that?

It's quite difficult for us to forecast the impact of it. We can give you the little evidence we have from HMI engaging with settings, highlighting the issues that Jane has mentioned. We know that some ask for a top-up. Some ask for fees to be paid upfront to help with the business cash-flow, because many of them are small businesses, and they often refund it to the parents. So, it is a concern, I would say, but it is quite difficult for us to forecast the volume of it.

We are aware—and we conducted some thematic work back in 2015—of the role of advisory teachers within the non-maintained sector. And through that piece of work we looked at the funding structures at each local authority and discovered that there is no parity between authorities about the rate of funding for foundation phase in the non-maintained sector. There's a disparity of funding across the sector, but there's also a difference in funding between the non-maintained sector and nursery provision in schools as well. And then you've got a different rate again with the 20 hours of the childcare offer, and also a different rate of funding again with Flying Start.

So, just to clarify this, individual local authority areas are paying their own schools, I presume, a higher rate than the non-maintained settings even though they're expected to deliver the foundation phase in the same way. 

Is that widespread from one local authority to the next? That's typical of a local authority rather than an unusual example, yes?

And with this £37.50, isn't there a risk that that will be seen as, 'Well, if that's what we can charge, we're going to charge it', and therefore, effectively, it will be the charge for what is supposed to be free childcare?

I think the £37.50 that you referred to is the amount that settings delivering the 20 hours are allowed to charge for snacks, isn't it? What we're talking about, in terms of the foundation phase offer, is different. 

I understand that; I'm just going back to this £37.50. If they're allowed to charge it, they will, won't they?

So, in the pilot areas, how many of the providers are charging the £37.50 at the moment? Perhaps that's a better way of putting the question to you.

We don't have the evidence for that.

You said earlier on, in response to Mark Reckless's question, 'Is it appropriate to bring this forward before the evaluation of the Bill?', that there was plenty of evidence coming from the pilot areas, which was giving you and others some reassurance that it was appropriate to progress the Bill now. But you're suggesting that some of these basic things, like whether the £37.50 is being charged, you don't know.

I didn't say that it was giving us reassurance. I said that we had assumed that it was being fed into—


Yes, absolutely.

Just to follow on from that, I think, Jane, that you said that, as things stand now, a lot of organisations don't charge any top-up for transport, snacks and things like that.

Settings that we inspect that offer funded education—there's a bit of a mixed economy with that. Normally, any charge would be if the settings have agreed that they will provide all of the snacks. But they generally say that children can bring their own if they would prefer. In a few settings, we have seen charges being made for things like equipment for creative play, but that's unusual generally at the moment.

And do you think that's acceptable—to ask them to bring equipment for play?

I think settings have got to be very careful about what they do, because education should be free. So, I think snacks, perhaps, is reasonable in some cases, but otherwise, no, not to provide equipment.

Can I just ask a further question on this issue, if that's okay? With the £37.50, do children who would be eligible for free school meals at school meal age—do they still have to pay the £37.50? Is there anything in the pilot areas that is suggesting that they don't? Or can that be charged to anybody regardless of their financial circumstances at home?

The £37.50 is for settings that just provide care, and we don't inspect the settings that are just providing care.

I get that, but I'm just asking in particular about the £37.50, because no doubt some of the care, the childcare—because it's about the quality of the development of the child as well, as we understand it from the Minister's explanation to us—will be provided in maintained settings—that's what he's expecting—in addition to non-maintained settings. So, if it's going to be in a non-maintained setting, won't it seem very unusual that a school may be able to charge £37.50 for a child who is effectively in a childcare setting who may be eligible for free school meals later on, but they're charging £37.50 every week?

I don't think we anticipate that that would happen in schools. I think that if you're talking about the wraparound care being provided on a school site, that would be a non-maintained arrangement, working with the school. I don't think we've come across that in schools.

We need to be clear that obviously the charging element relates to the offer rather than a maintained education provision, where there wouldn't be a charge then, would there?

Can we clarify: are schools legally able to charge if they offer the 10 hours education and themselves offer the wraparound? I know that some schools see this as a revenue opportunity. Can they in addition charge for food, and what would Estyn's view of that be?

They wouldn't be able to offer the 20 hours because they can't register with Care Inspectorate Wales.

No, because they're exempt. If you're exempt from registering, you can't then voluntarily register. It's something we can provide a note on.

So, schools are banned from providing the childcare element, so everybody has to be bussed around because they're legally prevented from doing otherwise. So, what's Estyn's view on whether schools can offer this 20 hours of childcare themselves? Or can they only do it through an agent that they allow to use their site?

Schools are already providing wraparound care. Do you want to give some of the examples?

Yes. There are examples, but the way schools provide wraparound care is that they work with a partner who uses their site, uses spare accommodation on their site—

So, they can't do it directly; they can only do it through a partner.

At present. That's my understanding, yes.

I think sometimes staff in the school might go on to work with a partner, so that might cause some confusion, but it's a separate arrangement. It's the same people sometimes. 

At times. And they provide very effective support to the partner, where the expertise and the experience of the school staff can be used to support the setting that's on their premises.


Co-location—we've seen examples of it working very well.

Yes, I think it's—. Shall I carry on? Actually, I think we've answered the question about the fact that the childcare is funded at a higher rate and so there is concern that the foundation phase—the 10 hours bit—won't then be offered by providers. I think you've said that you are concerned about that, haven't you? Did you say that earlier?

Sorry, could you repeat that?

The fact that the childcare element of the offer is funded at a higher rate than the 10 hours. You are concerned—

We are concerned, yes.

Yes. I think you said that before, didn't you, so just to reiterate that.

We are concerned that parents may make a choice. So, if it's logistically quite difficult for them to move children around, 20 hours' childcare may become more attractive than the 10 hours' education. 

And for settings it may be more attractive to offer the childcare part of the offer rather than the education part, in local authorities where there isn't parity of funding for the two.

Yes. So, this is all very uncertain at the moment.

The other question was: where education and care are on different sites, what sort of evidence have you had through your work about the difficulties that parents have to experience in terms of transport and enabling their children to go to two sites in a day?

I think that, currently, we inspect provision where the children are receiving foundation phase—the education element. So, we are not observing that movement of young children from one site to the other as part of our routine inspection activity.

And you don't have any evidence from the pilots at all about how this is working—the movement, you know, and whether parents are saying that it's very difficult. Because I know that that does happen now—not talking about the pilot stages or the development. In my constituency, I've had a number of parents who've explained how difficult, logistically, it is for them to take up the foundation phase 10 hours, which they want their children to benefit from, and to get them cared for in terms of covering a working day. It has been quite difficult to manage that. But you haven't really got any evidence on that.

We haven't really got the evidence to provide you with, but it's coming back to that earlier point about the real importance of collaboration and partnership working to make this work.

Occasionally, we inspect settings where they have good relationships with the local school and so the children receive their education in the school and they will arrange transport—they have some sort of arrangement between them and the school, and that works effectively. But they are normally in quite close proximity to the school—not necessarily on the site, but reasonably adjacent.

You are right to highlight that the challenge is there already. There are parents who are accessing the foundation phase 10 hours and then arranging other childcare that involves transporting children between them. It's not unique to the childcare offer.

No, but it's obviously an issue, isn't it, when it becomes more widespread, hopefully, when this is available free, and we hope people will take it up who haven't been able to take up that part of the provision before. So, obviously, the transport will be quite important. But I suppose it depends, as you say, on the good links between the schools, and if they can arrange transport to help that would be very helpful.

And, of course, as Mererid said earlier, it's the quality of the provision that's really important. 

Okay, thank you. Yes, in terms of the quality of the education, the quality of the childcare and, indeed, having a safe and interesting place to experience the education and the childcare, as you've made clear, the 20 hours element isn't a matter for Estyn inspections. So, because of the need to have quality of education and quality of childcare leading to better outcomes throughout life, hopefully, what sort of practical difficulties does it create for Estyn not being able to inspect the 20-hour element but only the 10 hours? Are there practical issues there for you?


Well, we've been working very closely with CIW because we've developed a joint inspection framework, and for the 600 non-maintained settings that Jane mentioned earlier we've been piloting joint inspections, but we will roll them out—it's likely to be in January 2019. So, we are working very closely with them. So, you're right that we don't have the power to inspect those childcare settings, but we will certainly work closely with CIW where we can.

How will that work in practice then, those joint inspection arrangements? Again, are there practical difficulties?

I think it's important to stress that we've developed a truly joint inspection framework. It's not two organisations inspecting at the same time with two different frameworks; it's truly planned as a joint, integrated framework. There are elements of that framework where we have a duty to inspect around children's standards and provision for education, and our inspectors will report and look closely at those aspects, but the rest of the framework—both organisations have a vested interest in things to do with leadership and management, the well-being of children. We have a common interest, so we will be inspecting those elements jointly.

So, do you foresee any practical issues at all or are you quite happy that it will be a smooth process?

Well, we've piloted these inspections already and the feedback has been generally positive, both from our inspectors and CIW's inspectors but also from the providers themselves. They see that it's a real benefit to have both organisations inspecting together to lessen the burden on them as providers.

Does Estyn have a view on the fact that you won't be inspecting the settings that deliver the 20 hours only? So, notwithstanding what you say about the joint arrangements, do you think it would be better if Estyn was able to inspect the 20-hour settings well?

Well, we don't have powers to do that currently, but I think working closely with CIW will be the way forward really.

Okay. Do you think that the fact that schools are not able to deliver the whole of the 30 hours is an issue—a problem? I mean, we've already heard about some of the practical issues involved in transportation. This has to provide that quality of education and childcare, this offer, because it's obviously so important for the outcomes and the standards that are achieved. So, does Estyn have a view on whether or not schools should be able to provide the whole of the 30 hours?

I think that, throughout education in Wales, there's an increased emphasis on collaboration, particularly with the education reform and the new curriculum. Schools and other stakeholders are working very closely together, and we've seen some excellent practice where care providers providing that wraparound care, working very closely with schools, are providing excellent quality. So, we think that co-location and working in collaboration can achieve the high quality, so we would probably welcome more of those arrangements.

Thank you. We're going to move on now to look at some issues around child development. Michelle, if you could try to ask the questions briefly, that would be great.

I'll be as quick as I can. The NASUWT have expressed concerns about the relative skills and working conditions of staff in non-maintained settings as compared with those in maintained settings, and they've stated that children receiving the 10 hours early entitlement in non-maintained settings are at a disadvantage. What's your view on that? Would you agree?


I think that parents and children have the right to parity of education whether they receive it in a non-maintained setting or within a school setting. We know that, previously, under the foundation phase grant, there were arrangements in place for a 10 per cent advisory teacher to work with settings to support that educational element within the setting. We are concerned that, since the foundation phase grant has changed to become the education improvement grant, that stipulation is no longer there within the terms of that grant—so, for the 10 per cent advisory teacher—although Welsh Government officers have been clear with authorities that it should be. The intention is that they should continue to offer that 10 per cent teacher input to settings, but we are seeing evidence that local authorities aren't continuing to provide that support to settings, and that's something that we are concerned will have a negative impact in the future.

Our view is that settings benefit from the support of a qualified teacher, whether that is the support of a qualified teacher provided by the local authority to support a setting or by working in collaboration with schools.

Right, thank you for that. Huw Irranca-Davies, the Minister responsible for the Bill, has repeatedly said that the childcare offer is about child development whenever he's been asked about why only registered childcare providers can deliver it. What's your view on whether the offer has the potential to widen the school-readiness gap?

It is difficult to look at this in isolation, because we know that there are many other schemes, including Flying Start, trying to address the difficulties of more disadvantaged families, but the offer doesn't affect that entitlement for all children to have the 10 hours of funded education, so that will still be there.

'School readiness' is a term that is interpreted in a number of ways. I'm not quite sure whether we have evidence to suggest that.

There is evidence, isn't there—? It's been raised regularly with us as a committee that there are concerns that those who are most disadvantaged, who are most likely to be further behind in terms of being ready for school, are being excluded from this Bill. But you're not sure whether it will have an impact.

Well, we know that all children will have entitlement to the education part of it—

To the 10 hours, yes, but there's an additional entitlement for those who are from working parents and others are excluded from that.

But I think the term 'school readiness' has a broad meaning for different people. We've got to remember that it's not about preparing for school, it's about preparing for learning, and three-year-olds are accessing their education in a setting or in a school. So, it's not about preparing them for that step into school. 

So, are those who have access to three times more preparation going to be more ready for school when they get to that age?

I think it would depend what their experience is. That is making an assumption that a child at home with a parent is disadvantaged, when we know that some of the research says that time with a mother who is well educated has huge advantages to a child. So, if a parent is choosing to provide childcare at home and it's high quality, it doesn't necessarily follow that that child would be disadvantaged from the time with that parent.

But there is a lot of evidence out there showing that children from poorer backgrounds are more likely to be less ready for school, depending on how you would couch that, and therefore the evidence that we've received from a number of different places suggests that this is an issue, but you don't think it's an issue.

We recognise that international research points to the fact that, if the child requires intervention, the earlier that intervention is in place, the better the long-term prospects for that individual.


But you're perfectly comfortable that one particular cohort will receive three times more provision in terms of that early intervention, compared to those that many people say who need it most.

Some of this cohort will receive Flying Start support as well.

Yes, although the majority of those that are in that particular bracket don't live in Flying Start areas.

I think, in an ideal world, I expect we would all agree that, if it was possible and there was funding, this would be available for all children. I don't think anybody would disagree with that.

But you're comfortable therefore that, within the context of limited resources, £100 million, which is a lot of money, is being targeted in the right place for maximum effect in terms of educational outcomes later on in life.

I think, as far as educational outcomes, every child is entitled to the 10 hours of education provision. I don't think we have evidence to actually present a view on the effect if this was extended to all children.

It sounds a bit like some are equal but some are more equal than others.

If everybody could go through the Chair, it would be a lot easier. Michelle.

Thank you. The children's commissioner has expressed concern that excluding children of non-working parents may widen the inequalities gap. Do you have an opinion on that? Would you agree with that view?

We don't have any evidence to present to you on that. We could see that that possibly could happen, but in Estyn we don't have the evidence.

Yes, it was just a follow-up in respect of the Flying Start stuff. We've got some evidence from Flying Start, haven't we, in terms of the impact of childcare on young people or children from disadvantaged backgrounds? So, to suggest that there's no evidence is wrong, isn't it?

We have no inspection evidence because we don't inspect Flying Start.

No, I appreciate you don't inspect, but there's plenty of evidence about the impact from Flying Start on those young people who are getting access to the free childcare and their progression, then, once they actually get into education, isn't there?

Otherwise, why are we investing all the money in speech and language therapy to improve school readiness and literacy?

Coming back to my earlier point, that if a child requires intervention and gets that intervention at an early point, their longer term chances are increased and you require fewer interventions in the long term.

But they're being excluded from these interventions—the additional interventions that are being offered to working parents and working families.

Okay. Well, I think we've obviously got a difference of opinion here. Are there any other questions from Members? Okay.

Well, that concludes this session. Can I thank you for attending and for answering our questions? You will be sent a transcript, as usual, for you to check for accuracy, following the meeting. Thank you very much.

The committee's going to adjourn for five minutes.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:18 a 10:22.

The meeting adjourned between 10:18 and 10:22.

3. Bil Cyllido Gofal Plant (Cymru): Sesiwn Dystiolaeth 7
3. Childcare Funding (Wales) Bill: Evidence Session 7

Welcome, everyone, to this session with Care Inspectorate Wales and Social Care Wales. I'm very pleased to welcome Gemma Halliday, workforce development manager at Social Care Wales, Kevin Barker, head of childcare and play inspection at Care Inspectorate Wales, and Gill Huws-John, who is senior manager, childcare and play inspection. Is that at Care Inspectorate Wales?

Yes, okay. Well, thank you for attending. We've got quite a lot of questions for you, so, if you're happy, we'll go straight into those with Mark.

Good morning. This Bill will lead to a two-strand system where all parents will be able to apply to the local authority for 10 hours of foundation phase nursery education, and then, in addition, eligible parents will be able to apply to HMRC, through an entirely separate process, for 20 hours of childcare. To what extent do you believe this has the potential to cause confusion or other difficulties for parents?

In CIW, we would welcome anything that brings simplified and streamlined processes for funding for parents to access the offer, but ultimately, for Care Inspectorate Wales, our focus is on registering, inspecting and regulating services to assure their quality and safety and to promote positive outcomes for children. That's our primary concern. How parents access funding to facilitate access to those services is not our primary concern. 

Are positive outcomes for children facilitated by having a dual strand process where the 20 hours of childcare is funded through a separate process by HMRC and inspected by a separate organisation—you guys—versus a 10-hour process that is funded by local authorities and is inspected by Estyn with the kids often bussed around between the two processes? How does that promote positive outcomes for children?

Well, the proof of that is in the quality of the services as they actually are delivered in practice and the outcomes that are achieved for children in practice. It's worth mentioning at this point, that we are working closely with colleagues in Estyn to deliver a programme of joint inspections for non-maintained settings that provide an element of education. So, those settings will be subject to a joint inspection between the two inspectorates. But so much of this is yet to be determined in terms of how the offer will develop in the coming years, the learning that's taken from the pilot phase, and I'm aware that there's an independent evaluation that's going to be commissioned, or has been commissioned, in respect of that. So, I am confident that Care Inspectorate Wales will continue to have its benchmark in terms of quality and inspect against those benchmarks.


So, where there's a maintained setting that does the 10-hour foundation phase and a non-maintained setting on a different site that does the 20-hours' childcare, who will be responsible for inspecting the arrangements through which the children are bussed or, often, trolleyed from one organisation to the other, and the impact that has on the children? Is that you or Estyn?

Well, at the point at which children are being transported they're not in a particular service. Gill.

We would say that both inspectors had a role in looking at the quality. For example, Estyn, for maintained services, and we, in terms of care for registered services, would have a role in thinking about the quality of the service that's delivered in terms of transportation. Just to say, already we have a number of children receiving services where they may be moving to different settings—they may be with a child minder in the morning, for example, going to education, and going perhaps to an after-school club, and it can be managed very well, and that would be reflected in inspection reports.

And are you sure that, when that happens, both organisations inspect that element rather than neither?

Certainly Care Inspectorate Wales would look at that element for registered providers.

Thank you. How involved have your organisations been in working with Welsh Government to develop the Bill and the offer? What discussions have taken place and how productive have they been? Has Welsh Government listened to you?

We work very closely with colleagues in Welsh Government. We've provided information from our experience of regulating, inspecting and enforcing in childcare and play, and we've been invited to attend various meetings and working groups. So, we've been members of the stakeholder reference group for the childcare offer and for the programme board for the childcare offer, and we've done our best to be as helpful as we can in providing professional advice as necessary.

That's the first part of the answer. The second part of the answer is to say that there does however need to a clear line between our responsibilities as a regulator and as an inspectorate and those who make decisions about future legislation. Our role is to register, regulate and inspect against the legislation as it is drawn.

In terms of ourselves at Social Care Wales, like our colleagues at CIW, we are also members of the stakeholder reference group. We do have an early years network as well, where we have members from the wider sector. As Kevin's already alluded to, we are there in an advisory capacity from our role in terms of developing the workforce, but, obviously, on that group there are also Cwlwm partners who would be there representing the wider sector and to some extent the concerns of parents and carers.

So there's this division between the legislation as it essentially will be, and you will inspect against that. Are you saying, from that, that it isn't your role to advise Welsh Government or this committee on the basis of your expertise what might be a better or a less good way of legislating changes?

No, I'm not quite saying that. What I'm saying is it's absolutely our role to draw on the evidence. If we have evidence from our inspections and reviews and other activities that is relevant for colleagues in Welsh Government, then obviously we should, and do, provide that evidence, about capacity, the number of inspections that we achieve, the registrations, what providers might be telling us about their experiences, and so on. Obviously, we would and do provide that.

In our capacity, we're there, obviously, from the point of view of developing the workforce. So, we would be there to advise and make recommendations in terms of workforce development and qualification levels, because we work very closely with Qualifications Wales at the moment on the current new suite of qualifications being developed. But we also hold the list that CIW would inspect against—the list of required qualifications that individuals within the sector need to hold to be able to practice—to uphold that quality assurance. 


The explanatory memorandum says that Welsh Government has an independent evaluation and monitoring contract in place to provide feedback and learning from the early implementation pilots of the offer, and that's going to include the alignment of the childcare and the foundation nursery education elements of that. Do you think it's right that we should be legislating prior to having the benefit of that evaluation to take into account? 

Well, I do think that that is a question best answered by policy colleagues in Welsh Government. 

There are—. It's not unknown for that to happen in terms of developing legislation, I am aware, but at the moment, in our role as an inspectorate, we don't have evidence that we can align against that particular question. 

Similarly, we'd support, obviously, the use of external evaluation to draw on the pros and cons of the current system, and I think it would be great for us in terms of understanding what the potential capacity issues may be in the future, or the take-up of the offer. But like Kevin, it's a question for Welsh Government, perhaps, not for us. 

Can I direct this question to Gemma Halliday? It's pretty clear from the written submission you made that there just isn't capacity in the sector to deliver the offer of 20 hours. 

The response we've given is based on evidence we have at the moment, and I think that until we've got that independent evaluation saying what the uptake might be, because, obviously, the figures we've given are based on current supply and the number of children in Wales at the moment—. So, the potential uptake, if everybody who is eligible uptakes—we could be looking at needing an extra 2,637 workers across Wales. What we do know is that there are areas, for example in the south-east of Wales, where there are high numbers of children who would be eligible, but the multiple index of deprivation shows that parents are perhaps not working and therefore would not be meeting the eligibility criteria. So, there are issues such as that where, until we have had that independent evaluation, it's difficult to say what the take-up's going to be and what impact that's going to have on the capacity of the workforce. But as things stand—  

That seems a little bit more equivocal than what was in your written evidence. 

Yes, so based on what we know currently, we know potentially we're going to need an extra 21,000 places, and under national minimum standards for that age range that would equate to 2,637 workers. So, there's obviously a knock-on effect then as well to training providers and to colleges in terms of capacity for delivery. But as we know from similar reports in England, until the uptake and until we've had that evaluation of what the uptake is within those early implementer areas, we won't know what the capacity for the workforce will be because we don't know what the demand is, so—

One of the things you also say in your evidence is that there's no labour market evidence to say that there are people coming through who will be able to be qualified to deliver this. The labour market isn't offering the people to meet the capacity we need. 

Yes, we don't know. 

A number of reports, such as the childcare capacity report that we've looked at, and the Talk Childcare report that Alma Economics carried out for Welsh Government, would indicate that this is the number that would be required based on the proposed supply. So, we know that there's an extra—. Well, there's 175,000 children potentially eligible in Wales. So, if we're looking, then, at our current supply, we would have a shortfall based on if all of those children uptake. What we don't know is if there are those—. Based on our current information, we'd need an extra—. Sorry— 

It doesn't matter too much about the precise figures, but—

But I'm also going to bring Llyr in now because he was going to ask the detailed questions on the workforce. 


The impression I get is that it's a bit of a 'wait and see what the take-up is', but by the time we get there it'll be too late to train people.

There are people coming through constantly, and what we do have currently in Social Care Wales is we're on the verge of launching a national recruitment and retention campaign that will look at social care and will also look at early years and childcare. It's also something that Welsh Government state in their workforce plan—that this is going to be a major issue: making sure that we have got that attraction and recruitment to get people through.

In terms of what the uptake is and what effect that will have on the capacity of the workforce, we do need to see what the uptake's going to be to know for certain what the capacity issues may potentially be. But what we do know is that we have got work-based learning providers who have the correct infrastructure for delivery. We do know we've got colleges with the infrastructure for delivery. However, we do know that, if that figure of 2,637 workers is the likely figure, then there is obviously going to be a knock-on effect for the training providers, and whether we can get them through in time. Because, obviously, an apprenticeship, for example, takes between 12 and 18 months to get staff qualified to level 2 or level 3, but we won't know until we've had the evaluation of the uptake what the potential workforce implications might be. We're just going on the number of children we've got and how many workers we might need based on national minimum standards. So, until we've got that uptake, it's difficult to say for certain.

So, what does that tell us, then, about the fact that the Government have now laid this Bill without having that evaluation completed, really? Because it has been raised in different spheres that, actually, should we know all of this before we legislate around the offer?

I think in terms of the legislation, it's looking, isn't it, quite a lot at the central administration of the process?

And that's the answer most people give us. Okay, I won't pursue that because I'm mindful of the time.

The only other point I'd like to raise very briefly—and you touched on this—is that it's all well and good maybe churning people through in terms of getting them trained, but of course there's a geographical spread issue, which you've touched on, in relation to some parts of Wales, but also others, such as Welsh medium, where I'd imagine some of these pressures would be felt even more keenly.

Yes, and in terms of ourselves, developing the workforce, we would be working really closely with our Cwlwm partners then, and particularly Mudiad Meithrin. It's a major element of our campaign, not just in early years and childcare, but also in social care, that, actually, Welsh-medium provision is key to child-centred approaches, and ensuring that the rights of the child are met. So, that is a major strand of the campaign, and when we're looking at recruitment and we're out talking to the sector, the importance of the Welsh language as a skill is paramount to those conversations we're having.

So, just to confirm, then: you mentioned that colleges and the like have the capacity if needed. Is that really true? Because we're talking about—and these are your figures—a 700 per cent increase in the number of childcare apprenticeships, potentially, and a near doubling of the places at colleges. It's 1,500 currently, and you'd need 1,100 additional places. Now, even if it's half of that, then that would be a challenge.

We don't have evidence to say whether or not there is the capacity within the colleges and the new apprenticeships. We certificate the apprenticeships, and it's currently 675 a year, but we don't have the evidence to say whether or not the colleges and the apprenticeships—.

Okay. So, at the moment, in order to deliver this offer, we don't know how much more capacity we need, and we can't say whether the colleges could actually meet that if required.

We can go on the figures we've got, which are that we know there are 175,000 children in Wales who are potentially eligible, and we know what that could do to the figures in terms of the workforce. What we do know is we have got experienced learning providers in the sector who are turning people out every year for us.

But we know that those courses wouldn't be complete by 2021, or 2020 at least.

Potentially, if people started coming through now, it's based on how long it takes to complete those courses.

With these capacity issues in mind, is it therefore—and perhaps I'll direct this to Care Inspectorate Wales—possible that we could spread resources so thinly that it could then impact on the quality of care that's delivered? So, you're really stretching your resources so that people are taking on capacity that is beyond what they're able to deliver to a quality standard.

I think it might be useful for me to say a little bit about what we know about the size of the sector at the moment, and if that leads us anywhere in terms of capacity. So, between 2015-16 and 2017-18, the number of services registered with us declined by just over 200, but the total amount of places actually increased by just over 3,000. And we suspect that an element of that was to do with the childcare extension scheme, extending registrable services for children up to the age of 12. So, there'll be an element of that, where some of that growth will be for children who are already getting the service, but are just noted as such. Because there will be an element of that that would include some new entrants.


Can I just clarify, then—that's existing providers taking on extra children?

Some of it will be that, some of it will be existing children who then become encompassed because of the extension of registration up to the age of 12. But I would say that that does suggest, at that point, there was a little bit of capacity, arguably, in the system. In terms of quality, in our written evidence we spoke about our inspection methodology, and the fact that everything we do is focused on the quality and the safety of the services that are being provided. And our approach to assessing quality will be no different if there are another 10 services coming into the system, another 100, or another 1,000. Our benchmarks, in relation to that, will remain the same. So, what Care Inspectorate Wales can do to assure quality—and we have a part to play, but it's not just us; everybody has a part to play in assuring quality—what we do in relation to that we don't envisage changing. We don't intend to dilute or modify our approach because the quantity might grow. And quality is dependent on so many things, and won't necessarily be denuded simply because there's a growth in the sector.

So, this offer, and the consequences that we were discussing, may not have an impact on the quality of care delivered.

I would say they may not—it may, and it may not. That is yet to be determined. And what Care Inspectorate Wales can do is to help determine that, by holding a mirror up to the service, and giving information in plain English and Welsh about what we find.

Can you ask the question about eligibility, please?

Yes. I was going to say: what advantages or disadvantages are created by the fact the eligibility criteria isn't on the face of the Bill?

Well—. Can you just expand a little bit more on that for me, please?

Well, the eligibility criteria isn't going to be on the face of the Bill. Does that have an implication for the delivery of the legislation of the childcare offer? Do we need clarity on that when the Bill is enacted?

I think the issue for Care Inspectorate Wales is that whether it's on the face of the Bill or not on the face of the Bill will not affect the way we go about our business in registering, regulating and inspecting services, and assessing the quality and safety of them.

Our understanding in response to the Bill was in relation to, obviously, the central administration being proposed, and the technicalities around that. In terms of the quality issue, I think, like Kevin said, for us, the quality should be maintained through the robust qualifications process, which all staff would need to go through to be counted in the ratios under the national minimum standards. So, they can have some unqualified staff, but the majority would have to be qualified. So, for us, we would maintain our list of required qualifications, we would maintain our work with Qualifications Wales in terms of child-centred practice and making sure that the workforce coming through are appropriately qualified.

You say that it wouldn't affect the way that you do your business, but at the moment the only specification on the face of the Bill is that it applies to working parents. What if, further down the road, it encompasses children in the age group nought to two, which would be very much your business, and would have huge ramifications for what you do?

Well, if that happened, capacity and the impact for the inspectorate—. Capacity is made up of two elements, isn't it: demand and supply? And we don't know at the moment what the demand will be for the offer as it is currently framed, although we can draw some inferences, I guess, from the experience of the first year of the pilots, the pilot phase, and obviously, we'll be looking very closely at the findings of the evaluation to consider what the implications are for us from that. If it was to be expanded further, then we would have to then closely consider what the implications are for us. Like any organisation, we've got limited resources. Like any organisation, we need to make decisions about priorities, about how we deploy those resources, and we would have to consider the implications for us if the scenario that you outlined were to be the case.

What I can say is that, to date, in terms of registering services, we set a target of achieving that within 65 working days. We've steadily improved in recent years in working towards that target. We don't meet it in every instance, and I know that providers—currently some providers experience what are some frustrating delays at times, and I can say a little bit more about that, if that would be helpful to the committee.

What I can also say is that, later this financial year, we will be moving to online registration for potential new applicants to the market. So, they'll be able to submit their initial application to us online. That should help us to speed up even further. And, yes, if the demand on us grew exponentially in a way, then, obviously, we'd have to consider what are now our priorities about how we use our resources and how we deploy them and what can we do and what we can't do. The evidence to date from the very early days of the childcare offer is that we have managed, for the most part, to manage the extra demands that have accrued from that process.


Just quickly, just to add, obviously, working collaboratively with our Estyn colleagues as well we think is a smart use of our resources when we're thinking about capacity.

Yes. Thank you, Chair. In your evidence—that is, Care Inspectorate Wales—you say:

'Care will need to be taken to ensure the implementation of the Bill does not undermine the delivery of the Foundation Phase in funded non maintained settings, for example, by incentivising providers to respond to the demand for the offer at the expense of the Foundation Phase',

which is an issue that has come up in previous evidence. We're told in the explanatory memorandum that the Bill is intended to improve the outcomes for children later in life through the provision of high-quality education and childcare. So, how do these fit together?

I think that the comments that we put in our written evidence really, and simply, reflect the fact that our colleagues in Cwlwm, representing providers, and obviously providers who are in contact with parents as well, have told us anecdotally about concerns and queries about the make-up of the whole 30 hours and the 20-hour and 10-hour element of it and how that will stitch together. I'm aware that this committee heard from colleagues in Cwlwm in the last session and, essentially, the constituency that have been discussing with them those sorts of issues have also, anecdotally, raised similar sorts of concerns with us. So, we are not saying that this cannot work—the 20 and the 10 and the 30 hours; neither are we saying that it won't work. All we're saying is that care needs to be taken to make sure that they work well together. I felt the need to put that in the written evidence because, in a similar way to colleagues in Cwlwm, who you heard from last time— through discussions with them and with others, we have heard people querying how that will work and a particular issue raised around differential rates of pay between the childcare offer and the foundation phase.

And also different rates from what the local authorities pay as well, isn't it, for the offer—for the 10 hours, if it's done in non-maintained settings. Is that something you've come across, this differentiation?

I don't think that's been raised specifically strongly with us, to my knowledge. Gill.

No. Just, as you said, anecdotally, in respect of Cwlwm.


Yes. Well, we just have been given examples of a differentiation, and, obviously, there is a worry then that people will concentrate on the childcare offer rather than offering the 10 hours in a non-maintained setting. That was our concern.

Yes, and I'm sorry to be so circular about it, but, in a way, that's the worry that we've heard expressed to us, either directly or through colleagues in Cwlwm. But I can say, in terms of our evidence to date, there's not particular evidence from our inspections that that issue is a live issue in practice that's impacting on and affecting outcomes for children at the moment, but, similarly to my answer to other questions, I recognise that it is very early days in terms of the childcare offer.

Right. Thank you. The Welsh Government guidance for the early implementation in the local authorities allows providers to charge additional fees of £37.50 a week for snacks, food and transport where a child attends five full-day sessions. What are your views on that?

It's an interesting one. So, on the one hand, many providers are businesses, so that's a business decision on the part of the provider feeling that that is what they need to do in order to provide the service that they want to provide. So, there's that on the one hand. On the other hand, parents then have to make a decision about: are they able to—I realise—and are they prepared to pay that in order to secure the service from that particular provider? And I put it in that way because there is a range of stakeholders involved in all this, isn't there—primarily and fundamentally parents, then the people who are providing the service, inspectorate or inspectorates who have a responsibility to register, regulate and inspect and give a view about the quality of these services, and those three elements all have a part to play here. So, I think what I'm doing is stressing, to a degree, that parents are making a choice here about what they are prepared to pay, and providers then need to take that on board and respond to that. 

And do you think it's conceivable that some parents would not be able to pay that amount and so wouldn't be able to take advantage of the childcare offer?

I think the honest, straight answer to that is that's entirely conceivable, yes, given what we know about income and poverty and deprivation in some parts of Wales. That would seem a reasonable surmise to make from that.

And in view of the fact that in-work poverty is one of the key issues that has arisen that people have been aware of recently, would you think that that is something that ought to be addressed?

I do think that's a matter for the policy colleagues in Welsh Government to consider.

I mean, obviously, that's £7 a day, isn't it, roughly, for a five-day week, if this was charged, and we don't know whether parents would get any help with that. So—well, you see it as a matter to be looked at.

Well, I see—you know, that question is a question for policy colleagues to consider. I am aware, of course, that there has been an independent evaluation commissioned of the offer and of the part of this quite technical Bill in facilitating the offer. Like other stakeholders, we would expect that close attention is going to be paid to that initial evaluation, including looking at this issue.