The Communities and Children secretary, Carl Sargeant, has revealed the six local authorities in Wales that will pilot the 30 hours offer.
From September 2017, locations within Gwynedd, Anglesey, Flintshire, Swansea, Blaenau Gwent and Rhonnda Cynon Taf will trial the 30 hours of free early education and childcare per week for three- and four-year-olds to make sure it works for parents and providers.
Other early adopters will be added as the pilot progresses.
The first minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, announced in February plans to offer working parents of three- and four-year-olds 30 hours of free childcare a week for 48 weeks of the year. It forms part of the Welsh Government's five-year plan to 'take Wales forward'.
Currently, three- and four-year-olds in Wales are entitled to 10 hours a week of free early education.
The pledge to triple the current offer is expected to benefit more than 24,000 families.
Speaking in the Assembly, Mr Sargeant said, ‘One of the concerns working parents have raised with us time and again is the cost of childcare, and the impact that has on them, their finances and their quality of life.
‘Helping parents meet the costs of childcare is only part of the picture. We also need to address availability and accessibility.
‘Our plan is to work with the sector to ensure that the offer provides as much flexibility as possible. We want to make, Welsh medium childcare a more attractive option for those who have not previously considered it; and to ensure sufficient provision for children requiring additional support to learn and develop.
'We will need to work all of this through with parents, providers and other stakeholders. But I’m also keen to get on with work on the ground. By testing the offer in six local authorities we can make sure we learn what works and what doesn’t, building on experience and evidence to deliver for all working parents in Wales.’
The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has urged that private and voluntary nurseries be included in the pilots.
Its chief executive Purnima Tanuku said, 'The Welsh Government’s plans for extending funded childcare are the most ambitious in the UK as the scheme will cover 48 weeks of the year.
'This is great news for working parents and their families, but vital that all types of childcare provider are involved in order to be able to deliver this vision.
'Private and voluntary nurseries in particular must be included fully as they are the experts already offering year-round, flexible early learning and childcare for working families throughout the working day and beyond. We need to test the practicalities of the scheme in the pilots so it can work for parents and provide continuity of care for children.'
Upskilling the workforce
Also this week, the Welsh Government announced a range of fully funded courses aimed at upskilling childcare and play professionals.
Worth up to £4.7m, the delivery of the nationally-recognised qualifications at Levels 2 and 3 form part of the Welsh Government's Progress for Success ESF programme.
They have been introduced to help meet the Welsh Government's new childcare qualifications guidelines, as well as upskill current employees in the next two years, who are over the age of 25 and want to boost their careers.
The courses will be delivered by Itec Skills and Employment across 18 local authorities, including Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Swansea, Merthyr Tydfil, Blaenau Gwent, Flintshire, Wrexham, Cardiff, Newport and Monmouthshire.
They are open to registered childminders, those employed by a nursery, playgroup or after-school club and any adults over 25 who haven't previously had the opportunity to undertake a recognised Level 2 or 3 Apprenticeship in childcare or play.
Ceri Murphy, managing director of Itec in Cardiff, said, 'We’re very pleased to be delivering this new scheme and look forward to being able to offer thousands of childcare workers in Wales the opportunity to gain higher qualifications.
'Wales’ next generation are strongly influenced by nursery and playworkers, childminders, learning support staff and teaching assistants, so it’s important to make sure they have the best opportunities to continue their professional development and feel confident in their roles.
'Giving adults the opportunity to learn more about their specialist sector, gain new skills and strengthen their abilities is at the heart of Progress for Success and we’re pleased to see a strong interest from childcare providers already signing up to the scheme.'
Three members of staff from St Bride's Major Playgroup have signed up to the scheme. Deputy playgroup leader Yana Hughes will be studying for her Level 3, while her daughter Yana Hughes and Adele Mitchell will be taking their Level 2.
Ms Hughes said, 'I’ve worked at the playgroup for 21 years so it’s important for me to keep up-to-date with my profession and be able to offer the best learning and development experiences for local young children.
Funding is available for the following courses:
· Foundation Apprenticeship (Level 2) in Children’s Care, Learning and Development
· Apprenticeship (Level 3) in Children’s Care, Learning and Development
· Foundation Apprenticeship (Level 2) in Playwork
· Apprenticeship (Level 3) in Playwork.
Some courses are delivered through the medium of Welsh.
- For more information see www.itecskills.co.uk.