Flying Start is part of our early years programme for families with children under 4 years of age living in disadvantaged areas of Wales.
Flying Start is one of our top priorities in our Tackling Poverty agenda.
We are committed to doubling the number of children and their families benefiting from the Flying Start Programme from 18,000 to 36,000 by the end of this Assembly’s term in 2016.
In 2014-15, 37,260 children benefited from and were in receipt of Flying Start services in Wales at any time, exceeding the expected numbers.
What Flying Start means in practice
There are 4 key elements to Flying Start.
Quality, part-time childcare for 2-3 year olds
Flying Start provides quality childcare which is offered to parents of all eligible 2-3 year olds for 2 and a half hours a day, 5 days a week for 39 weeks. In addition, there should be at least 15 sessions of provision for the family during the school holidays.
This should be linked to foundation phase entry into schools to ensure a seamless transition between the 2 offers with no gaps in provision.
An enhanced health visiting service
Key to programme delivery is the requirement that there must be one full time equivalent health visitor per 110 children aged under 4 in the target areas. This is to ensure delivery of intensive support to Flying Start children and their families.
The primary function of the Flying Start health visitor is to support the family in the home, assessing both the child and the family (in terms of high, medium and low risk). Flying Start health visitors should continually assess those families identified as medium and high risk, and make appropriate referrals.
Access to parenting programmes
Every family with a Flying Start child must be offered formal parenting support at least on an annual basis. This can be in groups or one to one in the home with a mix of formal and informal support depending on need.
The parenting offer should be based on the following 3 themes:
- perinatal and support in the early years
- early intervention approaches to supporting vulnerable parents
- programmes to support parents in positive parenting.
Speech, language and communication
Every family in a Flying Start area should have ongoing access to an appropriate language and play group. From this, a more targeted approach based on assessment and referral can be taken where there is evidence of additional need. In some local authorities, speech and language therapists are employed as part of the core Flying Start team.
Evidence shows that speech, language and communication ability is an important predictor of later progress in literacy and has an impact on social skills as well as behaviour of children.
The Welsh Government's Flying Start pages have lots more useful information.