Early Years

Lead Administration
The Welsh Government chairs the British-Irish Council Early Years work sector.
The early years are fundamental to a child’s life chances. During a child’s early years their physical, cognitive and social and emotional development is most susceptible to influence, both positive and negative.
These are important aspects of life across these islands and at the eleventh summit of the British-Irish Council in September 2008 it was agreed that Early Years policy would be established as a work sector engaging officials from all the administrations. The work sector encompasses, amongst other things, early years education, childcare, health and support for parents.

Officials from the Member Administrations who are responsible for national, island and regional policy contribute to the work of the group and share knowledge, research and practice. When appropriate, Ministers from the administrations meet to discuss matters of relevance brought forward by officials and subsequently specific topics can be adopted to form the main discussion at a BIC Summit.

Early Years was a featured agenda item at the Cardiff Summit in November 2012 and again in November 2016.

Current Focus

Three areas of focus have engaged the work sector. These relate to:

Workforce Issues

Attracting new entrants to the profession; talent development; raising skills and standards and leadership development.
Support for Families
Multi-agency support for families; early intervention and prevention programmes; support/advice to parents on positive approaches to raising children; information and advice for prospective parents and parents/carers of children and young people.

Quality Assurance
Quality Assurance; assessment of the transition progress including the collection and analysis of data.
In addition to the strengthening of wider relations across the eight Member Administrations, the BIC Early Years work sector has also helped to develop and strengthen bi-lateral relationships between group members. Good practice has been shared which has informed policy making and raised standards.  One example of this would be ongoing discussions and learning about the various childcare programmes and offers being developed and delivered by Member Administrations.   
Further Information
As noted above Early Years was  a major item for discussion at the 19th British Irish Council Summit Meeting in Cardiff on 26th  November 2012. At the Summit the Council reviewed in detail a report on the work undertaken by the Early Years Policy work sector.  The Council acknowledged the critical importance of the Early Years in creating strong foundations for children and families to thrive and recognised the importance of investment in the Early Years in terms of generating better value for money in the public sector by moving from curative to preventative models of service delivery. 
The Council endorsed the principles that should underpin a BIC approach to Early Years, namely improved educational attainment, health and later life chances, while respecting that each administration will approach implementation in their own way and at their own pace. 
The Council noted the significant benefits gained by officials from all Member Administrations participating in the British-Irish Council working group from sharing knowledge; common challenges; best practice and research outcomes relating to the Early Years. The Council welcomed the continuation of the Early Years work sector and supported the focus on improving quality, including the critical role of the workforce. 
Before the 28th British Irish Council Summit in Cardiff on 25th  November 2016 Ministers with particular responsibility for early years policy met in advance of the Summit meeting to consider a paper prepared by the Council’s Early Years work sector. You can access the paper through theEarly Years - Investing for the Future.
This discussion was subsequently taken forward by Heads of Administration who welcomed the progress made by