The development of Welsh medium early years education has been a story of singular success over the last century. With the establishment of the National Assembly in 2000, Wales further forged its own vision for its young children. One of its first priorities, for example, was the Foundation Phase with its radical approach. This paper offers an overview of the historic development of nursery education in Wales, before and post devolution. Welsh language and Wales policies are set in the context of wider influences, both research and pedagogic, on early childhood care and education, for example the evidence on good practice from the EPPE (The Effective Provision of Pre-School Education Project) study. Focus will be on Welsh language provision, highlighting the role and contribution of Mudiad Meithrin. The paper will consider issues, research and theoretic, relating to early bilingualism. It concludes with a critical analysis of the challenges facing the field of early childhood services in Welsh in light of current political and policy developments.
For the purposes of this paper, addysg feithrin (nursery education) is defined as the care and education provision for children 3–5+ years, and the term blynyddoedd cynnar (early years) is used for the same group.