A REPORT commissioned by Welsh Government evaluating how well its flagship education programme, the Foundation Phase, is performing has revealed patchy implementation across classes and schools.
The Foundation Phase was introduced in Wales in 2008 as an experimental curriculum for children aged three to seven, from nursery up to year 3, combining Early Years education with Key Stage 1.
It was described as the Welsh Labour government's “flagship policy” for education and centred around the key elements of physical activity, outdoor learning, exploration and learning through play. Teachers then observe children to monitor their progress.
Three years in, the Welsh Government commissioned an independent evaluation by Cardiff University and the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD) to find out what impact the approach has had, and how it can be improved.
Researchers observed lessons, interviewed teachers and handed out surveys before publishing a report last year looking at its early impact, followed by another more final report this week.
Last year’s report found there was a great deal of variation in the delivery of the Foundation Phase, but unions at the time said it was either too early to judge the Foundation Phase properly or that they supported the idea of it.
This year’s report concluded that there is still considerable variation across classes and schools, but not from region to region, and some elements of the Foundation Phase curriculum were neglected, such as physical activity.
It found that some schools are still not moving away from traditional desk-based whole-class teaching, with the report claiming teachers are “afraid” to let go of traditional methods.
The report found that boys benefit most from the Foundation Phase. However, it concluded that improving children’s writing skills is not addressed by the curriculum - something Welsh Government has been striving to address after a series of poor international rankings in the PISA performance table.
Education minister Huw Lewis said the report is “good news” but conceded there are lessons to be learned, stating that there is too much variation for learners from class to class and from school to school.
"This must stop," he said.
A further report, this time by Professor Iram Siraj, is due out later this month complete with recommendations for improving delivery of the policy, and is described by the minister as a "short-term stocktake on the implementation of the Foundation Phase".