INCONSISTENCIES in how Wales' youngest pupils are taught "must stop", the education minister has said in response to an independent review into Welsh Government's flagship education policy.
The policy, called the foundation phase was launched four years ago and teaches children primarily through play and outdoor learning.
The independent review, commissioned by education minister Huw Lewis last year, was billed as a "stocktake" of the implementation of the foundation phase, and was headed by Professor Iram Siraj.
It involved a task-and-finish group with experts and stakeholders; visits to 11 "good" and "excellent" schools and settings; six focus groups attended by 67 people; and a series of questionnaires completed by 75 people.
In a statement education minister Huw Lewis said evidence suggested that although the foundation phase is "undoubtedly an extremely valuable and effective way of teaching" the youngest of pupils, there are "issues" with the consistency in delivery across schools in Wales, leading to the review and yesterday's report.
"Professor Siraj’s report points out that we’re still in the early stages of the implementation of the foundation phase and education reforms take time to embed and deliver improvements," said the AM.
"Where the foundation phase is being delivered well, it has the potential to have an enormously positive impact on our youngest learners.
"However, we should not be complacent – the inconsistency in delivery must stop."
The report recommended setting up a 10-year strategic plan to toughen up the implementation of the foundation phase across Wales; reviewing the current adult to child ratio in reception classes; and consider making it compulsory for a qualified teacher to lead practice in all foundation phase classes in maintained schools, including nursery classes.
The report, along with an evaluation of the foundation phase and other reviews, will provide "a broad evidence base to inform future policy development" and strengthen the foundation phase as we move forward, he insisted, adding: "My ambition is that the Foundation Phase in Wales will be recognised as an international exemplar of early years education."
Owen Hathway, NUT Wales policy officer said the union has had some concerns the ethos of the foundation phase has been "undermined" in recent years, following the introduction of standardised tests in primary schools which feed into plans to introduce banding for primary schools.
"It can be hard to ensure that schools are committed to the principles of the foundation phase when other policies are putting them at risk," he said.