Recommendations made by the Wales Institute for Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD) and Cardiff University, as part of an independent three-year evaluation commissioned by the Welsh Government, have been used as part of the Welsh Government’s Foundation Phase Action Plan.
The Foundation Phase is an exciting, flagship policy that marks a radical departure from the more assessment-driven, competency-based approaches to early childhood education that have been adopted elsewhere. The policy has been ‘rolled out’ over the last seven years and the evaluation was essential in ensuring that implementation was progressing well and also provided an opportunity to highlight areas for improvement.
In relation to the evaluation, Professor Chris Taylor, Co-Director of the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD), and part of the research team, said: “We find compelling evidence to suggest that the Foundation Phase can benefit young children in Wales in a wide range of ways, including their involvement in learning and their levels of achievement in literacy and numeracy. However, the Foundation Phase is still developing and evolving, and there remains a great deal more that everyone involved in early years education can do.”
The Welsh Government’s Foundation Phase Action Plan, published in November 2016, sets out the national approach designed to improve the way in which the Foundation Phase curriculum for three- to seven-year-olds is implemented and delivered in Welsh schools and nurseries, and includes a number of recommendations made in the evaluation. For example, it sets out a number of pedagogical principles that should be adopted to support the Foundation Phase, which are based on the twelve ‘pedagogical elements’ that the evaluation developed and used.
The Foundation Phase Action Plan also places great emphasis on leadership – an area that the evaluation noted was important to its successful implementation – and inclusivity – the evaluation found that there was little evidence that the Foundation Phase had helped close the attainment ‘gap’ between pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers.
In total, the plan sets out 34 Action Points, across four areas of delivery: curriculum and assessment; professional learning; narrowing gaps in achievement; and regulation and inspection.
Professor Taylor commented, “It is very pleasing to see so many of the recommendations of the independent evaluation being addressed in the Foundation Phase Action Plan, particularly around the additional support to be offered to practitioners. If schools, settings, local authorities and regional consortia successfully adopt these Action Points then we should begin to see even more progress in improving pupils’ educational outcomes in Wales.”