Learning-through-Play Policy Is at Risk from Poorly Informed Teachers; SCHEME IS A SUCCESS BUT NOT WHERE STAFF LACK TRAINING

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 13, 2011 | Go to article overview

Learning-through-Play Policy Is at Risk from Poorly Informed Teachers; SCHEME IS A SUCCESS BUT NOT WHERE STAFF LACK TRAINING


Byline: GARETH EVANS

A LACK of understanding from teachers is hampering the success of a flagship education policy designed to raise the bar in Wales, a report warns today.

Schools inspectorate Estyn says the foundation phase, which encourages learning through play, has split opinion and some staff are not convinced about its educational value.

It found that children in up to 40% of schools administering the initiative are not learning as much as they should be.

In a minority of cases, it believes children are not offered challenging enough opportunities to develop and practice their key skills.

But overall in Wales, Estyn says the foundation phase is having a positive impact on the wellbeing of children and the majority of five and six-year-olds are achieving well.

The programme, first introduced in 2008, became fully operational across all earlyyears age groups last week. Ann Keane, Estyn's chief inspector, said: "Although we do not yet have assessed outcomes to judge the overall impact of this approach to learning, there is evidence to show that the foundation phase is having a positive impact on both the wellbeing and achievement of primary school children. Generally, children are more motivated and engaged in learning.

"A clear understanding, effective planning and regular assessment are all vital to the success of the foundation phase.

"In the best schools, teachers and practitioners have developed challenging and creative activities aimed at developing children's reading and writing skills."

But in its evaluation of the programme, Estyn concedes there are weaknesses in delivery.

It says that in some cases, teachers do not know enough about the foundation phase to ensure that its implementation is effective.

The report states: "In a minority of schools, the implementation of the foundation phase has been less successful. This is often because leaders and/or practitioners do not understand its principles and practice.

"In a few schools, senior leaders do not know enough about the foundation phase or are unconvinced about its educational value and do not give it high priority. …

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